Maya Angelou was right. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. In particular, believe those who endorse “anti-wokism.” Those people fear and despise you.
The first recognized use of “woke” was pronounced by Marcus Garvey in 1923. “Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa,” was his advice for pan-national Black people be alert and responsive to their suppression and to react vigorously to it. In 1938 Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter sang about nine young Black men who were deceitfully accused of raping two white women on a train in northeast Alabama in 1931. “Stay woke … Keep your eyes open” especially travelling through Alabama.
In 1940, members of the Negro United Mine Workers swore that their striking brothers would “stay woke up longer” than their opposition. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told the 1965 Oberlin College graduates: “There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution. … The great challenge facing every individual graduating today is to remain awake.”
It took almost 75 years and the Black Lives Matter movement for racist personalities to comprehend the term which retains the same meaning, and it unsettled them. Rocked them, agitated, and alarmed them.
Conservatives dread “woke” as promoting ominous progressive values and liberal ethics. When Tucker Carlson was spewing forth on the Fox News Network, he instructed his gullible audience that everything from Black Lives Matter to brown M&Ms are vendors of malevolent wokeism. He declared that “woke” is more threatening to the security of this country than Russia.
Nikki Haley, who is running for President, anguishes over wokeness as “a virus more dangerous than any pandemic, hands down.” Vivek Ramaswamy, who aspires to the same office, reassures his followers that “he travels the country calling out the woke-industrial-complex in America,” by which he seems to mean disparaging all marginalized communities, critical race theory, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Racial resentment and grievance are the enduring brand of certain citizens who have inspired parts of the Republican population for years. Their mission is to embolden the bigots who pose as victims and to stifle the truth. The recent upsurge of the anti-woke crusade is the newest effort to preserve the traditional social and political rank. It promotes deliberate misunderstanding of words. It is a dog whistle, a white hooded robed used by its shriekers as a worn-out lovie, one which does not conceal but blatantly exposes their zealous embrace of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the inequalities they try to use to burden those they judge to be unacceptable.
It is urgently vital to acknowledge this philosophy as an unambiguously and rabidly conservative tactic, a modern-day blend of McCarthyism and white grievance. To be anti-woke is to be fanatically chauvinistic, xenophobic, and anti-American. We need to be alert to pretenders who may disguise themselves as elite celebrities or national marketers profiting from their manipulation of Black votes, passions and society while secretly sneering at their Black supporters.
Language is powerful. When Ron DeSantis brags that Florida is the state “where woke goes to die” and claims he will end woke, he means it.
Believe him. Believe all of them.