From Woke to Awake: An Intersectionality of Perspective

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Mark and Corey have a rich and far-reaching discussion about our present political realities and challenges, dedicating the first half of the discussion to some of the major headlines from the last few weeks, and then exploring ways to elevate “woke culture” into a genuine “post-woke” integral sensibility.

Hi guys -
Great episode. I just love how much you love each other! I have 3 brothers and a dad who was very affectionate with all 4 of us equally. So, guys loving each other is normal to me. I yearn for a world where this is much more common.

You asked a question at the end. I’m not sure I’m going to answer it directly, but here is what I’d like to say:
The 3 problems I have with the shadow side of wokism are
1 - It mostly doesn’t allow for discussion. it shuts down push-back, even feedback with a furvor like it is fighting for its own survival. If you question, you are called “racist.”
2 - It assasinates tradition in a way that infuriates and energizes Amber-level folks, some moderns and even people like my mom, who is a died-in-the-wool liberal, but is 82 and appreciates tradition. A woke 20-something I know said in an email sent to their considerable list that Thanksgiving is a “ridiculous holiday that shouldn’t even exist” then called us a a genocidal nation…etc, etc.
3 - It uses inflamatory language - though MAGA folks do this too. I heard someone at green call the detention centers at our southern border “concentration camps.” To someone at amber this is a gross exaggeration - we are not doing what the Nazi’s did. Yes, it’s awful, but not that awful. Using tribal/rhetorical/slogan language is a sure way to ensure polarization.

Finding shared values seems to me to be the best way to find some common ground and establish a connection. How that happens, and amongst and between whom… I have no clear answers. But I feel called to be in some way involved in this work.

I want to say to woke activists - fight the good and necessary fight, but be effective! These shadow aspects are in the way of their effectiveness, from where I sit.

Thanks for the great information and discussion -

Cara Brown
Fairfax, CA

I would venture a guess that many of the people at this site are both woke and anti-woke, which is to say, the word itself now has a double meaning in culture, a positive meaning and a negative connotation.

The word ‘woke’ (and maybe this was covered in Mark and Corey’s discussion; I haven’t listened to it) derives from the term “stay woke” used by African-American communities as early as the 1940s to encourage a continuing awareness of racial discrimination and injustice in society/culture and politics. This preceded the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling desegregating schools. The term ‘stay woke’ was also used during the 60s, preceding the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 respectively. Apparently the term was re-introduced by Erykah Badu in her 2008 song “Master Teacher;” it was taken up again in 2014 following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and from there, the Black Lives Matter movement started using it and the adjective “woke” was born. (Trivia: the word woke entered the Oxford Dictionary in 2017).

To stay aware and actively attentive to important facts and issues around social injustice (as Merriam-Webster defines woke), especially racism, is not a bad thing; people staying woke is how social/economic/political change comes about. This is a term and word that has historical and deep meaning for the Black community, so I don’t object to it on those grounds, and in this context, I don’t see healthy or unhealthy wokism (although I understand how Corey is using those terms), just ‘staying woke-ism.’ Granted, it is now used around any number of perceived social inequalities/injustices, gender for instance; I personally still don’t have a problem with the word used in that way, although I’m sure some might declare “co-opting!”

But what of the negative connotations of the word woke? The word I hear most frequently is “pretentiousness,” or the attempt to impress or influence others by affecting or assuming more importance than one actually possesses. The word “pretentious” comes from the French, meaning “false” or “hypocritical.” I think anti-wokeness is a near-visceral reaction in response to this pretentiousness, because conscious of it or not, something in us desires truth and authenticity. And I would add, there are certain shadow elements embedded in those anti-woke reactions, so that would be a part of post-wokism–cleaning up those particular shadows.

Some punditry I’ve read, and I see it for myself as well, points also to how the word woke has been co-opted by the political right, and used as political weaponry and to claim “victim status” for oneself, similar to how the term “politically correct” has been treated, a term which at the root of its meaning, is also not a bad thing. To be sensitive to others in our language and communications is valuable. While probably the least of their problems, the political right has its own forms of wokism, healthy and unhealthy, as well; reactions to Biden’s use of the word “Neanderthals” in referring to states who have gotten rid of mask mandates and opened up all businesses being a very recent example. I mention this in the context of any post-woke project needing to consider both left and right “wokeness” and perhaps “woke capitalism” as well.

Just two other comments I would make, again not having watched this episode, but from reading Corey’s write-up here. I think there is at least a little if not more “deliberately dumping poison into the water” going on, if not by 50% of the country, by quite a few state legislatures in their efforts to suppress Black and other minority voting, numerous examples in my state alone, and another example being one Southern state trying to do away with Sunday voting, knowing that voting in church has been a staple of the Black community. This seems deliberate.

I appreciate the invitation here for more post-woke conversations, as the old conversations seem stale, worn-out, tiresome, and actually to me, boring. And I think the “intersectionality of perspectives” is a good description of aspects of integralism; can always count on Corey to come up with some bright terms that seem so obvious but you never thought of them yourself… I personally don’t think identity politics is going away anytime soon, or “identity” itself as a major element of the self-stack, at least not in the world-at-large, and what was said about “the story of development is not one that has saturated our culture” is the main obstacle here. Solve that problem, solve a lot.

Final note: nice to see that this conversation addressed some issues affecting other parts of the world than just the U.S. More of that please.

I believe the term “being woke” has lost its authentic meaning because the real experience of being woke is not easy to achieve and there are many people claiming they experienced it when they haven’t. Its true experience is not confined to the black community or any other race -it is a human experience. For any person to say he is woke and in the same breath say others are not is not being woke. Being woke- authentically- does not think in such polarities. Dr. Adrian Piper said that

“self-examination entails self-awareness, i.e., awareness of the components of the self. But self-awareness is largely a matter of degree. If you’ve only had a few discordant experiences, or relatively superficial discordant experiences, you don’t need to examine yourself very deeply in order to revise your false beliefs”

As I understand it, it is our deeply entrenched false beliefs that govern our perception of reality that keeps us in bondage. Examining those beliefs -no matter how we may feel of the outcome- is the only way to dispel them. Dispelling them is the beginning realization of understanding how our misunderstandings of reality did not allow us the experience of being woke. (mind you, calling it woke is just a word and words get in the way of this experience). When it is experienced, it has a psychological redeeming effect. At the same time it also has an existentially depressing quality because you discover a deeper truth of your existence. I posed this experience to Dr. Susanne Cook Greuter that Corey gave her and she confirmed my own experience of existential depression at the 53:20 minute mark. This depression can also be described as post traumatic growth

I believe that when you gain the insight wokeness provides it awakens in us our innate capacity for psychological mindedness. Wikipedia defines it as

A person’s capacity for self-examination, self-reflection, introspection. It includes an ability to recognize meanings that underlie overt words and actions, to appreciate emotional nuance and complexity, to recognize the links between past and present, and insight into one’s own and others’ motives and intentions. Psychologically minded people have above average insight into mental life.

I wish Corey would interview those who have first hand knowledge on how to help others reach what I believe is suppose to be our immediate objective: psychological mindedness. In other words, growing up.

Lindsey explains what happens when we get being woke wrong

‘Woke utopia’, the end of the West & a new cult - James Lindsay interview -