Culture Wars/Current Controversies

White People Are Using “Woke” Wrong—on Both Sides of the Aisle

A view from the left.

By Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher Slate

“Stay woke” started as a call to action, but social media and SNL have made the term increasingly meaningless.

The word woke is all over our phones, our TV screens, and even the campaign trail, but do people actually know what it means? On Saturday’s episode of ICYMI, Slate’s podcast about internet culture, co-hosts Rachelle Hampton and Madison Malone Kircher—building on the work of journalists like Vox’s Aja Romano—explained how the earliest usages of woke date back to the early 20th century and the idea of Black people “keeping their eyes open” to the realities of white supremacist violence. “Stay woke” continued as a warning call to other Black Americans through the music of people like Erykah Badu and Childish Gambino, and as a rallying cry through the Ferguson protests, until it started to enter mainstream and lose its original meaning. In this transcript, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, they discuss how white people on both the left and the right developed a misunderstanding of the word woke and spread that version online—and how the same thing is now happening with “critical race theory.”


1 reply »

  1. Yeah, white people are using it wrong. What it actually means is jump into the ovens, whitey. And that’s how whites should understand it.

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