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What Is the Meaning of Woke?

Posted on Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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Everywhere you turn, you hear it – anger, accusations, denials, pride, and prejudice around things “woke.” Count on more in 2024. What is the meaning of “woke?” Answering that question is important – but like nailing Jell-O to the wall, hard.

From John Locke, we know words do matter, and meanings change, often through politics. Now, 400 years ago, Locke lamented how words can fail us. “So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words…when we have nothing else but words to do it with.” True enough!

Orwell was more pointed and foreboding. He warned us to pay attention to meanings, like the meaning of woke – if we aim to stay free. He wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

So, what is the real meaning of woke, and why does it matter? Today woke describes leftist priorities, but the word has humble origins. A century ago, it was a warning in the Black community: Be “awake” for threats to life, limb, and liberty.

Scholars say “wake up” and “stay woke” were adopted in the early 1900s by socialists, labor activists, and those pushing communism to organize “working classes” against the “bourgeoisie” class, ignoring American upward mobility.

The term later appeared in blues songs about race, class, and injustice, especially during the Depression. As one scholar described “woke,” it was “a metaphor popularized by the labor movement…borrowed by Black activists…before bursting into blues music in the 1920s.”

All this is ancient history, but context matters. Today, the meaning is broad but not indefinite. Woke connotes a leftist ideology, power consolidation, atheism, socialism, communism, and neo-fascism for social, sexual, racial, or “climate” justice.

In some ways, this is unsatisfactory since the meaning of woke changes according to who uses the word. It is inherently vague, encompassing different types of top-down power consolidation – all of which suppress individual liberties.

What every definition of woke involves is a radical transformation, some kind of replacement for traditional values, culture, constitutional rights, majoritarianism, meritocratic connection, and the checks and balances within our political processes – in favor of top-down mandates pushing left-leaning, collectivist priorities.

As Locke and Orwell knew, words can be slippery. They are used in all sorts of ways, used to trick the mind, change things without officially changing them, and suddenly you wake up – literally – to find that what you had is…gone.

Put differently, woke is hard to define but is an adjective for someone actively against traditional American values – social, cultural, legal, sexual, moral, educational, historical, and scientific understandings that have defined our nation.

The meaning of woke is radical change. Adherents are activists using government and business to push Marxism, socialism, communism, atheism, and anti-liberty. They subscribe to concentrated power for social change, redistributing society’s wealth by identity group and disavowing what made America great, literally.

The woke push leftism based on race, group identity, and a commitment to radical cultural transformation, replacing individual rights, traditions, faith, family, free markets, free speech, and personal responsibility with federal control.

The woke push ideologies like “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), a belief that wealth should be redistributed by skin color because the American Dream – upward mobility through determination, opportunity, and hard work – is dead.

They push “Environmental, Social, and Governance” (ESG) priorities – climate alarmism, minority advancement by group, and corporate activism – over traditional fiduciary action, such as financial returns on pension investments.

They push social dissolution and reduce protection for families, speech, and religion through multi-genderism, anti-faith, anti-historical, and anti-military transformation.

Governor DeSantis calls wokeism “a form of cultural Marxism.” Former Governor Haley calls it “a virus more dangerous than any pandemic.” Many see woke ideology as replacing individual rights with a big government push toward leftism.

So, what is the meaning of woke? How might John Locke and George Orwell, students of history, see this word being leveraged to create an ideological rift?

The real meaning of woke is unsettling, radical change to our society, wholesale reinterpretation of government, replacing institutions – individual and family rights, freedom of speech and religion, and fidelity to constitutional law – with leftist political priorities and top-down, utopian federal control.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Rik
Rik
9 months ago

America needs to be “woke” alright, people need to realize exactly what most existing “woke” countries like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba feel? IT’S CALLED COMMUNISM and instead of leaders serving the people, it’s the people serving the leaders! WAKE UP AMERICA, THERE’S STILL TIME TO SAVE THIS CAPITALISTIC REPUBLIC!

Vonniequirk
Vonniequirk
9 months ago

When I was young, the word “woke” meant that you were no longer sleeping! You “woke up”! Well, today we all need to stop sleeping and WAKE UP! regardless of what this generation thinks of the word, we need to be “woke” enough to realize that we are doomed if we don’t get back to the ancient landmarks and start taking our government back! This means we need to be mindful of our votes! We need to find out what people stand for on both sides of the aisle. We should not just vote someone in because they are a member of a certain party. Look at their record (or lack thereof); look at what they stand for; look at their previous votes. And, for the sake of all citizens, STOP VOTING THE SAME PEOPLE IN YEAR AFTER YEAR! We really do not need a term limits vote. We need people to vote properly and vote out those who have spent enough time in their respective positions! Whatever happened to grooming your successor? I don’t see that happening even in local politics or civic elections!

John Bass
John Bass
9 months ago

I’m not 100% sure of what Woke means, but for me Woke means Laziness. It’s sounds a lot like someone wanting what I have attained in life through hard work and determination, and they want it too. The problem is their not willing to put in the hard work and long hours required to attain it. They want it now, because they think that for whatever reason…whether they were coddled as a children or brainwashed by the public school system, they deserve it.
God save the USA.

mal
mal
9 months ago

Being born before the Great Depression and pushing 100, I’ve come to realize what a Russian woman visitor said while sitting next to me on a flight 30 years ago: “What Americans don’t realize is not everyone wants freedom.” I couldn’t answer her at the time, but now believe she was right. We’re all spoiled because we haven’t experienced what all the immigrants coming here have. They’re leaving everything they have and risking their very lives in hopes of a better life. Do we really want what they are trying to escape?

Corbin L Douthitt
Corbin L Douthitt
9 months ago

Woke means that you are so focused upon perceived injustices in the world, that you cannot see any of the good in the world. ergo- your head is up your rear and you cannot see reality. It means you are part of the problem. Part of dividing us into small, ineffective, loud, angry groups- shouting at each other, while those in power destroy everything around us.

anna hubert
anna hubert
9 months ago

Those who consider themselves woke are parroting what ever they were programmed to parrot They are incapable of an independent ideas or to think for themselves They don’t question they are not inquisitive they don’t think Perfect useful little robots They don’t have a clue that they are being used Product of the ed system

granky
granky
9 months ago

“Woke” is a trigger word for me. When I hear it used my defensive reactions and suspicions are immediately activated.

Steven
Steven
9 months ago

Woke is nothing more than the American “Sheep” following the leader into communist hell plus convincing other stupid Americans to follow them over that communist cliff… end of discussion!!

David Millikan
David Millikan
9 months ago

WOKE = Socialist/Communist LOSERS.
Remember, Go WOKE. Go BROKE and Bow Down to Socialist/Communist democrats who Hate the United States of America and YOU.

susabella
susabella
9 months ago

An excellent description of a hard to define word. Thank you

Jimmy P
Jimmy P
9 months ago

If it is true that “upward mobility through determination, opportunity, and hard work – is dead”, then ask yourself, “What killed it?”. The answer: Woke policies from the Left murdered it.

Splish_Splash
Splish_Splash
9 months ago

MY PERSONAL DEFINITION – BRAIN DEAD!

Jeri
Jeri
9 months ago

Woke means you have run out of ideas, common sense and logic. It is that desperate last stand.

Sean Rickman
Sean Rickman
9 months ago

Woke would be a joke but,most jokes are supposed to be funny.There is nothing funny about a movement that is dividing and will eventually destroy our country if we continue to let this problem continue.

El Viejo
El Viejo
9 months ago

“Woke” is a form of lunacy. Merchants advocate it at the risk of their business.

Rik
Rik
9 months ago

You should apologize for posing as a senior when you are a 15 year old Punkydoodle Dimwit

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
9 months ago

Being woke means anyone saying their are two sexes is guilty of a hate crime. Victory Gin or Soma? You’re choice.

Mike Y
Mike Y
9 months ago

Woke – The elevation of the religion of victimhood to that point that people begin to desire to become victims themselves.

invictus
invictus
9 months ago

The term ‘woke’, which in itself sounds pretty stupid, is meant for the chronically gullible, laughable naive, compulsive lying (think Joe Biden), expressly lazy and sluggardly, dim-witted, abusive, and all things characteristic of the unemployable, unachieved, failed, and eternally rejected.

Not long
Not long
9 months ago

If you all hate woke so much just go up to black person and tell them everything you say here.

you don’t be woke very long lol

Stopping by
Stopping by
9 months ago

Just came here to see the “you will not replace us” crowd before they are the first in line to be replaced lol

Diane
Diane
9 months ago

Most people who identify as woke are asleep. ????

Vince
Vince
9 months ago

A four star general in the United States Army who served as the Joint Chiefs of Staff for four years makes a statement that he’s white,and he wants to learn about white rage ! That’s WOKE!

Steven Alton
Steven Alton
9 months ago

What DeSantis and Haley said about it is tru, and people need to get their heads out of their rear ends. But they won’t because they don’t want to see what’s coming and I even heard about a show out of the UK where people are looking for a date and they show potential dates naked from the waist up, Chest upland then face and they choose a date from that. And that’s all part of the wokeism culture…

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
9 months ago

What’s the difference between the current practical definition of ‘woke’ and ‘gobsmacked?’

Paul
Paul
9 months ago

Woke seems like a compliment. Being asleep is worse than being woke.

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