Woke Is Broke
When you think of “woke” you probably think of Erykah Badu. Many people believe that her song, “Master Teacher” (2008), was a catalyst for the movement. Badu has seen her fair share of controversy since then. However, one aspect of her philosophy has remained constant: unconditional love and endeavoring to see the good in people. She has represented her opinions as unconditional love, but not supporting other people’s poor decisions. That is very noble, tolerant, and forward-thinking.
However, the idea of woke can actually be traced back to a 1960’s essay entitled “You’re Woke If You Dig It” by William Melvin Kelley. Some evidence argues that the idea of “woke” actually dates back to the 1940s. Whenever or whoever started it, the landscape of “woke” has changed drastically.
Merriam Webster defines “woke” as: [to be] aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).
In its original form, “woke” can be a mechanism for greater social progress. However, it has now become a mockery. It is a word no longer used for improvement, logical or reasonable debate. It is now weaponized and even overused.
The latest example I can think of is the recent investigation into the Jane Austen Museum due to Austen’s alleged connections to slavery. The main points have to do with the fact that she drank tea with sugar, and that she wore cotton. Further reading on the subject reveals that her father had a sugar plantation in Antigua. It is believed that African-American slaves worked to “cultivate the prized ingredient that would be part of Austen’s tea habit”, according to a recent New York Post article.
The very wording in the article speaks volumes as to the skewed senses of being “woke.” Austen is targeted because she wore cotton clothing. Who didn’t back then? There may have been other materials available, but cotton was sought out because of its affordability and versatility. There are also issues of trade between England and America and economy which deserve an article of their own.
Then there is the tea. More specifically, the sugar in the tea. The vernacular the article uses makes the fact Austen preferred her tea sweetened sound negative. It is a “habit,” as if it is a drug addiction. Many people prefer their tea and coffee sweetened with sugar. So why is Austen being singled out?
It could be because of her father’s sugar plantation in Antigua. If so, then we are getting an example of how the woke movement has given way to cancel culture. Did her father have a sugar plantation? Probably. There is no reason to doubt the verity of the fact. Should Austen’s place in the museum be penalized for that?
No. Absolutely not.
Jane Austen’s works have influenced readers’ thoughts and beliefs regarding topics such as class, education, character, and much more. Intellectual, sarcastic, humorous, but always ringing with truth, her novels have much to offer for social improvement. The social issues of her time can easily be translated to the current era.
Cancel culture, born of the woke movement, has gone too far. History has happened, for better or worse. Erasing it will cause more harm than good.
To be sure, there are some shameful moments in American history. But we need to remind ourselves of those horrible decisions. We need to be aware of the mistakes made in the past. We need to learn from them, grow as a society, and learn to adapt in a constructive way. Riots, hate, and double-speak are not going to get us there. Tearing down monuments to men who were great, but not perfect, is not going to get us there. Relying on the woke movement or cancel culture is not going to get us there. Accusing, fist throwing, mudslinging, and emotional and irrational arguing won’t get us there.
What will get us there?
I do not know. All I know right now is that America is moving in the wrong direction and moving there quickly. There is so much hate out there. Calling all whites racist is like calling all blacks criminals or all Muslims terrorists. Name-calling won’t help. All it does is create violence and defensive postures. Communication is said to be the key to success. Maybe that is why we cannot seem to get any traction on healing on a national level. There is no productive, calm, or reasonable communication in place. Instead, if a group does not like someone or something, it is canceled, belittled, punished. The answer is bound to be as complex and complicated as the problem.
Are there injustices? Of course. No one is saying there is not. Can we always get what we want? No. There has to be compromise from everyone in order for a peaceful society to emerge. We have many diverse and valuable cultures in our country. They each have their own set of philosophies and values. It won’t be easy. Woke may have opened our eyes more, but it has gone too far. Cancel culture will end up hurting us more if it is not put on a leash. There are those who prefer to stir the pot, make trouble, and cause damage rather than find a solution. Let us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. I think it is time for woke to take a nap and cancel culture to go into a corner for a time out. Both of those trendy ideas have hit their prime and declined into overused and abused ideologies.
Perhaps the simplest answer is thousands of years old: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Photo courtesy of Priscella Du Preez on Unsplash.