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Are you woke? 觉醒

中国日报网 2022-05-06 11:47


Reader question:

What does it mean exactly if a person is accused of being woke?

My comments:

That means someone is faulted for some kind of political consciousness, or being politically correct in a somehow undesirable way.

Buddhists believe that their founder Gautama Siddhartha is or was, as it were an awakened man.

Gautama Siddhartha is his born name. Through meditation, he became Buddha, meaning the Awakened One. He woke up from being unenlightened (as most of us are – to many a varying degree, we, the rest of the populace are all asleep, metaphorically speaking), and became awakened.

Awakened to everything, that is, putting it in short.

Woke in “being woke”, on the other hand, is not being awaken to everything. Rather, this is a contemporary political term referring to people who are awakened to certain issues, such as racism, equality and other forms of social injustice.

This term originated in America and is most useful regarding such issues as, say, racism.

For example, black or African Americans who advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement are folks who are definitely woke.

Young people (plus some older ones) who believe in progressive issues such as gender equality, abortion rights for women and even climate change are generally speaking woke.

In American politics, Democrats are more liberal than Republicans and they are therefore more woke than their political opponents.

As a political label, being woke can be a good term as environmentalism, equality and social justice are important issues facing all human kind.

To American conservatives, however, being woke is usually a bad term, used to describe some radical person whose ideas are merely politically motivated.

Now, without further ado, let’s read a few media examples to put “woke” into better perspective and, more importantly, for you to see whether you are woke:

1. It’s undeniable that society has a long history of bigotry, sexism, racism, discrimination, homophobia, and related ills. In humanity’s checkered past, most people have not been treated fairly, equally, or even humanly. There have always been certain groups of people who claim that they are superior to others by sex, religion, ethnicity, family name, and so on. This perceived superiority by groups in power has frequently justified their maltreatment of other minority and/or disempowered groups. It’s easy to treat others as less than equals if you believe they are inferior.

While frustration and righteous anger over various types of discrimination and mistreatment has been around as long as civilization itself, it seems like things are coming to a head. With the recent killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, we are seeing protests against racism and discrimination not just in the United States, but across the world. Confederate monuments and memorials are being torn down left and right in America. Streets and schools that were named after Confederate leaders are being changed. Across the globe, citizens in other countries are also realizing their brutal histories, and tearing down statues of dictators, despots, and racist leaders (e.g., Belgium’s King Leopold II).

Just What Do We Mean by “Woke” Anyway?

Many people, especially the youth, have a heightened awareness of our troubled past and, understandably, seek to correct our collective wrongs. This is where the term “woke” comes into play. It is defined as, “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” Given that we have a long history of racial and social injustices, it seems like being “woke” to such problems is a very good thing. How can we address such problems without first being aware of them? Movements such as Black Lives Matter, at their heart, are about correcting racism and injustices that have long been ignored or swept under the rug. We need to wake up.

- The Promise and Problems of Being Woke, PsychologyToday.com, June 30, 2020.

2. A former Bush campaign adviser who is running as a Democrat in Texas’ lieutenant governor race said Sunday that Jesus Christ today would be declared “woke” by conservatives.

Matthew Dowd, who is seeking his party’s nomination to take on Republican Dan Patrick, said he came to the realization in church that today’s “wokeness” is just another term for human decency.

“As I sat in church today I was thinking that if Jesus were here today he would be accused of being woke,” he tweeted. “How about we just say it is human decency to treat all with respect and dignity and that it is constitutional to say all men and women are equal.”

“Lovely service at church today at Chapel in the Hills in Wimberley,” he wrote in an earlier tweet. “‘Let your joy be in your journey, not in some distant goal.’ Let us each find joy in meaning and service with compassion and respect of others. It is there that happiness resides.”

Dowd, a former ABC News political analyst, was an adviser to George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and the chief strategist for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

Dowd’s comments came after Democratic strategist James Carville sparked the ire of progressives for blaming Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s loss in Virginia on “stupid wokeness” and the progressive agenda.

“What went wrong is stupid wokeness,” Carville said. “Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean this ‘defund the police’ lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools, people see that. And it really has a suppressive effect on all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something.”

- Texas Democrat candidate Matthew Dowd says Jesus today ‘would be accused of being woke’, FoxNews.com, November 7, 2021.

3. Are you woke? Have you been accused of being woke? Are you anti-woke? Just what is wokeness, anyway?

Black Americans and allies fighting to bring attention to racial injustice and police brutality urge others to get and stay woke. Some companies and politicians try to embody the concept, others hope to capitalize on the perception of it. Some conservatives fight against wokeness because they see it as performative and liberal indoctrination.

The Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (Stop WOKE) Act proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis this year empowers citizens to go after “woke indoctrination.” The bill blunts what he has warned is liberal ideology influencing the teaching of history in schools and coursing through corporate diversity training. Stop WOKE prohibits any teaching that could make students feel they bear personal responsibility for historic wrongs because of their race, color, sex or national origin, and blocks businesses from using diversity practices or training that could make employees feel guilty for similar reasons.

“We’re going to teach honest history,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. “But we’re not going to influence it with personal opinion.”

Democratic critics called it a way to whitewash history and diminish the abuse and inequities faced by minorities in the country, as well as a way for Republicans to satisfy their voting base.

“This is the red meat they want,” Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami said. “But this is not what our state needs.”

Recently, after Bob Chapek, the CEO of Disney World criticized Gov. DeSantis over the “Parental Rights in Education” legislation critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the governor lashed out against the company’s wokeness while accusing Disney of interfering with parents’ rights and taking money from China.

“In Florida our policy’s going to be based on the best interest of Florida citizens, not on the musing of woke corporations,” DeSantis said.

Are we all talking about the same thing?

For a long time “woke” just meant “not sleeping.” But recognizing its changing common usage, Meriam-Webster added a new meaning in 2017:

U.S. slang meaning “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

They took their time. “Woke” has been around for much, much longer than that in Black communities.

Where did ‘woke’ come from?

“It can be hard to trace slang back to its origins since slang’s origins are usually spoken,” Merriam-Webster’s update says, “and it can be particularly difficult to trace a slang word that has its origins in a dialect.”

The earliest recorded usage of wokeness that can be interpreted to mean stay aware, rather than wake up, is in a collection by Jamaican philosopher and Harlem activist leader Marcus Garvey in 1923 which included the call, “Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa” in a plea for Black people across the world to open their eyes to racial subjugation and get involved in politics.

- What does it mean to be ‘woke,’ and why does Florida Governor Ron DeSantis want to stop it? PalmBeachPost.com, April 14, 2022.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣   编辑:丹妮)


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