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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/12/21

Wake up! It's time to put 'woke' to bed

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'Woke' is a weapon for the GOP..
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I recently woke up to the fact that, while I believe I am thoroughly "woke," I don't identify myself that way because I don't think most Americans understand what the word means as a concept and because the word itself can too easily be used as a weapon of derision by those who are not "woke" to the fact of how stupid they sound just saying "woke."

It's complicated.

To be honest, I feel awkward just writing the word "woke" in the context in question and I could never actually say it out loud in a conversation to describe myself, I would say, as I have said and written countless times over the years, that I believe racism is a serious issue in this country, that gays, blacks, Latinos, Muslims and women of all ages in other words, anyone who is not a straight, white (preferably Christian) male faces unfair obstacles to enjoying the opportunities and freedom promised to all Americans. I believe that social injustice is a fact of life that many Americans would like to deny. I am woke.

But I have also spent nearly two-thirds of my life trying, with varying degrees of success, to communicate information and opinions in a way that is at once clear, understandable and not subject to derision by those who might have different views simply because it smacks of exclusion or suggests elitism. Like "woke."

The word, which comes out of black culture, was thrust into current conversation a few years ago in the wake of police killings of black males and the subsequent police use of excessive force in response to the Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. To be "woke" was to be aware and watchful for possible danger during the protests. In this era of the meme, in which clarity is sacrificed for speed and brevity, "woke" came to mean you were someone who supports the causes embraced by the demonstrators, to wit, eliminating racial and social injustice.

And who could be against that, right? Well, Ted Cruz for one. Also Marco Rubio. And Josh Hawley. And Donald Trump. just to name a few. They have all spoken out recently against what Hawley, a senator from Missouri, described as "the woke mob." He was upset because a publisher decided it didn't want to be identified with a book written by a public official who actively encouraged an insurrection. Hawley.

Rubio, from Florida, used the term to criticize corporations for pulling resources out of Georgia to protest efforts by Republicans in the state legislature to make voting more difficult. Trump simply used it to criticize all the policies of the Biden administration. And Cruz, well he just throws the word around because he knows a lot of his supporters don't know what it really means and it suggests to them that elitist liberals are doing something to mess with the lives of Texans.

All four men, of course, are Republicans and all these criticisms of "woke" are part of a Republican Party campaign to confuse the electorate and keep the most rabid element of the Republican voting base (the truly unwoke) riled up against Democrats, who, by implication, are disrespecting Republican voters by saying that they are not "woke."

It's what you do when your party doesn't have any actual policies or programs to promote. And it works. It works because the message is clear: Liberal, elitist, socialist Democrats are ruining this country and don't care about you because you're not "woke." They think they're better than you. They think you're unsophisticated, ignorant.

Now, some of that may well be true, but it is not what "woke" is all about. Ted Cruz can't say he's against equality of opportunity for all and an end to racial injustice, because senators are supposed to at least say they support such principles. But Cruz and a lot of his Republican colleagues 1) may not support such goals as passionately as Democrats and 2) know full well many of their supporters don't and 3) also know that a good percentage of Republican and independent voters likely do support the idea of equal justice and opportunity for all, so they need to be convinced that they are being insulted by "the woke mob."

It's one of the oldest way to combat an idea or movement. Change the subject. Forget about voter-suppression laws and racism within police forces. Make it "them" against "us." The woke versus the whatever.

If liberals, Democrats, people who really believe in racial and social justice hope to gain support from conservative ranks, they would do better to simply state clearly what they are fighting for, without using any clever phrases (cancel culture is another). Say what you mean, don't meme what you say. It just gives hypocrites (Republicans) an opportunity to avoid the issue. They attack the language and subvert the message. This is the Republican playbook today.

I just know I can't take hearing the word "woke" spewing as an insult from the lips of Ted Cruz, one of the most "unwoke" people in Congress, when we're talking about deep-rooted racism and social injustice. Use those words. Make Republicans use those words. Where do they stand on the issues? They have become masters of avoidance. Don't make it any easier for them. Call it an awakening, if you will, for them and their potential voters.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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