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What is Wokeness in Politics? Why The Fight Against Wokeness Arised?

What is Wokeness in Politics: For many people, the demand to “remain woke” was unheard of prior to 2014. The concept underlying it was widespread in Black communities at the time: remaining “awake” and aware of other people’s deceptions was a basic survival mechanism.

Stay aware” became the cautionary motto of Black Lives Matter demonstrators on the streets in 2014, following the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and was used in a terrifying and specific context: keeping watch for police brutality and unjust police methods.

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Wake” has evolved into a single-word synthesis of leftist political doctrine, focusing on social justice politics and critical race theory, in the six years since Brown’s death. This use of “awake” is bipartisan: on the left, it’s a shorthand for political progressiveness, while on the right, it’s a denigration of liberal culture.

What is Wokeness in Politics

To be “awake” on the left implies to identify as a committed social justice advocate who is aware of current political issues — or to be regarded as such, whether or not you have ever claimed to be “woke.”

The defensiveness that surrounds wokeness can sometimes result in ironic backlash. Consider the Hulu comedy series Woke, which deconstructed the identity politics behind concepts like “wokeness” in 2020, only to be chastised for having an outdated and too-centrist political position — in other words, for not being woke enough.

Wake” — like its cousin “canceled” — connotes “political correctness gone amok” on the right, and the term is frequently used sarcastically. Right-wing Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) chastised “woketopians” during the Republican National Convention in August, lumping them in with socialists and Biden supporters as if the definition of a “woketopian” was self-evident.

However, as the term becomes more widely used, it is becoming less apparent what individuals mean by “awake.”

After all, none of these modern political ideas has anything to do with requiring individuals to “remain woke” in the face of police brutality. Despite heightened agitation against police brutality in 2020, the way terms like “woke” and “wokeness” are employed outside of the Black Lives Matter group, on both the right and left, appears to bear little relation to their original context.

Shifting a Black Lives Matter phrase away from its original meaning is perhaps the least woke thing anyone has ever done, but it appears that this is exactly what happened with, of all things, “awake.”

It’s useful to trace how the term “awake” came to stand in for an entire political ideology within the American mainstream — and what that trip suggests about a polarised culture — to understand how it came to stand in for an entire political worldview.

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The Fight Against ‘Wokeness’

What is Wokeness in Politics

Language has enormous power.

The stories it recounts become our greatest religions, great nationalism’s credos, and wartime slogans. The way we describe people and things can be liberating or oppressive; they can promote liberty and equality or cause civilizations to regress.

That is why we fight over language, over who gets to control and define it, over who gets to tell whose stories and how. It is for this reason that people who desire to defang words that gather strength target them.

“Be aware of and alert to how racism is systematic and widespread and suffuses American life,” the word “woke” was coined as a simple yet effective way of saying: “Be aware of and attentive to how racism is systemic and pervasive and suffuses American life.

Awaken from your slumber of ignorance and complacency.”

However, because of its limited power, this minor word was ripe for co-option, and for use against those who employed it. Those who oppose wokeness — whether conservatives who believe it harms the concept of America as essentially good or moderate Democrats concerned that it will hurt their political chances — want to put it out of its misery.

 

What is Wokeness in Politics

Many establishment Democrats are wary of the phrase “wokeness,” which Republicans seek to portray as “progressive politics gone wild,” because they either believe Republicans have achieved their goal or, more concerning, they agree with those Republicans.

Because wokeness indicts both Republicans and Democrats, being awake to and aware of how our systems of power operate generate opponents across the political spectrum. The existing quo is indicted by awakeness.

As a result, wokeness has been referred to in the most exaggerated terms possible, ranging from ideology to religion to cult. It has been so demonized and distorted that young person who would have been considered awake five years ago no longer refer to themselves as such.

Nothing better exemplifies the divide between moderates and progressives than a brawl between Democratic strategist James Carville and Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last week.

Carville was asked on “PBS NewsHour” what went wrong with the Democratic Party that allowed Glenn Youngkin to win “53 percent of suburban voters in Virginia,” when Donald Trump only received 45 percent last year.

“Well, this silly wokeness is what went wrong,” Carville responded. He blamed the “defund the police craziness” and said “some of these individuals ought to go to an awakened rehab clinic or something,” broadening his statement to races in cities around the country.

But then he returned to the subject of language. “They’re expressing themselves in a way that most people don’t.” “We have to change this and not be about changing definitions and changing laws,” Carville said, adding, “We have to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and changing laws.” And these people in the faculty lounge who sit about pondering I don’t know what isn’t working.”

Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, had a different perspective: She said the results highlighted “the limits of attempting to run a full, 100%, a super moderated campaign that does not excite, speak to, or energize a progressive base” in an Instagram story.

“AOC Says McAuliffe Lost Because He Wasn’t ‘Woke‘ Enough, Carville Says the Opposite,” a Sinclair Broadcast Group item titled, “AOC Says McAuliffe Lost Because He Wasn’t ‘Woke’ Enough, Carville Says the Opposite,” ran in local news sources. (The title was eventually modified to “AOC Claims McAuliffe Lost Because He Failed to Energize a ‘Progressive Base.'”)

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To be clear, progressives did not lose Virginia because they were too “woke.” Youngkin lied about critical race theory in order to elicit white racial fear, and they lost. Don’t blame wokeness for white people’s reactions.

On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez expressed her displeasure with the way her remarks were initially described, writing, “Said nothing abt ‘wokeness,’ which is a term virtually solely employed by older folks these days, btw.”

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