What Does it Mean to be ‘Woke’?

Hint: Do unto others …

Ron DeSantis, and a vast array of like-minded Republicans are constantly railing against those who are ‘woke’. DeSantis even prompted the compliant Florida legislature to pass the “Stop WOKE Act” which he gleefully signed into law. On the stump he regularly says that “Florida is where woke goes to die”. He’s not alone. Nikki Haley recently declared that “Wokeness is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic, hands down,”. To the GOP, ‘woke’ is bad.

But what does it mean to be ‘woke’? In a trial in 2022, Ron DeSantis’ administration was asked by the judge to define woke. DeSantis’ general counsel, Ryan Newman, responded that the term means “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Given that Republicans of all stripes are constantly complaining about the systematic injustices of the liberal press, it’s hard to understand why they would fault the very thing they decry. So if ‘woke’ doesn’t mean what DeSantis’ administration says, what does it mean? To Republicans, ‘woke’ means recognizing the existence of and attempting to address some systematic injustices, specifically racism, discrimination against LBGTQ people, women’s inequality, etc.

But attempting to help those who are oppressed or discriminated against is not a new concept. In fact, it is a founding belief of most of the World’s major religions. It’s most famous expression came from Jesus Christ, who lived in a world where the strong ruled without mercy and the weak suffered. His “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the essence of ‘wokeism’. And he wasn’t the only one. The Fundamental Buddhist teaching ‘Noble Eightfold Path’ includes the concepts of “Right Understanding”, “Right Intention”, “Right Speech” and “Right Action”. Together these beliefs correlate almost perfectly with being ‘woke’.

The GOP believes just the opposite. In their world, ‘might makes right’. They have the power and money, and they have no interest in sharing either with people who are oppressed. If the GOP actually believed in the moral teachings of Jesus, they would agree that being ‘woke’ to injustice in our society is essential to being a Christian. But while the majority of them claim to be Christians, they in act in ways that betray the teachings of Jesus Christ. They have no shame.