What is woke?
Liberals claim that conservatives have turned the term into a catch-all bogeyman they can’t even define — even though it’s a word that progressives themselves use.
But as someone who has explored this topic extensively over the past year, I am ready with an answer:
The term “woke” was originally used in black communities in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
It referred to being awake to bigotry and prejudice, and the coming revolution and racial reckoning.
Early on in the 2010s it had a brief moment of earnestness when it was broadened to apply to progressives of all races who had adopted genuine social consciousness, specifically around issues of inequality.
It evolved, slowly and then all at once, to inform an ideology — a comprehensive belief system — that is rooted in the idea that all of the world’s problems, every issue we face, can and must be defined by a hierarchy of oppression.
Every problem must be viewed through the lens of oppressor vs. oppressed.
There are no issues in the world that should be viewed through any other lens.
All political discussion and all policy that emanates from that discussion must be informed by this binary.
There is no other legitimate way to view any of the world’s problems.
Any suggestion that there is, perhaps, another way to view a challenge, any nuance on any subject beyond this binary, is evil and must be censored, silenced, stopped.
Because any other view is literal violence.
A few examples:
- Low math scores on standardized tests are caused by racism. Math is racist. We can only solve the issue of low performance in math by acknowledging that math is inherently racist.
- Obesity as a health epidemic is fatphobic. Calling out obesity and its attendant health risks as actual health risks is fatphobic. We can only solve the problem of obesity by acknowledging that the problem isn’t a problem — it’s our fatphobia that makes it one.
- Protecting women’s sports, as guaranteed by Title IX, is transphobic. If you oppose biological males in women’s sports you are a transphobe. Men and boys aren’t stronger than girls and women. If you seek to exclude trans people from women’s sports, you are a bigot and saying so is literal violence.
These are all examples of “woke-ism” defining the world view.
The “answer” is decided by the oppression hierarchy whether or not the answer is effective or fair, and whether or not the answer is an honest way to view the problem in the first place.
Do all “woke” adherents actually believe the world must be viewed in this binary? No.
Some do, yes, fervently.
They dominate the conversation and define the scope of it.
They believe if you don’t hold their world view, you are evil, bigoted, stupid and a malign influence that must be banished from polite society.
You don’t deserve to hold a job, to be part of the conversation, your speech must be censored.
You are dangerous.
You are violence itself.
But most merely go along, not wanting to be deemed heretical, called all manner of unemployable names.
Most are just afraid to contradict the woke lies, and so stay silent.
What do the non-woke believe?
Well, I won’t speak for everyone, but I’ll speak for myself.
I believe there is bigotry in the world — there is racism, and sexism, and homophobia and all of it.
But I do not believe that every challenge we face can be defined in these simplistic terms.
I believe if we do define every problem in these terms we miss the opportunity to solve them, to take real and meaningful action to course correct.
Without nuance we fail to address our issues head on.
Instead, we take fervent unfounded positions that may sound good but do nothing.
For instance, if we don’t teach kids basic math, they won’t be able to hold jobs or handle basic life. It’s that simple.
If we treat obesity as a healthy life choice, we do an incredible disservice to our overall well-being.
I believe differences in opinion on important issues of the day must be discussed, from many viewpoints.
A view that contradicts the woke ideology is not inherently evil.
And the people that espouse non-woke, non-binary-informed views should not be ostracized, fired, exiled.
What is woke?
Its adherents believe they are awake to the injustices of the world that the rest of us don’t see.
But I think it means you’ve been brainwashed to see racism, ableism and sexism in every aspect of life, whether it exists or not.
That’s where woke went wrong.
Jennifer Sey is the author of “Levi’s Unbuttoned: The Woke Mob Took My Job But Gave Me My Voice.”