Black and Un-‘Woke’
Conservative talking points are no more convincing when — surprise! — the person peddling them isn’t White.
I came a little late to the idea that to be socially aware is to be woke. I never even heard the past-tense verb used as an adjective until a few years ago while I was watching TV. A character on the New York City-set Younger — Kelsey, a successful twentysomething publisher played by Hilary Duff — dropped it as a millennial badge of honor worn by people, presumably like her, on the right side of progressivism.
I immediately detested everything about this strange new (to me) buzzword. First of all, it was ungrammatical, which, to me, was grounds for dismissal. Second, it was so easy to ridicule. I knew it wouldn’t be long until the un-woke started using it as a weapon.
Woke is basically the new “politically correct” — something it has become less fashionable to be than not to be. At some point, someone probably, um, woke up and realized that political correctness rarely actually has anything to do with politics. (Many of the folks rallying against racism and fighting homophobia probably couldn’t name the current U.S. Secretary of State.) Meanwhile, woke is compact enough to fit into pretty much any insult right wingers can hurl at liberals. It practically makes fun of itself. Like “cancel culture,” Critical Race Theory, and Black Lives Matter, it’s a phrase whose genesis in the Black community probably makes it especially deplorable to those it affects most (e.g., straight White men).
Regardless of its beginnings or its primary concerns, make no mistake: To be Black is not necessarily to be woke, even if you spend every waking hour fighting racism. Especially if you spend every waking hour fighting racism, since woke has evolved to mean so much more than Black and White.
I didn’t need Candace Owens, Larry Elder, Kanye West, or my Trump-loving relatives to destroy any illusion I may have had about Blacks and liberalism. Black Americans may be more likely to vote Democrat than Republican, but that doesn’t mean liberalism — and, by extension, woke-ness — is the default Black mode.