The Truth About Being a ‘Woke’ White Person

It seems it’s once again time to revisit what the word actually means, and where it came from to begin with.

Martie Sirois

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Image from the May 20, 1962 article by William Melvin Kelley, in the New York Times

If you lived on a diet of Fox, OAN, Newsmax, Rumble, or any of the (plentiful) other right-wing media outlets, you’d likely despise the word ‘woke’ and everything it represented. Well… everything you thought it represented, that is. If pressed to define what ‘woke’ actually means, you’d almost certainly have trouble finding words that constitute a coherent definition. After all, it probably just boils down to a feeling. An instinct. “You just know it when you see it,” you might offer.

Or, maybe you’d have a very specific definition of the word. Something like “liberals,” or, “people with a socialist/communist agenda.” Perhaps woke is to republicans what MAGA is to democrats.

To be fair, language does evolve. This is usually for the greater good of society. A forward-thinking or progressive action that seeks to be inclusive as our cultural norms shift and change. These gestures, though seemingly difficult for some people to accept, highlight society’s altruism. To do better. To destigmatize what never should’ve been stigmatized in the first place.

I’ll never forget how overjoyed I was when singular ‘they’ became the 2019 word of the year. My youngest of three is trans nonbinary and started identifying as ‘they’ in 2015. Though we tried to help folks understand, here in the south there wasn’t really much tolerance for a third gender identity. So four years later when “singular they” rose to the top of Miriam Webster’s data, there was a collective sigh of relief among those who’d already been using the word for their own gender identity.

Finally, we thought, at least people are talking about it now. Especially when they wouldn’t even entertain the thought of it before.

It can also be incredibly powerful when a former insult that was used to tear people down suddenly becomes reclaimed by…

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Martie Sirois

Covering the intersection of culture, politics & equality. Featured in Marker, HuffPost, PopSugar, Scary Mommy; heard on NPR, SiriusXM, LTYM, TIFO podcast, etc.