D. Watkins is sick of “woke.”
The New York Times best-selling author says that ‘wokeness’ and all its amenities is bad for Black America.
In fact, Watkins is skeptical of anyone who claims to speak for all of Black America with a straight face. That’s what his new book “We Speak For Ourselves: A Word From Forgotten Black America“ is all about.
Watkins, a Baltimore native who went from drug dealing to college professorship, is calling on people who have acted as representatives for the Black community to ensure they’re actually in touch with the communities most in need.
“If you gotta constantly see somebody tweeting or talking about certain issues and you don’t know what they do, nine times out of ten they probably don’t do anything,” Watkins told theGrio in an interview.
Watkins’ latest book opens up with a description of him meeting a nicely dressed older Black man at an event, who interrogates him about his family background. Once he figures out that Watkins is comes from working-class roots, he walks away with nothing to say.
For the author, it’s further proof that all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. And many people who get access to platforms and airtime in today’s media, all come from the same elite background and circles.
“I like the idea of people being woke when they understand issues that affect oppressed people,” Watkins says. “When they want to really have conversations about solutions that can help oppressed people. But when you’re just walking around, keep saying micro aggression all day… It’s not attached to nothing [sic] it’s just flat.”
His latest book isn’t just a reality check for a generation obsessed with knowing better, it’s also a call to do better and for a recognition of those who do.
Among them rapper Meek Mill for his criminal justice reform efforts, NFL star Russell Wilson for giving his teammates $12,000 in stock as a gift of thanks and the late Nipsey Hussle for his “buy the block” entrepreneurship.
“He’s the definition of [real],” says Watkins.
He is also the author of two other New York Times best-selling books: The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America and The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir.
Both books tackle Watkins’ personal journey of growing up and surviving in East Baltimore. As the city faces rampant gentrification Watkins said he is hyper-aware of the impact of privilege and power.
“When Freddie Gray was alive, they wasn’t [sic] screaming his name,” Watkins tells theGrio. “There’s a thousand kids from his neighborhood right there Gilmore Homes every day they need help love and attention. Rally for them.”
Subscribe to theGrio’s YouTube channel to watch the full interview with D. Watkins and catch more interviews with writers on theGrio’s Authors Circle playlist.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said Russell Westbrook had given teammates stock. In actuality, it was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.