There has been so much written about “woke” that I hesitate to add to the glut. And so I will. It’s probably gotten to the point where most black people would just as soon avoid the term. When language gets so loaded that it incites cultural warfare it’s time to unload it. But since woke effectively serves the purposes of denial and deception for others, you can bet that’s not going to happen.
A new survey shows that “Americans generally view the term woke in a favorable light.” The poll also seems to show that “People don’t want to be shamed or canceled by the woke mob—but they also don’t want to be told by the heavy hand of the government how to behave.” Gov. DeSantis might just end up abusing his powers. We may hope so.
DeSantis famously declared: “We can never, ever surrender to woke ideology. And I’ll tell you this, the state of Florida is where woke goes to die.” For more on the governor’s agenda, look at this. “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” he says.
The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund gives us a welcome history of the term and how it became transformed from a positive warning to a highly negative threat. The word has become demonized.
Woke started out as black slang, apparently a long time ago, but has taken on all kinds of meanings today. White folks often distort meanings of vernacular black cultural talk. Some years ago I did a humorous take on how people misunderstand “hip.”
See, jazz people use ‘hip’ differently from the common herd. They use it to mean something exclusive to an inside group, some kind of knowledge thing valued by that group that puts them one up on the rest of the ofay world. Hip is survival for black people but with a humorous touch.
Anyhow, woke originally meant being “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination,” but these days the right tends to use it for a much broader range of social inequalities like sexuality, sexism, gender, socio-demographics, book banning, etc. It’s now become a ubiquitously negative code word for a wide variety of social movements, including LGBTQ issues, feminism, immigration, climate change and marginalized communities.
When a concept gets this puffed up it loses its meaning, and so most folks don’t really understand it. And people don’t like to be preached to about their behavior. They dislike being given standards of conduct by self-appointed “police” who prosecute and judge them. They may see this as arrogance, self-righteousness. Which, of course, may not stop tin-pot dictators like DeSantis from using the term.
Woke also can imply that everyone who disagrees with you is “asleep.” As others have noted, it’s a form of gaslighting. “I am right, and if you disagree with me, it’s because you’re ‘asleep,’ which just proves that I am right.”
Its widespread usage just furthers the GOP’s constant negativism—which is their policy on everything. And it’s’ not just the GOP. We could go on, for instance about the liberals’ seeming endorsement of gender-free pronouns and dubious constructions like “latinx”—but that’s another story.