For 2017, it’s all about staying woke. This will be the most critical time to wake up and rise up, to meet the new challenges that are upon us. And by all accounts, there are going to be plenty. Crises can yield apathy as people feel disempowered, but they can also spark an awakening. Let’s consider this potential progression…
Wakeful: This is where it begins. Being wakeful could include relatively simple first steps of being skeptical, asking questions, digging beyond the headlines, and otherwise scrutinizing the dominant narratives of the world around us. It might also entail bringing these queries up with others, and finding a community of like-minded inquirers to start working through our similarities and differences.
Woke: This is more than just the word of the moment. Its roots run deep and are inherently political in nature, as Merriam-Webster describes it:
Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the black community for those who were self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm and striving for something better. But stay woke and woke became part of a wider discussion in 2014, immediately following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The word woke became entwined with the Black Lives Matter movement; instead of just being a word that signaled awareness of injustice or racial tension, it became a word of action. Activists were woke and called on others to stay woke.
As the entry concludes, the word is broadening to include any spaces where people are becoming self-aware and the enclaves in which they explore things together. It’s beyond just being wakeful and asking questions — this is about building movement consciousness and taking action for meaningful change. Getting and staying woke is a precursor and necessary complement to activism, and is often reflected in cultural artifacts that express these values:
Awakening: Finally we come to the crux of the matter. Our wakefulness brings critical engagement, and being woke moves us toward action to undo oppression and instill liberation. If it becomes more than a passing trend, the net result could lead to a full-on awakening: that is, a renewal of the human spirit and our connection to one another and the world around us. This is the shift that sometimes seems promisingly within our grasp, only to slide further away on the inevitable backlash of bigotry and blight. But in a longer view, we can surmise that the arc nonetheless moves in this ultimate direction toward a woke world — and will do so as long as we remain the vigilant midwives of its rebirth and the architects of its continual renewal…