I do acknowledge that the origins of the word “woke” stem from the black community and its fight for equality. I understand that, historically, racial equality has been primarily driven by liberals, and hence the historical connection between the word and partisanship is natural. However, woke is spreading. It is taking on new meaning and new reach. Woke is starting to become an umbrella term for all that is just, thus making justice synonymous with Democratic political platforms.
Such a usage of language is merely one example of rampant political polarization in the United States. We would rather assume that people on the other side are misinformed or downright idiotic than acknowledge the viability of different opinions or priorities.
Furthermore, we have reached a point where we often isolate ourselves from people with differing political opinions. This is harmful in the obvious sense: It diminishes open, enriching political discourse. However, even more harmful is the reduction of individuals with whom we disagree to nothing more than their political beliefs. We allow our own self-image to be defined by our political identification. We fail to realize that people are more than their votes for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. People have families, friends, hobbies, passions, thoughts, and priorities. A Trump voter is not necessarily a raving racist, and a Clinton voter is not necessarily trying to leech off your hard-earned money. They are simply people who have different opinions than you. Those opinions do not make them dumb or evil. Those opinions do not have to mean that they are not woke. They are different, but they are not invalid.
One is generally not likely to find op-eds in student newspapers criticizing liberal orthodoxy. At The Harvard Crimson, however, an editor has penned an unlikely missive: an essay explaining why she rejects the term “woke.”
The term “woke,” writes Crimson editor Rory Dolgin, “holds a partisan undertone” which “implies that to support the liberal viewpoint is to be socially aware.”
“Woke people are heavily informed and actively involved with liberal social issues,” Dolgin writes. “If you’re leading a Black Lives Matter protest, you’re probably woke. If you’re calling your congressperson to advocate for Planned Parenthood, you’re probably woke. If you’re handing out pro-life leaflets, however, you probably will not receive the woke label.”
The “nomenclature” of wokeness, Dolgins says, suggests “a belief held by some on the left that people are only conservative because they are uneducated.” It is necessary, she argues, to “see the fault in this mindset.”
“Some of the most woke—socially informed and engaged—people I know are woke from the right,” she continues. “I know conservatives who watch the news 24/7 and don’t let a single current event slip their notice. I know people who utilize grassroots efforts to engage with their community to raise awareness for an issue that is of the utmost importance to them: anti-abortion legislation. Conservatism is not about being misinformed and being woke is not about liberalism.”
“Maybe we can broaden the definition of ‘woke’ to include these characteristics from both sides of the political spectrum,” Dolgin writes, “but until then I remain contently un-woke.”
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