By Stephen Tuttle | June 26, 2021
Are you woke? Are you part of the woke culture? Do you know what that's actually supposed to mean?
In its simplest definition, to be woke is to be aware of social injustice, and to be part of the so-called woke culture is to somehow act to remove that social injustice.
One would think we'd all be woke, but this is yet another instance in which partisanship in its ugliest forms has intruded. So we're told by one side of the ever-deepening divide that woke culture is just an extreme version of political correctness being promulgated by radical left extremists. The other side claims they're on a righteous quest to undo a long list of historical wrongs against most anybody who’s not a white man.
So-called wokeness gained traction with the MeToo movement and was then overtaken by Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, there is plenty of ammunition for the growing woke culture whether it involves indigenous people, women, the LGBTQ+ communities, or people of various colors and ethnicities.
We know, for example, according to the CDC, Black Americans are three times more likely to die during childbirth, have twice the infant mortality rate as whites, and are more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19.
There is evidence the problems are systemic. According to research conducted by the Manhattan Institute and reported by NPR, non-white school districts receive, on average, more than $2,200 per student less than mostly white school districts, and Black students are less likely to attend college and less likely to graduate. If they do, and given the same qualifications, they are less likely to be hired, more likely to be paid less if they are hired, less likely to be promoted, and less likely to be offered management training or positions. Over their lifetimes, on average, Black Americans will earn 65 percent less than white Americans.
According to the Brookings Institution, Black Americans are more likely to be turned down for mortgage applications, so they are way less likely to be homeowners. They are twice as likely to be refused business loans, which results in more business failures than any other demographic group. With fewer homes and businesses, Black Americans have 90 percent fewer assets and wealth than their white counterparts.
Then there are those pesky criminal justice statistics we've seen since the George Floyd murder. Blacks are more likely to be stopped for minor traffic violations, more likely to be searched after such stops, and more likely to be ticketed. On a per-capita basis, they are considerably more likely to be involved in a violent encounter with law enforcement.
Being woke to the reality of the numbers has its opponents. The data lack context, they say. Maybe Blacks have more interactions with police because they commit more crimes. Maybe they're just not qualified for jobs going to white applicants, and maybe they don't deserve raises. Maybe they should stop complaining and pull themselves up by their bootstraps like so many Americans have done. After all, the argument goes, enough is enough, slavery was a long time ago, there are plenty of anti-discrimination laws already on the books, and we've spent decades funding one allegedly helpful but failed government program after another, and now they even have their own holiday. We're tired of being called racists, and we're tired of the radical leftist, defund-the-police agenda.
And why, these opponents wonder, are these woke people so intent on destroying our history? Tearing down statues and changing history books, especially concerning the South. (Maybe it's because those “heroic” Confederate generals were traitors who engaged in a violent insurrection that ended up taking 700,000 lives.)
Of course, woke culture is not just about race; social injustices extend beyond skin color. We still have corners of rampant homophobia, including ongoing job discrimination. Lack of pay equity for women, even in nearly identical jobs, continues. Although the MeToo movement has shined a very bright light on workplace sexual harassment and worse, it also continues. The anti-woke crowd even claims we're feminizing and, therefore, weakening our military. (Worth noting: Women in the military hasn't hurt the Israeli or Russian armed forces.)
Has all of this gone too far? Have we reached the end of needed progress on race, sexual orientation, and gender?
It is certainly clear some of the most woke among us are not part of mainstream thought. According to Pew Research, fully 75 percent of Americans oppose defunding the police. It's unlikely critical race theory (CRT), about which we've written previously, is going to be part of most school curricula. And constantly complaining about most everything without acknowledging the progress that has been made does become tiresome.
But, in the long run, the woke culture will prevail. The mythological good ol' days when minorities and women didn't complain quite so much and there were just two genders are the fantasies of those still asleep.