#BlackBlogsMatter Challenge Week 3: The Tao of Woke
Most of y’all know me as an HR pro but as I said in my intro, I contain multitudes. I’ve been a social media management consultant (and a makeup artist and an image consultant. I’m sure you see the connection to HR. 🙂 ) When the world of social media was the world in which I lived, it seemed every other person was referring to themselves as a social media “guru,” “rockstar,” “ninja” or some other equally self-aggrandizing title. I’ve actually noticed a similar trend in the HR world but I digress. I bring this up because to me, calling yourself ‘woke’ is similar to calling yourself a ‘guru.’ If you have to constantly tell folks you’re it, you probably aren’t it.
So what does it mean to be ‘woke’ anyway?
The other day a friend of mine referred to me as one of the two wokest people she knows. I took it as the compliment I knew it was intended to be. I knew she said it because she knows me as being quick to point out an injustice and work to fix it. She knows I’m passionate about inclusion, diversity and equality. She knows I’m always down for the cause. She knows I do it for the people. If that makes me ‘woke,’ I’ll take it. Unfortunately, too many folks have started co-opting ‘woke’ the same way they’ve co-opted “Bye, Felicia.” Watering it down and overusing it to the point that it becomes pointless.
A few weeks ago I read the following question in an advice column from a woman who identified herself as white:
“I consider myself to be pretty woke but I’m dating a black guy and I need to know how to deal when we visit his family for the holidays.”
This, my friends, is the problem with self-proclaimed wokeness. Take the racial component out of this question and it’s perfectly innocent. How do I deal with my boyfriend’s family over the holidays? However, the racial component is clearly the crux of the issue, since the writer felt the need to specify that she was white and her boyfriend was black. But she wasn’t just any white woman. Oh no! She was a ‘woke’ white woman. How did she know? Because she told herself so. ‘Woke’ but had to ask a stranger how to interact with a group of black people. Ok. She was probably a rockstar too.
Wokeness is such a complicated and fickle state of being. Can one be born woke? Raised woke? Suddenly woke? If you are woke today does that mean you were previously asleep? At what point does one cross the line from asleep to woke? Are there levels of wokeness? Is there a wokeness registration process? Can your wokeness be lost or revoked? Can you be a woke person of color and be in a relationship with a non-woke white person? Can a woke white person be in a relationship with a non-woke person of color? So. Many. Questions.
I don’t have the answers, people. I told y’all, I’m not a thought leader. I just know that using the above definition of ‘woke,’ I’m proud to be it. I think it’s something every single person should be or strive to be. It’s 2018 and this is not a time to be asleep. We have too many nightmares and monsters under the bed to contend with.