A co-founder of the company behind a popular erectile dysfunction (ED) drug locked his Twitter account after making remarks about a so-called “woke mind” and claiming that a “non-racist society” would be “communism.”
Stephen Sullivan, chief executive officer for Meds.com (the makers of the Bluechew ED medication), made the remarks on Twitter in an exchange with Haraldur “Halli” Thorleiffson, a former employee of the platform who was publicly fired by the platform’s owner Elon Musk in March 2023 before Musk backtracked; Musk has since renamed the platform “X,” despite apparent legal hurdles.
The exchange, first captured by tech reporter Matt Binder on July 25 2023, shows Thorleiffson asking if anyone opposed to the term “woke” could define it and say why they opposed it, Sullivan claimed:
The Woke mind attributes nearly all inequality to identity-class oppression and asks the government to regulate equality in the name of fairness.
Or said another way, they believe that people are born with the same capacity, so any difference in outcome is evidence of systemic racism.
In reality, Sullivan was taking part in a familiar co-opting of the term, which originated in Black communities; as far back as 2021, reports began circulating of right-wing politicians and political operatives seizing on “woke” as a catch-all boogeyman even as they publicly admitted that they could not define it.
“The word ‘woke’ has long been used, especially among Black folks, to denote that a person should be aware of structural inequality, informed of the nuances of racism, and sensitive to the prevalence of anti-Black violence,” Duke University political science professor Candis Watts Smith told Refinery29.com in February 2023. “But, as is historically typical, conservative reactions to Black political movements have sought to weaponize the words and concepts illuminated by Black and brown freedom fighters, largely in effort to undermine the efforts of social justice movements. Perhaps, then, the word has not evolved, but instead has been co-opted by people who are interested in maintaining the racial status quo.”
In the exchange with Sullivan, Haraldur asked him if he thought that “woke people” think that “race is not a factor in capacity.” Sullivan responded:
Correct, the fully woke believe everyone, regardless of race (& gender) is born with the same capacity. So any difference in outcome is a result of an unfair current or historical societal structure.
Woke, but not fully woke, blame current or historical societal structures far too much for race or gender disparities and grossly discount other factors – e.g. work ethic, intellect, ingenuity, risk tolerance, and family values.
Haraldur later pointed out that Sullivan deleted another part of the exchange. When asked whether he thought race “played a meaningful part in a person’s ability,” Sullivan said, “Yes”:
Sullivan added, “You can call it racist to think different races and genders have different skills and abilities that result in different outcomes, but then the only non-racist society is one where everyone ends up equal. That is communism.”
The idea that race plays “a meaningful part” in one’s inherent abilities, commonly referred to as “race science,” has been fully debunked, but has since been fanned again by familiar operatives. As an analysis by The Guardian found in March 2018:
Many of the keenest promoters of race science today are stars of the “alt-right”, who like to use pseudoscience to lend intellectual justification to ethno-nationalist politics. If you believe that poor people are poor because they are inherently less intelligent, then it is easy to leap to the conclusion that liberal remedies, such as affirmative action or foreign aid, are doomed to fail.
We contacted Meds.com asking what role Sullivan believed his race played in his ability. The company has yet to respond.