How Do You Define Being ‘Woke’?

USA Today/Ipsos released a poll recently offering two definitions of “woke.” In the poll 56% chose the definition of “to be informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices and 39% picked “to be overly politically correct and police others’ words.” The first definition is correct. The term originated in the Black community as a reference to social injustice. 

The City of Asheville and Buncombe County, NC are working on becoming “woke,” by having formed a reparations commission to explore reparations in five key areas that impact POC (people of color) and their history including:

– health – average white male will live 5 years longer than a POC male; POC infant mortality is 2.5X greater than white

– education – only 57% of POC students have access to a full range of math and science courses necessary for college readiness

– justice – while POC makes up about 13% of our population, POC dominate our jails and prisons

– housing –  POC post a homeownership rate of 46% compared to 76% of white families

– economic – an average white family is 10X wealthier than the average POC family

There are very few communities in America doing this extensive work and study on reparations. Recommend reading From Here to Equality.

This conversation and study on reparations begins with learning and understanding the history of POC in this country and in this community. Knowing the history will help you to understand the inequalities listed above in the five areas of the reparation study. 

One of the first things an oppressor does is remove the history of its victims. I know I can trace my family history back to Scotland and Ireland for over 400 years. Most POC are lucky if they can go back 150 years.

Confederate monuments are a part of this history. If you have the courage, have a conversation with POC about Jim Crow-era monuments and their impact on them. To do a deeper dive, consider joining Building Bridges, attending an REI retreat, and/or becoming a part of CTTT.

The Vance Monument and three other monuments here in Asheville were a part of over 1,700 Confederate monuments erected during the Jim Crow era. Those monuments as well as 10 military bases, numerous streets, buildings, and schools were named after Confederates.

Those monuments are part of the caste system enacted in this country to control, dominate, and oppress POC. There have been three caste systems enacted in the world – India, the United States, and Nazi Germany. The German Nazis learned how to enact their caste system back in the 30s from the United States. They sent people from Germany to study Jim Crow tactics, and the United States sent people to Nazi Germany to help them control the Jews, gays, gypsies, and other ‘deplorables’. If you want to be “woke” to this, recommend reading Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. This was the non-fiction book of the year in 2020. Recently, Krista Tippett interviewed Wilkerson on this topic.

Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his commission and the oath he took to serve in the U.S. Army. More U.S. Army soldiers died under Lee than any other enemy our armed forces have ever faced in American history. Why do we honor Lee, Vance, and so many others for their traitorous actions? Does Germany have monuments to Hitler and other Nazi leaders? Again, if you want to be “woke” to this history, suggest reading U.S. Army General (retired) Ty Siedule’s Robert E. Lee and Me. Here is a link to Ty Seidule being interviewed on CBS about his book.

Beginning with cotton, tobacco, sugar, rice, and the building of railroads, where are the monuments to POC on whose backs this country’s wealth was built? The Asheville community owes its growth to the enslaved building the railroads that led to Asheville back in the 1800s. Where is the monument to their work?

I haven’t covered what our forefathers did to the indigenous people of this country, the Japanese-Americans during WWII, or any other group of people who do not look white. That’s another topic!

Where are you now with being ‘woke’?