At its core, being woke is a good thing.
For those who are somehow still unfamiliar, “Woke” is slang for the act of awakening from a dream like state of ignorance, and finally arming yourself with the knowledge, tools and clarity needed to not only recognize the systems that run the world we live in, but also make informed (and empowered) decisions about how to navigate through those systems more intelligently and effectively.
I love the premise. And to be fair, I pretty much make a living capitalizing on my own wokeness. So it is with a heavy heart that I say what has needed to be said for a while now.
Some of ya’ll are taking this woke s**t too far.
Below are 5 signs that you may need to chill out.
1. You expect everyone to be offended by everything that offends you
This week Donald Glover almost broke the internet with his instantly viral video for This Is America. Within 24 hours of it’s release I found myself joining the legions of writers who unpacked all the rich and vainglorious symbolism sprinkled throughout the gleefully jarring visual.
Many people are fascinated by art, imagery and the way film is used to make political statements so this piece was written specifically for them; a nerdy Cliff Notes on what to look out for the 2nd (or 15th) time they watched the video.
And while the reception it received was overwhelmingly positive, there was a very vocal minority that repeatedly hit me up with messages saying, “Why didn’t you talk about his white looking Asian girlfriend?”
“Your fave is problematic. F**k this video.”
“Anyone who supports this fool is a coon. We only support brothers who engage in black-on-black love.”
Look, all of these opinions are valid PERSONAL choices.
If you choose to be a contender for the “Wokest Ninja That Ever Lived” award then good for you. But a healthy (and essential) part of being truly awakened is understanding that liberation means letting others have the freedom to make their own choices. Even choices you aren’t fond of – such as having a “white looking Asian girlfriend.”
2. You judge others *really* harshly for things most of us grapple with
Has Donald Glover made comments in the past would make most emotionally intelligent people raise a brow of concern?
Of course he has!
In fact, from what I’ve witnessed over the years it appears Glover thinks he’s just as problematic as a lot of his critics and often oscillates somewhere between being self deprecating and attempting to make amends.
He’s publicly admitted that he’s never felt totally comfortable in his skin and like Issa Rae that awkwardness has actually contributed to his accessibility and success.
But unlike many other celebrities he for the most part stays in his lane. He doesn’t physically attack women or commit crimes. And while people have become annoyed with his old assertion that he dates interracially because black girls don’t like nerdy black dudes like him (an excuse that I fully acknowledge is played out) unless I’ve missed something, he’s never actually denounced his blackness while he’s been laid up with his Asian boo.
Which is why in a sea of serial predators (*cough* Bill Cosby), media hungry attention seekers (*cough* Kanye), and publicity stunts meant to capitalize on our sympathy for mental health issues (*cough* Tyrese), I find it really hard to get super upset at Glover.
Flawed, self-contained human ish is low on my list of things to go after these days. And not to be rude but a lot of people I’ve seen come for Glover, ironically struggle with the same issues around their own identity, self esteem and self worth.
It’s taken every bit of self control I have not to be petty and point out this glaring hypocrisy in people’s Facebook threads.
But in a nutshell this is what I’ve seen from the newly (and overzealously) awakened amongst us.
Monday: Be a regular person
Tuesday: Get woke
Wednesday: Make other woke friends and swap hashtags and recipes
Thursday: Start judging ninjas who are just as ignorant as you were Monday!
Fri-Sat: Do problematic s**t because “its the weekend!”
Sunday: Go to church and/or get drunk at brunch
With a schedule like that, I think some folks would be better served spending less time worried about who a famous rapper is dating, and more time stepping up their self-awareness.
3. Your activism/keyboard wokeness leaves you sick, exhausted and constantly stressed
Of course we’re all allowed to be righteously indignant about whatever we see fit, but as the untimely loss of Erica Garner reminded many of us, being an activist can take a serious toll on your body. Garner was an amazing and much needed voice in our community, but she was also constantly in a state of stress during her attempts to give a voice to the voiceless.
When she passed away at the tender young age 27-years-old after suffering a heart attack it made many of her colleagues and cohorts pause. And for a lot of us she’s become a sobering reminder of exactly why its good to have discretion about which causes you allow to spike your blood pressure.
We need to choose our battles, as a matter of survival.
This angry mob mentality that’s become normalized over the last few years is literally killing us fam. Too much “wokeness” is both psychologically and physiologically bad for your health and will leave you depleted if you’re not careful.
All you have to do is take a long look at your favorite depressed, exhausted activist whenever they post thinly veiled cries for help on Twitter about their need for more “self-care.”
4. You are harsh and unforgiving even when progress is being made
As I stated before, the whole point of wokeness is to empower us to make informed decisions about how to more intelligently and effectively navigate through the world.
To that point we tell people to “do better,” examine what’s not working, be honest, and “level up.” We tell them to reconsider problematic ways, update their narratives etc.
But the pushback that Donald Glover received this week shows that even when that begins to happen, even when someone attempts to “do better” and contribute something that pushes the dialogue forward, the response will often still be, “Did you see what he said in 2011 though?”
If we only beat people over the head, and “cancel” them even when growth is taking place, that begs the questions: “What are we even fighting for anymore?”
I thought inspiring that sort of evolution was the whole point of all this! But even when that wish gets granted, a lot of folks stay mad as if nothing had happened. I’m not saying we have to throw people parades for their attempts to be decent, but can we maybe ease up on the vitriol a bit?
I cant shake this ever-growing feeling that a lot of people are getting mad JUST on principal, without any actual intention (or even suggestions) on how to improve the things they’re so mad about.
5. Every offense is treated like the end of the world
There is nothing intelligent or effective about getting incredibly upset at every single grievance and injustice with the heat of a thousand suns.
First of all, because it’ll make you sick staying in the space all the time. And also because, not all “problematic” behaviors are created equal. A rapist who preys on women, or a racist who uplifts the doctrines of white supremacy should not be getting the same level of anger from your Twitter fingers as a nerdy black kid with issues around his identity, that just dropped a bomb ass video.
If problematic people aren’t allowed to be treated on a case by case basis, or get any shred of grace when they actually evolve, then why not just take them out back and crucify them the old fashioned way?
Why pretend like they’ll ever be allowed to be more than their past mistakes?
But that’s not being woke, it’s insomnia.
And then folks wonder why things feel so tense and hopeless these days. Of course they are! You actually have to create (or at the very least allow) space for hope to show up. And that’s impossible when every single moment of weakness is used as an excuse to drag someone.
I know the vast majority of the conscious crowd means well, and like I said before I’m a fan of why this all started. But with all things in life, balance is key.
Being woke is great, but sometimes it’s okay to take a nap.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric