The Problem with Woke

It begins with the past tense

Kerala Taylor

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Photo by Mark Poprocki via Canva.

It was my 16-year-old stepson who initially introduced me to “woke.” I remember the moment quite distinctly because it was the first time I felt like an uncool parent. “Bruh,” he said, “you don’t know what woke means?”

I said that unless it was followed by “up” and used as the past tense of “wake” to describe the process of arising from slumber, then no, I wasn’t familiar with the term. And while we were at it, I added, why was he calling me “bruh?”

Of course, in the intervening eight years, “woke” has seeped into our national lexicon, used recklessly by people who are decidedly older and, by teenage standards, even less cool than I am. When first adopted by the broader public, “woke” was a badge proudly worn by progressives. Now, it’s more commonly an insult slung by radicals on the other end of the political spectrum.

As someone committed to social justice, I appreciate the sentiment of “woke.” It’s also important to note that the term was coined by Black communities to connote vigilance or awareness around racial injustice, as in, “Stay woke.”

In fact, considering its origins, Forbes contributor Dana Brownlee makes two compelling arguments for why white people shouldn’t use the term at all. Number one: cultural appropriation. Number two: weaponization…

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Kerala Taylor

Award-winning writer. Interrupting notions of what it means to be a mother, woman, worker, and wife. Subscribe: https://keralataylor.substack.com