Woke

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United States Congresswoman Marcia Fudge with a T-shirt reading "Stay Woke: Vote" in 2018

Woke (/ˈwk/ WOHK) is a word which originally referred to awareness about racism and discrimination. It later came to include an awareness of other issues of social inequality, for example regarding gender and sexual orientation. Since the late 2010s it has also been used as a general word for left-wing political movements and viewpoints which emphasise the identity politics of people of color (those who are not white), LGBT people, and women.

The phrase "stay woke" began within the everyday language of some African Americans in the 1930s, because in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) woke is instead of woken, the usual past participle form of wake.[1]

After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the word was used by Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists who wanted to raise awareness about police shootings of African Americans in the US.[2] It became an Internet meme and was increasingly utilised by individuals who were not African American to show that they supported BLM. Popular among millennials, the word spread worldwide and was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017.

The word ended up being used as a catch-all term to describe left-wing ideologies, often centred on the identity politics of minority groups and informed by academic movements like critical race theory, which identified themselves as being devoted to social justice. This included BLM, anti-racism, and campaigns on women's and LGBT issues. By 2020, parts of the political right in some Western countries were ironically using the word "woke" to describe left-wing movements and ideologies they disagreed with. In turn, some left-wing activists came to consider it an offensive term used to belittle those campaigning against discrimination.[3]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "woke adjective earlier than 2008". Oxford English Dictionary. 25 June 2017.
  2. Richardson, Elaine; Ragland, Alice (Spring 2018). "#StayWoke: The Language and Literacies of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement". Community Literacy Journal. 12 (2).
  3. Bacon Jr, Perry (March 17, 2021). "Why Attacking 'Cancel Culture' And 'Woke' People Is Becoming The GOP's New Political Strategy". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved July 5, 2021.