What is Woke?

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Right-wing media is peppered with the word. Outside that world, in real life, where people are just getting through their day, going to work, endlessly driving kids somewhere, walking the dog, grocery shopping and cooking dinner, the word can invoke insomnia or what the baby does at 3 a.m.

But if you happen to tune into Fox News or hear something about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on the news, it won’t take long to figure out “woke” is an insult, replacing the clunkier “politically correct” smirk used to describe people who object to welfare queen jokes.

“Woke” originated in Black American vernacular sometime in the 1960s and has been used in a variety of media to indicate someone alert to injustice and police brutality. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “woke” as “alert to injustice and discrimination, especially racism.” So how is that an insult?

Conservatives appropriated this cultural word as a kind of inside joke making fun of progressive values such as tolerance, education, concern about the climate and racial reckoning. But once the word escaped into social media they used it primarily to annoy liberals, who annoy them by ignoring it as just another in a long string of insults going back to Rush Limbaugh’s “feminazis.”

Nowhere is the word used more than in Florida where DeSantis is on a mission to rid his state of all things “woke,” as if he has nothing better to do. He just signed the silly-sounding “Stop WOKE Act,” with WOKE an acronym for Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees. The Act prohibits instruction in schools that might make people feel they bear a personal responsibility for historic wrongdoings because of race, sex or nationality. The fact that no one teaches that way did not seem to hinder DeSantis’ crusade.

The Stop WOKE Act also bans the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory in schools just because it supposedly triggers the “libs” although it’s not actually in schools below the college level. And just to make sure people in Florida are free to be jerks, DeSantis banned mandatory training in racial and LGBTQ sensitivity for workers. So now Florida kids no longer have stacks of books to hide behind if some unwoke insensitive person with the one thing DeSantis refuses to ban, an assault rifle, shows up in their school.

Shevrin Jones, D-Florida State Senator, calls woke “the new “n” word. Jones is an openly gay Black man who got elected to the legislature in 2020. He says DeSantis is abusing and bastardizing the Black American word for political purposes. Others say it’s used by people who want to be victims without the devastation of being an actual victim.

The victims of the “Woke” world talk of cultural elitism that doesn’t include them, of white replacement theory, of a “woke” society that’s to blame for everything from mass shootings to lower military recruitment and a woke mob that’s coming for their gas stoves.

“Woke” is so overused now in right-wing media there isn’t really a cohesive political ideology behind it anymore. Talk show hosts on Fox News or talk radio often pitch their shows as revealing the latest “woke liberal fantasy” because it makes money for them. “Woke” is the dog whistle they use to draw in listeners, even if the latest “woke liberal fantasy” is just a rehash of an old complaint, a cherry-picked comment by the President or some nonsense a Twitter fruitcake said. “Woke” is used constantly in right-wing Facebook and Twitter comments as a linguistic weapon by people who really don’t have the ability to say what they’re actually talking about.

So what should “woke” people, those who care about others, believe in diversity, tolerance, racial reckoning, LGBTQ rights, education, climate change, abhor censorship and value new ideas do about the polarization this latest insult creates? What they’ve always done: rise above the jabs, ignore the transient insults of division and be the hope people just trying to get through their day welcome.

Words come and go. The right will get tired of this one soon and find some other insult to stoke division and feel supremely clever about while distracting their constituents from their irresponsible lack of action on issues that really affect them, like health care, housing and gun safety. Until the right gets out of the entertainment business and back into legislating expect the next word to be even worse.


  1. David H
    May 6, 2023 @ 8:16 am

    Commonly known as CRT! Which high school and middle school and elementary school teachers and aids try to slide in under the radar this ideology all the time! Just because you’re on The side of social reform in this country and have been blinded all your life you cannot admit the truth that this is going on! If I send you verifiable proof that this happening will you retract or correct this part of your article? I can tell you the answer now! NO! because you refuse to accept reality! The actions and the behavior of the people being excepting all inclusive and tolerant is a myth! This group of people are the most dangerous radical in the whole country! Other countries are Mocking and making fun of us on the daily! It is time for you and your organization to start telling the truth! It’s your job to inform us and give us the complete story from both sides and leave your opinions out! Do better!Make the world a safer place for the next generation. Thanks for listening


    • GoBlue
      May 6, 2023 @ 4:47 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Your liberal use of exclamation points indicates you are immersed in the overheated rhetoric of right-wing media, which constantly operates at an anger level dangerous to your blood pressure. So slow down and go back and reread the article. From your disjointed message I can’t tell what you might have “verifiable proof” against. CRT? The article didn’t mention that. Social reform? Encyclopedias have been written on that. Inclusiveness? Tolerance? Those are generally viewed as virtues. Dangerous radicals? Very few people you disagree with are dangerous radicals. And this is a political party’s page so of course our opinions may not match yours. We do however, unlike our right-wing counterparts, maintain a reverence for and obligation to truth. One truth is that public school teachers are trained to leave their politics at home in order to let their students make up their own minds based on facts. Public schools are obligated to educate every child in the community, which means a lot of diversity comes into the classroom where it must be respected. Your media isn’t telling you that because it’s boring. Right-wing media needs high-decibel conflict to keep you tuned in, and since there really isn’t enough of that for a 24-hour cable news or talk radio business, they have to create implausible stories to keep you agitated, all to sell ads. So keep calm and broaden your universe. You’ll be happier for it. Thanks for listening.


  2. David H
    May 6, 2023 @ 8:25 am

    Why don’t you talk about some of the laws that’s been passed in Oregon? Or your parties plan for the future of the state of Oregon! Instead you do what Liberals always do you jump to Florida or Texas! You should be worried because we are coming for you Oregon and your neighbor Washington! I’m hoping by the end of 2024 we can have you both on the road to recovery!


    • GoBlue
      May 6, 2023 @ 4:48 pm

      Thank you for your comment. We will take your request under consideration and discuss some of Oregon’s laws. A brief lesson on how things work – we are a political party. We have a platform of issues, such as making sure workers are treated fairly, that we don’t trash our planet, that people deserve access to affordable health care and we support human rights. You can see what we stand for at https://dpo.org/party/platform-priority-legislative-action-items/ If you don’t agree with our platform, you can explore other party platforms and find one that fits. People who agree with our platform join our party and work to help elect candidates whose views match our party’s platform. That’s basically what we do. We get people elected who then carry our party’s plan for the future into the statehouse or congress. We consider local elections non-partisan and support those we think are best suited to the office no matter which party. A majority of people in Oregon have favored our party’s platform over other parties’ so our candidates tend to win elections in Oregon. Political parties are always in competition for the best plan. If you are “coming for us” you just need to have a better plan, keeping in mind that you can’t force a majority of the electorate to live under a set of rules you may think are wonderful but they don’t. So if you are bent on changing things you can’t just sit around making comments on social media, you have to get out and do the work, starting with talking to lots and lots of people about what values they hold dear. Lots of diverse people, not just those in your bubble. Success is based on finding some basic things we all agree on, not by berating others’ views and trying to force them to believe as you do.


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