In recent years, the term “woke” has become extremely popular, especially among people in the United States. The term has come to symbolize being alert to injustice and discrimination in society, particularly regarding issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice. It has been embraced by the left in their efforts to raise awareness of social issues, while the right has taken to using the term in a derogatory way towards the left’s positions on topics such as immigration, climate change, and support for minorities.
To understand the origin of the term “woke,” one must go back to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which was created in response to the numerous instances of unjustified police violence experienced by many African-Americans. “Woke” was used by BLM activists to indicate a perception of reality that was aware of social injustice and the political oppression experienced by African-Americans in the United States. In 2007, the term appeared in the lyrics of the hip-hop activist Erykah Badu’s song “Master Teacher” as a reference to being aware and socially conscious.
The word “woke” has since evolved and become a major part of the lexicon of the progressive left, who have used it to refer to being aware of racial, gender, and class oppression and having the courage to stand against it. Moreover, it has been used to indicate an attitude of challenging authority and the status quo, and has become an important tool to spread information and herald calls to activism.
The term has also been used in a more rhetorical sense by groups and individuals to shame those who appear to be more “asleep” to injustice, pointing out privilege and raising awareness of the need to fight for progress in society. This amount of misuse has led to some misconception of the term, perhaps leading individuals to view it as a form of attack for not being as aware of or as opposed to social injustice, so its true meaning must be clarified.
The term “woke” should really be seen as a positive, uplifting symbol of awareness and a reminder to be conscious of the social changes being fought for across the United States. It is a representation of the heightened social consciousness and the demand of progressive activism in the modern era. It hails the fight against racism, sexism, and other forms of injustice while also being a call for the need for solidarity and understanding. Eckenrode and Warren wrote that “being woke is a way of understanding what’s happening and doing something about it,” so the term should be used to empower activists and educate those who may not understand the nuances of social issues.
Ultimately, “woke” is about being conscious and taking an active stance against injustice and discrimination in society. It can be a term to promote understanding between different groups of people and to challenge those who choose to remain “asleep” to current issues in our world. It must be used in a positive way to increase awareness and inspire people to make meaningful change.