What Does “Woke” Mean?

Man Wearing a Hat Holding a Placard with a Text Stay Woke

Recently I’ve heard “woke” defined as being awake to injustice, particularly racial injustice.

That takes the edge off it. It makes it sound like a good thing, except to the extent that it propagates untrue ideas like racism is everywhere, or anything you don’t like is racist.

Having an awareness of injustice is universal though, isn’t it? Although people have very different ideas about what’s just or unjust, everyone has their own sense of it. It doesn’t require a new word. We have words like “compassionate” and “empathetic” that seem to mean the same thing.

I don’t think even the person or persons who coined the word “woke” meant it to be as inoffensive as “being awake to injustice.” I think it was intended to be confrontational.

Here’s another possible definition: Making sweeping, prejudicial generalizations about race, gender and sexual orientation.

I like that definition better. I think it’s useful to have a single word for that concept.

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