The phenomenon of being woke is a cultural push to challenge problematic norms, systemic injustices and the overall status quo through complete awareness. Being woke refers to a person being aware of the theoretical ins and outs of the world they inhabit. Becoming woke, or staying woke, is the acknowledgment that everything we’ve been taught is a lie (kind of/mostly).

Woke(ness) provides us with a basic understanding of the why and how come aspect of societies’ social and systemic functions. The phrase itself is an encouragement for people to wake up and question dogmatic social norms. It requires an active process of deprogramming social conditionings focusing on consistent efforts to challenge the universal infractions we are all subjected to. However, in order for one to stay woke, one must first, be woke. To quote Dr. Baverly Tatum, former President of Spelman College, “ignorance can only be tolerated as a temporary state of mind.“ To that I say, a(wo)men sister, a(wo)men.

Beware of the pseudo-intellectual, the fake deep folk, the hotep bro, ankh negro, or shea butter sistas. They regurgitate known facts or popular thought amongst the woke crowd. They might be able to reference a well-known scholar like Audre Lorde. They play devil’s advocate because they have no valid argument, or they intellectualize a dumb comment a celebrity makes. These people spend more time learning the tricks of the trade instead of the trade itself. True intellectualism entails a consistent quest for knowledge and information. True intellectuals are open to hearing new perspectives and valid points, even if the result reveals flaws in their argument. Being woke is not about being right, saying “down with the man” or winning an argument. It’s about accurately understanding someone’s experience and embracing paradigm shifts for the global progression of people.

By default, we all project problematic ideologies that reinforce the social ills of our society. As a result, we are all a part of the problem and must unlearn what we have learned to be a part of the solution. With that being said, there is no room for ego in the realm of academia. It prohibits proper intellectual growth and development. Woke(ness) necessitates the ability to consistently check ones own ego, privilege and perspective.

So what do we do with new awareness? Elderly people always say, “when you know better, you do better.” It’s not good enough to just know. Those who are woke must engage themselves in ways that actively challenge the world we live in. We must create safe spaces for same-gender-loving communities; we must be open to learning about the transgender experience, acknowledge race and gender discrepancies, victim blaming and all the other messed up ish. The saying is cool, the shirts are dope, but we must do more than say or wear the expression “be woke.” In the famous words of Dap from the movie School Daze, “Waaaaaake Uuuuup!”


Raven Cras is a new New Yorker, author, poet, activist and Spelman College grad. Her objective as a writer and a thought leader is to create a lasting impact on social cultural progress by developing reader content that challenges perspectives and beliefs. But overall she be chillin’. Follow her on Instagram at @apoem2go.

For more content like this, sign up for our weekly newsletter below.