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As an upper-class millennial, I’m not sure if it was the snippets of Black exploitation films or Black panther interviews, but I grew up hearing the term “woke,” at least in the modest background. When I became 10 plus years ago, it was a term I heard in ubiquity, “woke.” I took it to mean alertness, awareness,and a concerted cognition to white people’s bullsh-t. I mostly heard it in the more militant Black circles, but as time went on, “(Stay) woke” has taken on new meaning. According to the very reliable source that is Wikipedia, Woke/Stay woke was a phrase popularized by Blacks in the 1930s and was popularized in Black culture by the musician Lead Belly (feel like I should know who that is, but I don’t) and then reentered musical culture via Erykah Badu.
As of late, woke has been used as a catchall term for sh-t that conservative white evangelicals don’t like, with a specific target to Black people.
Florida governor Ronald McDonald DeSantis passed another assault against facts by passing the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.” The acronym “w.o.k.e.” stands for Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (ooooh, I know they knew they struck gold with that one.) The irony of the acronym is that it is essentially taking away a comprehensive education from kids, and somehow that isn’t wrong. As DeSatan continues to pursue his demagoguery at the expense of Black people and being educated about historical facts, many others have now used the word as an umbrella pejorative term for anything on the left. The introduction of allyships to the Black community has been fostered by many of those allies also being in marginalized groups, and with marginalization comes a pushback against the white evangelical Christian agenda.
Christian rapper Lecrae, universally loved by white people who want to get their 1 and 3 on to a funky fresh beat in the name of the lord, posted a TikTok where he talked about the moment he started posting about Black issues was the moment he was accused of being woke and receiving backlash from his audience, you know, the audience that is made of peace-loving Christian white people.
Pissed-off white people found this word and will not let go.
If you are gay, you are woke. If you are pro-choice, you are woke. If you are pro-women’s rights, you are woke, and honestly, there’s a part of me that’s irritated that another word tucked deeply in the lexicon of Black Americans has now found its way to being the poster child of First Amendment rights violations. Especially since Blacks still seem to be the target of the majority of the discrimination even with the usurpation of the word.
Will we have to come up with another word now?
The irony of Christian evangelicals being anti-woke is that the alternative is to be asleep, and while they gentrify and sanitize the meaning of the word for the Black community, as it stands, they are still describing themselves as asleep to the ills of the world, to the harm they do to others. If they want to be anti-woke, a word used to describe a pushback against racism, it doesn’t surprise me. In fact, it is right on brand for their ilk. So why did they sign into law the ability to infringe on the First Amendment Rights of others?
Black people are just going to do what we always do and find some other cool word to describe their bullsh-t.