As of late, the term “woke” has been thrown around very loosely. Often times associated with the realization of systemic injustices and civil rights matters; and if you just scroll down the average person’s FB timeline you’ll see the abundance of people declaring the too familiar #StayWoke. There’s just one major issue about this entire movement and maybe it’s just me, but I'm convinced that this "woke" movement promotes the very opposite of what it originally intended! So with that being said I took it upon myself to do some diving and researching and hopefully through this article we can find some solace on the topic, and possibly really wake some folks up.
But who am I fooling? Majority of y’all won’t even read this article! #StayWoke!
If we formally define the term ‘Woke’ we can conclude that based on the basic grammatical principles of the English language, woke is the past tense of the word ‘Wake’, which means to emerge form sleeping, or to become aware. The modern day usage has it being substituted for social and cultural awareness, particularly racial and systemic injustices. We can even find the term being associated with conspiracy theories ranging from the 2016 presidential election, to the penguins on the movie “Happy Feet”…”HAPPY FEET!" REALLY?! ”HAPPY FEET!” To sum it up the term has begun to take on many identities, and eventually it will be lost in translation.
We can date the term back to 1962 when William Melvin Kelley published an article in The New York Times titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It”. This was the first known usage in a politically conscious context, aside from the 1971 play Garvey Lives by Barry Beckham some nine years later. In 2008 Erykah Badu released New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), this album included a track titled “Master Teacher” that emphasizes the phrase “I Stay Woke” throughout the entire song. But even then the term wasn’t popularly associated as it is today. Woke didn’t really gain its ground until around the inception of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Did it have some validity to it then? Yes, I do believe when the idea of ‘woke’ was introduced it was intended to suade its followers to think for themselves. Open their eyes to the injustices that were taking place and not only become aware, but to combat those injustices. And that’s not saying combat in the physical manifestation of conflict, but in the idea of what it means to #StayWoke! What has transpired over the course of three years has been a traumatic turn or realization that to be woke has no merit at all!
How is it that the essence of the woke movement has been corrupted with the spirit of the ideal that it was created against? We have folks declaring to be woke who probably can’t even name the three branches of Government. Black reality TV glorifies infidelity, greed, vanity, and violence and the ratings soar through the roof; 5.6 million women viewers between the ages of 18-49. Six out the top 10 rap artist on Rap Billboard sound like they never read a book, and they perpetuate a stereotype that destroys the black image. On Facebook one post is an inspirational quote that speaks of health, wealth, and prosperity, but its immediately followed by 3 minute fight video of some teens brutalizing each other. It’s strange; the only time we’re woke is when we feel it’s convenient to exploit the racial tension in the nation. WAKE UP!!! Exploiting an evil we all know exist is pointless! The true idea of being ‘woke’ is not only to exploit the injustices, but to be aware and make others aware of the ways to overcome them.
Also, we must note that injustice isn’t confined to one demographic, and if we look back on the idea of the Civil Rights movement it wasn’t to overthrow and replace a power, it was to evenly distribute that power making life equal for all. The ‘woke’ movement now a day seems to promote a one-sided approach to justice that ultimately goes against the original intent of the movement. I’m a proud black man and I love my people and my culture, but I do not desire for my people/culture to reign supreme over all other people and cultures. I truly believe that the only way we can be a great nation is by embracing each other’s differences and using those differences to build a better world. Using the idea of a movement, that was created to help us bridge a gap of understanding and avoid pitfalls that would eventually lead us back into dark times, to further drive a wedge between cultures is not “Woke”! That is doing the very thing that you claim to be against! So in reality this woke movement isn’t to make people aware or wake them up to ways of overcoming injustice, but it’s a culture that encourages the eye for an eye mentality. And we all know that with this mentality everyone ends up blind, therefore no one is awake!
If we really want to make a movement that will last we have to really wake up. Recognize the disparity in unfair judgments that were passed by the judges and lop sided jurors and began to position yourself to take advantage of opportunities that would allow you to make changes in these areas. Recognize that VH1 and all these other networks that air these ridiculous black reality tv shows are capitalizing on black exploitation that further drives a perception that is everything but the black reality. Stop promoting the idea of a barbaric and inhumane society that is depicted all over social media. Recognize the career fields where minority representation is significantly low and advocate for high school graduates to take on those fields. Create initiatives that help neighborhoods buy back the block so that they don’t have to depend on the city or state to make the necessary changes in their community. Educate ourselves on true diversity and inclusion so that we can sit at the table and have well thought out conversations on how things need to change, rather than voicing our frustrations out of pure emotion and accomplishing nothing. This is what it means to “Stay Woke”! This is what it means to evoke change! In the Tupac Biopic “All Eyez On Me” Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur, played by Danai Gurira said “They are going to give you the tools that you need to destroy yourself.” This resounded heavily within my heart for my people because what I see today is a people who truly believe they are woke while simultaneously holding the weapons that are killing our people. Social media has given us this perception that we have some enlightenment if we share an inspirational quote every now and then, but never act on it. My people, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, native American, and all other ethnicities it’s about time that we really wake up!!