Woke. The four letter word of 2017, made famous in Childish Gambino’s hit song Redbone. “Staying Woke” has become a wave everyone wants to get on. But really, what defines being or staying “woke?” Most believe woke is being “in the know” or pushing the parameters of mainstream knowledge and manifesting one’s own opinion. Ongoing debates and theories such as Kimberly Crenshaw’s Intersectionality or Frank Wilderson’s Afro-pessimism are topics a self-proclaimed woke person considers credible.
Though I am aware of those topics and others that follow, I hate to rain on the parade of the woke ones reading this article—but it’s about to storm. Everyone ready? Obnoxious laptop stickers with the aim to ruffle feathers and well-versed clap backs to racist tweets on Twitter does not make you woke.
As someone who polices racist Twitter trolls and who has an obnoxious laptop sticker, I am in no way tooting my own horn. However, I find it appalling that with world at our fingertips, the effort put forth for social change ends at our fingertips. Everyone wants to claim the word woke, but where the hell is the action?
As college students with debt up to our ears and dreams we chase every day in 9 a.m. classes, what do we really have to lose? College students’ civic engagement pales in comparison to that in the ‘60s. They participated in freedom rides and sit-ins all for a greater good, which the generations to follow seemed to have forgotten. It is easy to identify a racist or a homophobe, but what are you going to do about it? Becoming truly woke is the answer.
I’m going to redefine woke for anyone who reads this and is willing to start over: woke is the act of acting, not tweeting about acting. Woke is going to your nearest lower income area, getting your hands dirty by planting a tree or becoming a part of children’s lives who yearn to be woke, too.
Woke is smiling at someone who looks like they’re having a rough day or implementing the theories you admire into your everyday life, not just being aware of them. Woke is confronting the worker in the grocery store who follows you around because you happen to have brown skin and are on your way to purchase whatever is in your hand.
So let’s be woke and not let the blood, sweat and tears of the past be shed in vain.