Evolution of “Woke”

Recently, the term “woke ideology” has been dominating certain circles of social media. As professional educators, it is our duty to delve into the roots and the trajectory of this term, and especially when our profession is being attacked in the name of fighting against “woke ideology”. 

The word “woke” and the phrase “stay woke” originated in the African American Vernacular tradition, dating back to the early 1920s when Jamaican philosopher and social activist Marcus Garvey invoked it. His call, “Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa!” implored African diaspora worldwide to heighten their social and political consciousness. “Stay woke” gained recent prominence during the 2014 Ferguson protests led by Black Lives Matter activists, serving as a warning against racially motivated threats and the perils of white supremacy.  

However, in recent years, the politically conservative right, along with bots and trolls, have co-opted “woke” to undermine progressive social justice movements, policies, and education. As educators, we must remain vigilant against the perpetuation of oppressive ideologies. Afterall, a major goal of public education is to foster compassion and empathy among our students and to ensure that they are aware of human diversity and human rights. Only in an anti-oppressive world, can our communities collectively thrive and flourish.  

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