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Op-ed

What Everyone Is Getting Wrong About Being ‘Woke’

Last year, I was known by the majority of my grade as the ‘alt-left, anti-Trump, radical feminist’ student. I had the loudest, most radical opinions about politics and I never thought twice about sharing it. People either felt intimidated, inspired, or annoyed by my actions. And frankly, I was proud of it. I was being what everyone called, ‘woke.’

By definition, ‘woke’ is understanding and being aware of the social, political and economical issues of marginalized individuals in the modern world. It’s thrown around here and there in certain communities on social media, like on ‘woke’ Twitter or Instagram social activism. But often with the way we perceive this idea of being ‘woke,’ we attempt to achieve that state of ‘woke-ness’ as a way to be the most smart aleck, intelligent-looking, quirky person someone knows. In other words, being ‘woke’ is becoming less of a term, it’s become more of a competition.

We strive to be labelled ‘woke’ by our peers, we strive to seem cultivated and passionate about political ideologies, we strive to be admired by our friends, we strive to be intimidated by our adversaries, but we forget what’s more important than showing off to our peers and social media followers is using our passion to educate one another about the issues that we continue to educate ourselves about. We need to stop talking to one another about social issues as a competition to see who has the most radical, leftist views and instead see it as an opportunity to gather more individual, young minds to advocate for the causes they believe in.

In many ways, people today follow what the majority says rather than what their instincts tell them. And in no way am I saying to ditch all your knowledge and beliefs about social issues and confine yourself in a little box, but find nuances in your opinions rather than walk the same tightrope as everyone else you see. For example, if one of your friends who also happens to have the same political affiliation as you think a certain artist is problematic, doesn’t always mean you have to believe the same thing just for the sake of being ‘woke’. If you’re not afraid of having your own opinions and you’re open to having open discussions about them, you’re already being ‘woke’ for being bold enough to speak your truth.

Theoretically, every social justice argument ever created spawned from one person with an individual mind. So becoming a clone of every single ‘woke’ person you meet won’t progress society forward. Be your own person, before you become a ‘woke’ person. After all, ‘woke’ is just another over-glorified word.

Photo: NBC

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Chloe Zhao
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