“I consider myself a woke ass citizen of the world” – a magnet on my refrigerator
A great thing about many folks is their decision to be well informed citizens of this fine country and the world. Plenty of people are making efforts to be informed about the issues of marginalized identities and offering help. Keep doing this, you good people. Imma let you finish, but first…
Please stop making social justice a competition. We’re not playing the “Who’s the Wokest Person in the Room” game when we speak about social issues. We’re also not playing this game when choosing to be activists in whatever we’re passionate about. And an important thing to keep in mind, we are not all trying to play this game. Not everyone is motivated to speak out, be active, or donate to causes, and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to feel so passionate about the gender wage gap that they make active strides towards remedying it. Not everyone wants to involve themselves in the Colin Kaepernick debacle. Not everyone wants to concern themselves with solving issues that demand an intersectional examination and years of work to solve.
Lack of passion for specific issues isn’t always a result of complicity, but time, understanding, or resources. We can’t solve the world’s problems, unfortunately, and that means we need to stop trying to prove we’re the “wokest person” just because we can spew the right rhetoric and “win” arguments with “less woke” people. Yes, have conversations about social issues, and maybe be solution oriented in those discussions. Yes, challenge social structures and challenge those around you to also think about those structures. For the love of all things good, stop trying to act like you’re better than someone who is less informed, less passionate, or less involved because they don’t outwardly care as much as you. With this mindset, we’re only hurting ourselves and limiting how impactful we can be collectively.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Before you interpret this as a call to be a passive bystander, mellow out, that’s not what’s being said. We shouldn’t be silent about the issues surround us because then nothing will change. The point of calling out this behavior of acting superior because one appears more socially aware than those around them is harmful. Instead of lecturing people about how they need to be more socially aware or that they’re wrong in how they approach issues, be open. Communication is a two way street, meaning you should share where you’re at with social issues, but also be open to when someone isn’t as passionate about the same issue. Fortunately, we’re all very different people who care about different issues and view the same issues differently. Having these differing opinions and ideas in collaboration can lead to a more holistic and feasible approach to alleviating the negative impact of some social problems. In order to get this place of collaboration, we also need to acknowledge the big P in the room, privilege.
Privilege is a wonderful thing, my friends. We all have different privileges that allow us to do good things (or bad, but just avoid doing bad things with your privilege). Through understanding privilege and one’s own privilege, navigating the social justice-y conversations gets somewhat easier. Understanding why some folks just don’t think about the varying levels of the gender wage gap as it relates to race kind of makes sense if the only information they’re always seeing is showing the wage gap between white men and women. That then becomes a teaching opportunity about the pay gap and how race factors in, instead of being annoyed that the other party had no idea that race plays a role. We’re all learning and we all bring different experiences to the table, so keep that in mind before you get on your high horse.
One final issue with the high and mighty woke folks is making many issues about themselves. Nothing can compare to a white person telling a Black person the struggles of being Black and how Black folks like Michael Jordan should have spoken up more. First of all, I think anyone who is Black in America (woke or not) have more of an understanding of the various implications skin color causes. Second, just because someone is a member of a marginalized group does not mean they have to speak out for that community or other communities. Not everyone is walking the same social justice path, just respect that and do what you can in areas you’re passionate about.
And just some reasonable advice: don’t use your privilege to make issues marginalized people face about you. Don’t use your privilege to speak for any marginalized group you are not a part of.
In closing, stay woke.