By Shayler Richmond
‘The woke generation,” an article I published Mar. 2017, racism has persisted and the awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices continues to grow in response to long-lasting suffering.
“The millennial generation of African Americans has redefined the term "woke" as a resurgence of social consciousness” (Eastern Echo, 2017).
I was misinformed in 2017 to still be calling Black people African Americans. There are African Americans then there are Black people who represent the African diaspora.
Sociology student, Nyambura Njee, said “Essentially it’s your life that becomes manifested as ‘wokeness.’ Being woke is that consciousness all the time. For me, it's like oh that was a micro-aggression, oh that was colorism, oh that was racism, oh that was sexist. It’s through the everyday interactions that being woke is manifested.”
In 2020, the United States police department killed Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and shot Jacob Blake 7 times in the back. These are the life-wrenching abuses of power we have seen play out on video.
“How many weren’t filmed” (unknown protestor).
This is not a singular thought — it is a statistically proven fact that Black people are harmed more than is recorded or reported. Oppression has persisted because white people have allowed it to. White privilege has worked as the engine of oppression to keep non-white people debilitated.
The notion of, ‘we figured it out, why can’t you,’ is tired. Almost as tired as, ‘slavery was over 400 years ago.’ Black enslaved people built America with their bare hands.
White people have stolen, lied, and murdered to gain ‘wealth’ and create distance. This financial gap eliminated resources for minorities and created white privilege. Oppression is the byproduct of a broken system struggling to keep people deemed lesser in a constant state of need. Equity has not yet become the standard because no one would be in need.
"Woke" was redefined through its usage in African American Vernacular English and since has been added to Webster's dictionary (July 2016) due to the terms growing usage it is becoming more widely understood by people of other backgrounds” (Eastern Echo, 2017).
The systemic inequities Black Americans have faced since this country's consummation are becoming more commercially perceived as true because racism has finally gotten enough blood on its hands.
Black existence is resistance because while mainstream America profits from Blackness, the validity of Black trauma has never been wholly accepted. The racial unrest in 2020 is a heightened degree of racial tension that has always existed.
Africology and African American studies professor, Dr. Victor Okafor, among other scholars and experts have labeled ‘woke’ people as ‘fearless’.
“People are not born with racial consciousness. Racial consciousness is a function of how the environment has shaped the psychology and thinking of an individual,” said Okafor.
Daily we are inundated with life, which at times may become tiresome and burdened. To push forward, some choose not to see the world, and others try their best to avoid the hard truth of racism.
“When you're woke you have to become more empathetic, more critical, more so many things that you weren’t when you weren’t woke — so I think that being woke is just better for the world,” said Njee.
COVID-19 amplified the systemic inequities impacting Black people. Being ‘woke’ is only better for the world if you are willing to do the work.
“If you truly want to connect with a culture and who you are then you can’t just be one-sided and not the other. You can’t just be the person that has their fist in the air if you aren’t going to also be the person that fights for change,” said Kya Fordham, NAACP member.