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How do we think about the "woke" debate? Show more Show less

Proponents of so-called "woke culture" describe the term as having an awareness of inequalities, social issues and injustices. Yet, others are less convinced - suggesting that it has a more sinister undertone. These critics draw crude parallels between its values and those of authoritarianism, which have allegedly turned it into what President Trump calls "childlike fascism". Should we be woke to the pitfalls of this ideological movement?

"Wokeness is an awareness of privilege and inequality" Show more Show less

The term has stayed true to its origins in the American civil rights movement, where it was applied to show awareness of structural inequalities.
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Wokeness is being conscious of inequalities

The term is a call to arms to be aware of the (largely racial) inequities that govern Western society. Historically, it has encouraged peaceful protest against systemic racism and spawned positive forward-looking movements, such as Black Lives Matter, which seek greater equality in society.
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The Argument

Woke culture, in its purest form, aims to acknowledge that many oppressive functions of society are not blatant acts of racism and bigotry, but systemic and behavioral. For example, the criminal justice system in the United States represents an institution that perpetuates racial inequity, primarily for black Americans. While this is not an overt act of racism, it is no less harmful. This is where the utility of being woke appears. Through observance and criticism of these structures, we can hopefully dismantle oppressive systems. [1] With wokeness becoming more prevalent on the left, a coalition of social activists can begin to hold accountable the people, institutions, and systems that have been protected under a veil of power for centuries. Once their true nature is clear, protests, activism, and policy can all be employed to fight for change.[2]

Counter arguments

Racism is an overt act of bigotry, so to define it in such broad terms is too black and white. While there are still some racists and boots, most aspects of society present an equal opportunity to everyone, regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. When woke culture criticizes something like the criminal justice system, they conflate racism with policies they disagree with. The breadth of things that become racist and oppressive through a woke worldview is too wide. Many of these can be explained by other factors, such as wealth inequality, crime, health, and education. Considering this, activism is misplaced when we should be discussing other issues that ail disadvantaged populations.



[P1] Woke culture aims to expose and become aware of oppressive functions in society. [P2] Awareness of these functions acts as a touchstone for activism against and dismantling of oppressive structures and behaviors.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Many of the perceived inequities are not the result of systemic racism and bigotry, but problems with poverty, education, and health. [Rejecting P2] Many of the institutions, individuals, and systems that are criticized are not guilty of any bigotry, but just bad policy and behavior.


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This page was last edited on Wednesday, 17 Jun 2020 at 17:38 UTC