To “stay woke” was a term first commonly used by Blacks in the 1930s. It was meant as a cautionary device to warn others to be aware of their social, political, and physical surroundings. Racial prejudice was then, and still is, part of the fabric of our society. In 1938, blues singer Huddie Ledbetter (aka: Lead Belly) popularized the term in his iconic song “The Scottsboro Boys” when he wrote, “Black people best stay woke, keep their eyes open.”
Many years later, in response to incidents of police brutality against Blacks and other minorities, “woke” became synonymous with protests against racial injustice and unequal protection of the law. “Stay woke” emerged as a rallying cry for groups such as Black Lives Matter in the aftermath of the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s when right-wing politicians and their collaborators in the media began their collective, unhinged meltdown.
Since then, the term has been co-opted by the right-wing and their MAGA marionettes as a universal insult for anyone or anything that stands in opposition to their reactionary agenda. If you support civil rights, marriage rights, a living wage, women’s reproductive rights, voting rights, and agree that climate change is an existential threat, you are characterized as hopelessly and irredeemably “woke.”
This should be taken as a compliment rather than an insult. Resistance to such attacks on our freedoms and accepting our role as environmental stewards is the responsibility of every discerning and wide awake American.