Lately, more and more people have congratulated me on being “woke.” This word has evolved in recent years to describe a state of being aware and understanding of social justice issues. The word is often applied to activists and writers, people who actively campaign to create a more just world.
But I object to the use of this term to describe me. The word “woke” implies that there was ever a time that I was asleep, that there was ever a time when I was not very conscious of the fact that American society is flawed. Being woke is a luxury that only the privileged may enjoy.
More and more people may be waking up to the flaws in our society, and that is a good thing. Enlightened people lead to a more enlightened community. But there is a very real difference between someone who has grown up largely oblivious to the troubles in our country and someone who has grown up marginalized. As a minority, I have never had the luxury of ignorance. I have never enjoyed the peace that accompanies being unaware.
When someone says that I’m woke, I often fight the temptation to laugh. Yes, I am socially aware. Yes, I am an advocate for change. But it’s kind of hard not to be when you grow up as a member of the non-white minority.
Semantics aside, it’s frightening to live in a world where this term is even necessary. It’s terrifying to realize just how many people go through life unaware of the problems facing our country. We shouldn’t need to fight for people to be woke. We shouldn’t need to fight for people to care.
Perhaps this woke generation will be the one to end the necessity for the word. Maybe the very fact that we have a term used to describe those who are refusing to turn a blind eye to injustice is the hope that we need for the future.