What does the word 'woke' actually mean and why do people keep getting it wrong

What does the word 'woke' actually mean and why do people keep getting it wrong
Esther McVey releases advert for 'staycation' episode of her podcast

The term 'woke' has been around for some time – but we're increasingly seeing the right (and some boomers) weaponising the word in fierce political debates. They often use 'woke' to insult some of the social and cultural issues they believe are exaggerated.

Woke was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017, and contrary to popular belief, it is defined as ‘originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term describes someone who is ‘aware… knowing what’s going on in the community (related to racism and social injustice)’.

In short, it means to be socially and culturally aware.

You may be surprised to learn that 'woke' dates back to 1962 when the term was listed in a New York Times Magazine glossary of ‘phrases and words you might hear today in Harlem’.

Ten years later, in 1972, a character in the Barry Beckham play Garvey Lives! says he’ll “stay woke” with the line: “I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon stay woke. And I’m gon’ help him wake up other black folk”.

The term made a breakthrough in mainstream culture during the Black Lives Matter movement, when '#staywoke' spread across social media amid the ongoing racial injustices in the United States.

A recent article from the Daily Mail sparkedan influx of social media scrutiny for the misuse of woke and for "contributing to the stigma around men’s emotional and mental health". It described UK construction workers as 'going woke' for expressing their feelings in the workplace. "A poll of 2,000 builders found that two-thirds regularly talk about their feelings," they penned.

However, according to Phoenix Health and Safety, construction workers accounted for 27 per cent of the total workplace deaths in 2021.

Former Labour advisor Laurence Turner said: "If discussing feelings is 'woke', then this seems like a very good and important thing."

'Being woke' is not an insult – though people may try and manipulate its true definition. However, for as long as the internet exists, it will continue to be the troll buzzword to mock the so-called hypersensitivity of the left.

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