I had written quite a bit, about Wonder Woman for the W post, but like some earlier entries, I held off on publication, and am glad I did. I still adore the concept of a wonder woman, not to be confused with a superwoman, but a concept I love even more is the concept of the Woke Woman. She is the real superhero. She is us. We are awakening.
If you aren’t you probably say, “Huh?”
If you are, you probably are not white. Or that is what the Woke 100 suggests.
I know I am just an old white lady, who has no authority to speak about black culture… but I have a big mouth. And I am not sleeping.
Let me step back just a bit and define woke according to the urban dictionary.
“Although an incorrect tense of awake, a reference to how people should be aware in current affairs.”
Wikipedia further elaborates,
“woke is a political term of black origin that refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice.It is derived from the African American Vernacular English expression “stay woke,” whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues. Its widespread use since 2014 is a result of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I have said many times that there were moments when I felt like a switch flipped in my brain and I realized things about our world all in an instant. These were not mystical revelations. These were personal tipping points when I somewhat unconsciously decided I had enough evidence to understand a process or determine a pattern at play around me.
I swear I woke when I was about 11. 50 years ago. My brother was in Vietnam. He’d been wounded once in Hue and gone back into battle only to essentially be blown up a few months later. He survived. But it changed me forever. I saw at an early age that poor people went to war and rich people went to college. I saw that politicians ran the machinery that kept the war going. I did not know why they did this. But I became aware of political mistruths, of manipulation, and disinformation and the need for social justice.
I had similar awakenings a few other times in my life. Once, when I realized that my mother had suffered with a factitious disorder and set me up for medical abuse in order to fulfill her own needs, I realized in an instant that people had tried to convey this information to me for at least a decade, but that I could not hear it because I would not hear it.
Other people have had to deal with far worse.
It is not comfortable to see horror, some of the worst sorts of injustice,and know that it all might have been different if people shared what they knew or saw, if they had acted instead of turning aside and telling themselves they did not see what they saw, and saying nothing.
I personally believe that vast numbers of women are awakening. You can call it what you will but #BlackLivesMatter, #TimesUp and the #MeToo movement has had impact. No, it has not stopped the tragedies of essentially sanctioned murder, rape, exploitation, but information is getting out and more and more people are hearing. When change comes, it often happens quickly. Black women speaking up and taking control of their own voices, assaulted women, women who have lost loved ones, telling their truths and showing that no matter how perspective and time might have colored something, that the previous version of the truth could not be the truth and can no longer be supported at any level.
The release and success of Wonder Woman and Black Panther support the belief that old systems are breaking down and new information is being taken up and redistributed iconically in culture. Movies are both reflections and projections of culture and beautifully captures societal norms changes of which we might not even be aware at the time.
This week the media is awash with change stories. The Essence Woke 100 speaks to this. And today Bill Cosby was found guilty of drugging and sexual assault. This week it was also announced that a serial killer finally identified in Sacramento was a police officer. A museum that focuses on lynching opens. Justice is encroaching on the status quo. Straw men are burning.
I think many of us from all sorts of cultural groups and backgrounds are awakening or are woke. Being aware and noticing what is happening around us is the first step. Then we just have to stay awake and speak up.