The term “woke” has taken on a political meaning. To “stay woke” means to be liberated and enlightened. It’s used to describe people who are socially and politically conscious, mindful of current social/racial issues in America. So one who is woke is said to have an improved way of thinking, and this is graded by one’s ability to conceptualize the ongoing continuum of racism and other social injustices.
The term is of African-American origins and arose from an atmosphere of political unrest. Repeated stories about police brutality and institutional racism fueled community organization and activism but also created a virtual platform where alike black and brown people support one another and acknowledge strong, prolific black voices. The message that black people must wake up and evolve to enter a realm of political enlightenment quickly spread throughout the digital social world. “Stay woke” is a reiteration of that message.
It has inspired a new hype of digital activism, even making it cool to be aware of social and political issues.
But I want to bring to light its quarrelsome dichotomy, because equality and exclusion form an evil paradox when combined to convey “wokeness”.
Donald glover, for example, has received endless praise for his new music video, “This is America”, which pieces together an anecdote that ironically relays social injustices toward black people in America and simultaneously depicts the glorification of gun violence and the shallow influence that mainstream pop culture has on society. But even before the release of “This is America”, Glover’s musical and artistic prestige was wide-ranging, one for his ability to experiment with diverse sounds and two for his characterized unorthodoxy.
“This is America” went viral, and a few black sheep took to social media expressing their disapproval of Glover’s non-black girlfriend. They used this insignificant detail (as if she’s the antithesis of black liberation, a KKK member or something) to delegitimize his “wokeness” and musical and cultural influence within the black community. Sorry, Mr. Glover, but we have to cancel your woke card.
If you can remember, Kendrick Lamar received similar criticism in the past when critics caught an eye of his light-skinned girlfriend. Critics wrote him off as a phony for not dating a dark-skinned black woman, which translates that skin tone constitutes for one’s “blackness”. They framed him as a sellout and attempted to void him off his accreditation as a conscious black rapper. Woke card denied.
This thinking is flawed. It presumes that the only way black people can empower black communities is by dating other black people. Or that when dark-skinned black people date light-skinned black people, it subjugates dark-skinned black people. Sound familiar? This was the original thinking of colonizers.
These notions are obsolete and derail social/political progress. It fuels divisiveness and deflects from deep-rooted systemic social issues— mass incarceration, police brutality, voter suppression, the gentrification of influentially ethnic neighborhoods. There’s this subconscious fear that the value of black women in society is depreciated when prestigious black men date non-black/white women. It’s a deep-rooted insecurity, produced by the establishment each time that corporate institutions exploit or appropriate black culture for profit.
But, to be woke is to practice intersectionality and inclusivity, inviting outsiders to walk with people of color, as long as they believe in social progress. Don’t worry; intersectionality and assimilation are not equal concepts. If you support inclusivity, it doensn’t mean that you have to support cultural assimiliation. It’s not a call to evade your own unique culture. Inclusivity means creating room for everyone to grow and prosper.
Woke people, when we organize as a group of one to fight world injustices, our influence is momentous. Excluding any person (based on his race, gender, or sexuality) who wishes to help us fight the good fight will not help resolve social issues. It’s toxic to social progress.
So is the “Woke People Movement” exclusive to POC (People of Color), or will it continue to embody tolerance, welcoming outsiders to help spread a theme of revolutionary freedom from the establishment? Remember, the establishment marginalizes minorities, so when minorities marginalize other minorities for things like interracial dating, it tightens the shackles on the mind.
We can not validate racial microagressions, which casually demean marginalized groups. A prime example of this is a white person telling a black person that she talks or acts white (or that she doesn’t act like a typical black person) and vice versa: a black person telling a black person that he talks or acts white. We have to stop making these innuendos that mean black people are incapable and lack intelligence.
That means be enlightened, be in tune and aware of your surroundings. Don’t be oblivious to social injustices, because it’s ineffective to write off the sociopolitical disadvantages that permeate our society.