What is woke? Definition and examples

The term ‘woke’ is an adjective that is derived from AAVE (African American Vernacular English) with the meaning “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”. Since about 2010, its meaning has broadened to also include an awareness of a number of different social inequalities and systemic injustices.

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US Congresswoman Marcia Fudge holding a T-shirt (wikipedia.org)

Woke meaning – at its core

Woke, at its core, means being aware of economic, social, and political issues that impact marginalized communities disproportionately. This awareness is typically seen as the first step toward trying to eliminate systemic injustices and promoting greater inclusion and equality.

If you are woke, you typically recognize a wide range of societal problems, including homophobia, sexism, and racism. You believe that attitudes that are deeply rooted in cultural and historical factors require deliberate, targeted, and sustained effort to overcome.

According to wikipedia.org:

“While there is no single agreed-upon definition of the term, it came to be primarily associated with ideas that involve identity and race and which are promoted by progressives, such as the notion of white privilege or slavery reparations for African Americans.”

Activism and advocacy

People who are woke regularly engage in advocacy work and activism to advance social causes related to social justice.

If you took part in protests to advance social justice issues, donated to relevant organizations, and signed petitions, most of us would probably describe you as a woke individual. You would also use social media to help spread awareness and encourage people into action.

In this sense, the word woke is more than simply having a personal belief or state of mind. It is a commitment to try to change the world in a positive and more inclusive way.

Overuse of the term

We have overused and diluted the term so much that it has lost its original meaning.

In fact, today, we commonly use the term pejoratively when criticizing or mocking those we believe over-prioritize social justice issues.

Woke is being used increasingly to describe people who appear to be socially progressive but do not take any substantive action to try to improve the world.

Regardless of how its meaning may have changed over the past few years, we should not forget that the term woke fundamentally represents a critical call to action to overcome social injustices.

Video explanation of the term