TheGrio Daily

How to Be Woke

Episode 21

“Only white people can get rid of racism and they have to wake white people up.” Since woke has been used incorrectly by white people for so long, Michael Harriot decided to give white people a step-by-step guide on the correct way to be woke.

You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] 84 years ago, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, a musician who Life magazine once called “a bad nigger who makes good menstrual,” explained how he came to create one of the first racism carols. He wrote this protest song about these Black dudes in Alabama who were falsely accused of raping two white women to warn people about the danger of passing through Alabama. And at the end of the song, he told a story of meeting two of the wrongly convicted men who became known as the Scottsboro Boys. You can look it up. And just before the recording faded into silence, the legendary singer coined a phrase that would become a clarion call to Black America until White people discovered it. Eight decades later. 

Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter [00:00:53] I’d advice everybody be a little careful when they go down through there. Just stay woke. Keep your eyes open.  

Michael Harriot [00:00:58] “I’d advise everybody to be a little careful when they go down through there. Just stay woke. Keep your eyes open.” I’m world-famous wypipologist Michael Harriot, and this is the only podcast that can teach you how to stay woke. Welcome to theGrio Daily. 

Michael Harriot [00:01:28] Today we’re going to talk about woke. Not the thing that Ledbetter was talking about. We’re going to talk about the White translation. You know, white people got their own language. Just call it Caucasian-ese or, you know. Anyway, see, the original meaning of woke was a warning to Black people about White people. That’s what it’s always meant to us. For instance, in 1940, a Black West Virginia activist told his united Negro coal miners union workers not to worry because they couldn’t outlast the discrimination against coal workers by staying woke. But now that White people found out about it. It’s taken on a whole new meaning. This is what White people think, woke means. Listen. 

Bill Maher [00:02:14] So last night on the football game, Alicia Keys sang Lift Every Voice and Sing, which now I hear is called the Black National Anthem. Now, maybe we should get rid of our national anthem, but I think we should have one national anthem. 

Jim Carville [00:02:29] It’s just stupid wokeness. All right. You don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island. Look at Buffalo. Look at Minneapolis. Even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean, just defund the police. Lunacy to take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools meant that people see that and it’s just really have a suppressive effect all across the country to Democrats of these people need to go to a woke detox center. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:58] That’s why apparently white people believe the national anthem, police funding and all that stuff. Black people have been organizing, fighting and protesting about since the day we literally woke up in America is too offensive. But that’s because they don’t know things. If they even try to know things, they know that there was a New York Times article about Black people use the phrase stay woke. Way back in 1962. But to be fair, most Black Americans are accustomed to people who wear flip flops to church borrowing phrases from the Black and lexical universe. If we got mad every time a White person said “bae, that party was so lit, they had no choice but to turn up.” Boy, we’d be cursed with high blood pressure and low life expectancy. And I know what you’re thinking, but if you were woke, you’d know that income inequality, employment discrimination and equal access to medical care might have a little bit more to do with these health disparities than, you know, just Black people not taking care of themselves. You know what I can’t even blame White people because this ain’t that problem. See, the reason they don’t like what they call “wokeness” is that they’ve been asleep for so long. You know, you don’t like waking up in the morning either, right? So today we’re going to teach White people a six step process for how to become woke. And let’s get started. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:21] See, the first step is you have to realize that you were asleep. Look, Ashley, Kate, Rebecca, I know you think you know things because you went to one of those low Negro density schools, but White people really don’t know a lot of stuff. See take that stupid thing Bill Maher said about the Black national anthem. See, I actually agree with him about that. For real. Like, we shouldn’t have two separate national anthems. We should just have one. Now, I think it should be Back That Ass Up or Before I Let Go by Frankie Beverly and Maze, but ya’ll know why people don’t even know who Frankie Beverly is, right? And if you think that sounds crazy, you should know. James Weldon Johnson wrote Lift Every Voice and Sing in 1901, and it was adopted as the Negro National Anthem in 1919 and 12 years later, in 1931, the United States Congress woke they asses up and made The Star-Spangled Banner America’s official anthem. So, see, Bill Maher is too asleep to know that Black people had already chosen a Black national anthem 12 years before White people. I bet Black was like, “Man, I think we should have just one national anthem, too.” But they didn’t know that there was going to be a White national anthem. See, like White people always screwing stuff up and then complaining about it because just wake it up. They always steal our stuff. 

Michael Harriot [00:05:41] The second step, which is to wake up. See, I know white people don’t take showers. Not seriously. Like see that? That’s a 2021 poll that shows that one out of every three White people don’t take a shower every day. It’s actual data. Right. But that explains why they never fully awakened. You know, you ain’t really up an atom until you take a shower. And some people drink coffee. Some people drink Red Bull. I drink White tears. But see, when you’re in a state between slumber and woke, you might not be able to tell the difference between stuff in the American dream and stuff that’s real. For instance, well, remember, I think that that lizard looking man at James Carville, he do look like a lizard though. Remember that thing he said about defunding the police? You know, it’s crazy, Wokeness. Well, that’s because white people are slowly waking up to the fact that police don’t treat Black people fairly. In 2016, 53% of White people believe that cops treated Black people equally. And a majority also thought that police used the right amount of force in each situation. I don’t know where they live, right? Like where these white people live with all these good cops. But now they’re slowly beginning to realize that there might be some kind of little racism in the way we police in America. So they’re just now waking up. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:02] Number three, don’t act like you weren’t asleep. Black people don’t want to hear that you grew up poor in a Black neighborhood or that you dated a Puerto Rican dude in college. It’s disrespectful to walk into a room where people have been working for years while you were napping and be like, Yeah, I was here the whole time. For real? Yeah. I was just like, over there. So don’t quote Martin Luther King when most white people didn’t approve of him when he was alive. See, in 1965, 85% of White people felt the civil rights protests were, quote unquote, not justified. And 50% said that Martin Luther King, quote, “hurt the Negro civil rights movement.” So it’s cool that America loves MLK now. But don’t act like you would have been out there with him back then. We know y’all weren’t resting your eyes. Y’all were asleep. 

Michael Harriot [00:07:50] Step four realize what was going on when you were asleep. So you even begin working. You have to get caught up. Like, how can you fix something when you don’t even know what’s broken? And for 59% of Americans don’t know that the 13th Amendment ended slavery. Like this an actual study that shows that done by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 48% don’t know that slavery is in the Constitution. And 99% of White people will tell you that they can clap on beat. But see, they don’t know when the beat is. So you can forgive him for that. But you have to realize that they were asleep when we were learning how to clap our hands. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:34] So step five, listen to Black people. Bruh, White people don’t have to chime in on everything. You could just, like, sit there and be quiet. I don’t know if you, do White people mama, tell them to be quiet when grown folks just talking? I don’t know. I ain’t never been around like White people parents, except when they’re yelling at them in the grocery store. No, instead of like, this is what I think that the Negro community should do, because, you know, White people really believe that there is like a Negro community and that we have meetings every other Thursday. I think we we meet on Thursdays because that’s when The Cosby Show and a Different World used to come on. But we’re not meeting bruh. We’re just having the same reaction to White people’s racism from the beginning. It’s not like we got to get together and discuss, you know, that White that thing that they did to Sam back in 1916, that lynching. Yeah, that was kind of racist. Yeah. We don’t have to take a poll, you know? It ain’t no Black Pew Network. So just remember that you should just listen to Black people, because Black people know that racism is real. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:48] And that brings us to step six. Now that you woke. Now that you have started listening to Black people. Now that you realize that you were asleep. You got to wake up your sleeping friends. See racism and this is a thing that is a recurring theme through this show is that racism is not Black people’s problem. That’s why I call myself a wypipologist, just because to understand racism, you can’t study or or look at Black people. You have to study the people who created racism, who perpetuate White supremacy, who have been doing it for 400 years because Black people are just reacting to a thing that exists. Right. So, like, if flies were in the room, you can’t study people swatting to get rid of flies, you have to study what the study of flies called flyology? No, I think that what uh, Beyonce, the study of Beyonce is called flyology. But whatever it is. Right. You have to study White people. So only White people can get rid of racism and they have to wake White people up because, like, I don’t really know as much as I should about White people. Right. So I don’t know how they’ll be reacting if we just go, shack, I don’t know if we should shake them to wake them up. I don’t know if we should slap them like they used to do in a cowboy movies and douse their faces with water, I dont know, right? How to wake White people up. But White people should know, like, do whatever you did to get woke. But don’t use that term woke. Right. Here’s a term that you can use. You can use compassion. Oh, how about this? Caring about other people? Or how about this one doing, this is a crazy idea. I think I just came up with this one. Don’t steal this because I know you are steals, though. Don’t steal it because I just came up with this, like, right off the top of my head. You ready for it? Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. I know that’s a crazy idea. But you know, I come up with, you know, a lot of crazy ideas, right? Like, don’t steal that. I’m probably going to give it a good name. Like, you know, the silver rule or the platinum rule or something like that. Look good, the diamond rule? I think that’s what we’ll call it. But remember, racism is not Black people’s problem. We didn’t invent it and we shouldn’t bear the burden of solving it. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:24] Now that you followed our six step program, it’s kind of like Racism Anonymous, you know, we don’t need 12 steps. But now that you’re finally awake, remember to download theGrio app. Remember to subscribe to theGrio Daily. Remember to tell at least one White person like just one friend about it. And remember, this doesn’t give you the privilege of using that old Black saying “you got to get woke, to stay woke.” Thank you for listening to theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app and subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at thegrio dot com. 

[00:13:16] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.