Campaigns to kill ‘wokeness’ are efforts to perpetuate racism, disenfranchisement

The word has a long history in the Black community for obvious reasons, but in recent years has been taken out of context

A pencil erasing the word 'woke' in red, from a piece of paper.

(photo by mj0007/iStock Images).

By Janice Ellis

Spending time fighting “woke,” “wokeness,” and a so-called “culture war” instead of focusing on the real issues and problems we face as a nation is a downright miscarriage of the political and legislative processes.

Janice Ellis (Missouri Independent photo)

Legislators, political leaders and potential candidates have found a new strawman to use to reenergize and promote continued racism and disenfranchisement.

These efforts are also dangerous in their potential to undo the gains made and thwart future progress when it comes to human rights and equality across race and gender.

If there is any doubt that racism and the continued oppression of Blacks and other minorities are the driving forces behind the growing conversation around wokeness or culture war, then take a closer look beyond the contrived and exaggerated hype gaining attention.

The word “woke” has become weaponized and is being used in ways the exact opposite of how it was intended, or according to its true meaning.

What is your understanding of “wokeness,” “being woke” or the “culture war?”

The real question: Once we discover the facts, will we have the courage to call all the misrepresentations and misuse what they are?

We all consider the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a factual and reliable source. It defines woke as being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

The word has a long history in the Black community for obvious reasons, but in recent years has been taken out of context, and misused, to perpetuate racial fears and oppression efforts.

What does it mean when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — a potential 2024 presidential candidate — constantly declares that Florida is the state where “woke goes to die?”

Recently, DeSantis was successful in getting an advanced African American study course banned from being taught in the state’s public schools. Specifically, it was a high school Advanced Placement course.

Advanced Placement courses are designed by the College Board to teach and help prepare high school students in the area of analytical thinking skills that are needed and required in college courses. They can also provide college credits and have financial benefits in defraying the cost of college.

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Florida high schools offer many Advanced Placement courses. Many students have taken them over the years.

The African American Advanced Placement course has been the only one that was targeted, banned and eliminated from Florida high schools.

But DeSantis is not alone. He potentially stands to be the loudest voice and most visible champion of fighting “woke” and a phantom war that many have become victims of believing is real.

Targeting woke, wokeness and cancel culture is another effort to suppress the ugly aspects of American history when it comes to Black Americans. Sadly, other minority citizens stand to be caught up and become collateral damage in this contrived war.

As the woke issue gains momentum, will we, the public, allow it to supplant the discussion of real issues? Will it play a dominant role in the upcoming 2024 elections?

Must we be subjected to appeals to our base more inhumane side instead of trying to figure out how best to come together as caring people, working for the best outcomes for all American citizens — especially for the weakest and most vulnerable among us?

Then, there is the acceleration of the “culture war” phenomenon. Instead of promoting and engaging in factual civil discussions about our differing opinions and beliefs, will this divisive faux force weaken America?

Issues and problems abound in this country on a micro and macro level. We all know what some of them are.

Instead of focusing on banning books and eliminating classes in high school curricula, we should be more concerned about how best to educate our children and close the achievement gap that exists — not only between children in this country but between our children and other children across the world.

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Many countries are ahead of the United States when it comes to how well we educate our children overall. Their children outperform ours in many areas, including reading, mathematics and science.

But how best to educate our children and prepare them to compete at home and abroad in the future is not the only pressing issue facing cities, states and the nation.

What about citizens having access to quality affordable healthcare and medications? That is still a major issue in the United States when many other industrialized countries seem to have arrived at solutions.

How do we best meet the needs of older citizens, the fastest-growing segment of our population? Ensuring that Medicare and Social Security will be available is just one aspect of the growing needs of an elderly population.

Challenges to having enough affordable housing, reducing crime, eliminating poverty, and implementing a fair taxation system are long-standing issues that are yet to be solved.

In addition, there are other important issues that must be addressed on a global scale.

What should America’s position and investment be in protecting other democracies?

How do we best prepare for another pandemic that experts predict is sure to come?

What is our continued role and investment in slowing down, if not stopping climate change and global warming?

What do we do to move forward with solving energy needs, clean and otherwise?

You get the point.

Shame on us if we allow ourselves to be snookered, used as pawns, into believing that woke and the culture war are the most important issues we face.

Shame on us.

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. She wrote this column for the Missouri Independent, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where it first appeared

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.