Written by By Jérémie Astin, CNN
How does one define a woke stance?
That’s the problem facing the French education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem — and she’s decided to start a hashtag war on the American “woke” movement.
“In the age of digital politics, it’s now or never,” Vallaud-Belkacem declared in an impassioned tweet posted on Saturday.
Ruffled by how their government is perceived in the US, or in the form it takes on the wider world, ‘woke’ posturing was born.
The term was adopted from Talib Kweli, the American rapper who rebranded his name “Tribe Rebelz,” and gained extra currency when Oprah Winfrey tweeted at UN Women in December, saying in French, “Woke is how women make change.”
But for Vallaud-Belkacem, it’s against school rules.
“I do not want my daughters to grow up like your daughters,” she wrote, referencing Michelle Obama’s denouncement of casual racism and bigotry in the US.
And that’s where hashtags like #WeAreNOLA or #WeAreL.A. come in. The French muses on how key cities in the US — New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit — should be equipped with “woke” government.
“In the big battle against ignorance and anti-French racism in the United States, I chose New Orleans,” she writes, urging French tourists to take “a vacation in our city” instead.
This conflict isn’t new, as the French journalist and historian Thierry Lérieux has pointed out in his popular blog.
In his works, he raises a number of questions about “the origin of the idea that people in other countries ‘speak French’ or would be called “Woke in the US,” the French say on Twitter.
Like his readers, Lérieux argues, he attributes this phenomenon to his personal hatred for President Trump. And so he became “a loyal American, rather than being ‘French’.”
That may be the case — but he is no fan of the new crusade.
“I’m not going to finance the habits of the French; I don’t want to take them over,” he tells CNN in a phone interview.
“I prefer more French people to go abroad, rather than live in other countries, because I like watching them. I don’t want to live with them. I’m there for the history.”