What is exactly meant by ‘woke?’ and what is ‘woke culture’

Published 2:05 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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The term ‘woke’ has found its way into mainstream vocabulary. Politicians refer to it, the word is in the news every day. However, many are unsure or do not know the meaning behind the word.
As language changes and continues to evolve, it’s not unusual for a word or phrase to make its way into the mainstream and leave many confused about its actual meaning.
What does woke mean? The old meaning of the word defines woke as simply the “past simple of wake,” as in to wake up, or awake.
Described by Merriam-Webster as “chiefly US slang,” the dictionary defines the word as: “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”
In a modern sense, the meaning of the word has changed a lot, and in 2017, the new meaning of the word woke was officially added to the dictionary.
Woke nowadays refers to being aware or well informed in a political or cultural sense, especially regarding issues surrounding marginalised communities – it describes someone who has “woken up” to issues of social injustice.
Merriam-Webster says: “Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the Black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for something better.”
“The word woke became entwined with the Black Lives Matter movement; instead of just being a word that signalled awareness of injustice or racial tension, it became a word of action. Activists were woke and called on others to stay woke,” Merriam-Webster explains.
“Woke” is a political term and the idea has been used by both Blacks and Whites to fight injustice since the early 1900s.
What divides the woke from the unawake is often the tough question of what constitutes injustice, and more often about the appropriate response once injustice is spotted.
The woke movement often invokes riots and social unrest, and sometimes, shootings as a way to demonstrate against social injustices. As the woke revolution turns values upside down, it tends to lower our standards. For example we demoralize law enforcement during a record-breaking crime surge. We call math racist — just as proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic declines among black and brown children.
Sometimes, in woke culture, good is bad and bad is good. Just as riots don’t advance social justice, neither does overblown rhetoric.
Society tends to hold a partisan undertone when we think of “woke.” The word implies that to support the liberal viewpoint is to be socially aware of social issues. If you’re leading a Black Lives Matter protest, you’re probably woke. If you’r advocating for Planned Parenthood, you’re probably woke, but if you’re handing out pro-life leaflets or Christian tracts, however, you probably will not receive the woke label.
Some of the most woke — socially informed and engaged — people I know are woke from the right. I know conservatives who watch the news 24/7 and don’t let a single current event slip their notice. I know people who utilize grassroots efforts to engage with their community to raise awareness for an issue that is of the utmost importance to them: anti-abortion legislation. Conservatism is not about being misinformed and being woke is not about liberalism. There are educated, impassioned individuals on all sides of an issue.
Such a usage of language is merely one example of rampant political polarization in this country. We would rather assume that people on the other side are misinformed or downright idiotic than acknowledge the viability of different opinions or priorities.
Furthermore, we have reached a point where we often isolate ourselves from people with differing political opinions. This is harmful in the obvious sense: It diminishes open, enriching political discourse. However, even more harmful is the reduction of individuals with whom we disagree to nothing more than their political beliefs. We allow our own self-image to be defined by our political identification. We fail to realize that people are more than their votes for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. People have families, friends, hobbies, passions, thoughts, and priorities. A Trump voter is not necessarily a raving racist, and a Clinton voter is not necessarily trying to leech off your hard-earned money. They are simply people who have different opinions than you. Those opinions do not make them dumb or evil. Those opinions do not have to mean that they are not woke. They are different, but they are not invalid.
We must refuse to be defined by a single term, and then extend the same courtesy to others.
We must be open-minded and engaged, as well as informed. That might not make you ‘woke,” but it makes you an American citizen willing to stand up for what is right and speak out against the wrongs.

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