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Why I'm Not Woke

This has been on my mind for a few years now and I haven't had a good answer to "Are you woke?"

I'm not.

I strive to be. I aspire to be. Woke, to the best of my understanding, is not a destination but a continual process. It's not a badge you can win and then it's yours for good and you don't have to think or do anything related to it anymore. I make a conscious effort to treat people well, to not say or do things that will serve to perpetuate racism (either systemic or individual) or racial stereotypes*. I screw up sometimes, and sometimes I screw up when I get called out on it. I try to be better when that does happen, but I don't and can't ever feel like I've achieved a state where I'm no longer problematic.

That is not a bad thing. We should always be working to better ourselves as people and as members of our communities, resting on laurels and plaudits is a recipe for regression. I don't want to ever feel like "Oh, I'm woke now." because that's when attention slides, when laziness and cultural indoctrination slip back in and it all goes downhill.

I will never know what it's like to have grown up or to live in this world as black, or latino, or asian, or gay, or female, or trans and I would never presume to understand it to any depth. As a human I can empathize with the suffering of others and want to understand to the best of my ability their perspective, and I do try, but it will always be a foreign land to me because I haven't lived it. I'm at best a tourist.

Performative wokeness is about getting a cookie for not being a piece of shit human, it's about putting emotional labor on people who have enough bullshit to deal with already. I don't want, need, or deserve a cookie for meeting the extraordinarily low bar of not being a terrible person.

Treating people well isn't something to do because you get rewarded for it or because it's expected of you by your peers, but because it is the right thing to do on it's own.

So I'm not woke. I strive towards it, I aspire to reach it at times and sometimes I maybe even succeed, though if I do or do not, that's not for me to say. Those better qualified to judge may, but that's not emotional labor I expect to be done on my behalf.

*I'm restricting this discussion to race, but my feelings are consistent across many spaces and intersections: treat people well, don't perpetuate or accept the brutalization of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, skin color, cultural background, ancestry, sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender orientation, et al.

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Sometimes to be silent is to lie.
- Miguel Unamuno


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