How ‘woke up’ evolved from an anti-racism concept to a swear word

Join the conversation for beginners: Jan Kuitenbrouwer writes the dictionary of the verbal civil war, which we call ‘the public debate’. Section 2, under w: awakened.

Jan Kuitenbrouwer

We started Wakkerlands last week with the word ‘wake’ appropriate. Except “awake” as a euphemism for “Telegraph-reactionary ‘and in the sense of’ conspiracy-conscious’, a third ‘vigilant’ has been circulating for some time: the wake of the identity politics that came over from the United States: ‘awakened’.

The first time I heard it was about four years ago. A friend reached a crown year that was great celebration, with family, friends and for this occasion also the necessary second generation. In the twenties, students.

‘And have you had any contact yet?’, The native asked afterwards to his son, who is studying in America.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘talked to A. and B. for a while. Was fun. They are awake. ‘

‘Wook? Are they drugs? ‘

“No mom!”

‘Woke’ comes from wake, awaken. The adverb “awake” is “awake” in English, but in the sociolect of black America it was distorted into “awake”.

It was probably first used by the followers of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), the founder of the black civil rights movement, the galleon figure in black pride and inspirer of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. IN Garvey is alive!a 1972 play about Marcus Garvey, says a woman: “I’ve slept all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey woke me up, I’m staying awake and I want to help him wake other black people. ‘

It is probably the connection to later generations of politically conscious African Americans.

In 2008, American newsoul singer Erykah Badu wrote the song Master Teacher with the oft-repeated chorus ‘I stay wake’. It became the motto of Black Lives Matter and the title of a documentary about that movement: Stay wake (2016). From a ‘black’ word for the fight against racism, it has evolved into a universal term for social awareness and political vigilance, -> intersectionality, -> identity politics and -> critical race theory.

“Some men are too honest on a first date,” tweets Atlanta Nnneke M. Wakona. “Do not take it as a compliment, it is a manipulation tactic to give you a false sense of security. stay awake!“Woke” is the verbal equivalent of the combative clenched fist.

Sleep and slumber are an old metaphor for political passivity, think of ‘the awakened poor of the earth’ (socialism), ‘Deutschland erwache!’ (National Socialism) and ‘the great awakening’ (-> QAnon). As dawn, as a metaphor for a new, brighter future.

While the old political awakening is more a call to rise up and go to war, the new ‘wave’ is more of an individual quality, a kind of X-ray goggles that allow you to observe the injustice and inequality in any situation, yet subtle . It can then be condemned and avenged. In that sense, ‘wake’ is strongly associated with -> cancel culture.

For some, “waking up” has become a swear word for privileged, progressive white people living in an immaculate cocoon of political correctness and competing in alertness

On television, a media researcher explains that the comedy series friends could never be made today. Too white, too straight, too elitist and too -> cis-gendered. ‘This is an attempt at after wakefulness‘, tweeted and hurt. Retired American newsreader Dan Rather regularly tweets about climate, racism and gender discrimination, giving him the nickname “old awakened Dan” on Twitter. An enthusiast: ‘I sometimes go on Twitter just for old Dan’s awake tweets.’

“Woke up” is also the death sentence for the PvdA and the Green Left, “tweeted Henk Westbroek. The fact that Labor lost so much in the midterm elections in England last week has everything to do with ‘growing aversion to views that are awake’. , and who’s in Labor’s capillaries. ” Listen, listen, ‘replies Arthur van Amerongen.

That is broadly the explanation the son gave his mother the morning after her birthday when she asked what ‘woke up’ was. Sometimes the mother-son roles are swapped. The American rapper Earl Sweatshirt once told how he sang ‘I stay wake’ as a teenager on Master teacher by Erykah Badu. His mother turned down the radio, looked directly at him, and said, “No, you are not.”

Because you are not just awake, being awake deserves it.

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