So hey here, I’m a person w/ an actual degree in African American studies who still works in the field.

This woman is wrong.

‘Woke’ is a decades old slang term for ‘to be awoke’ to situations amongst African Americans dating back to the 1930s but popularized in the 1960s.

She’s also using an age-old strategy of white establishment members to:

1) denigrate —a said topic/person/institution (ex: The anti-woke crusades)
2) deny the existence of and/or the validity of said subject (ex: Woke is an catch-all term for things whites don’t like)
3) destroy — either politically, socially, or economically the subject in question.


4) (re) define — removing the original connotation and replacing with a new connotation
It’s important to know that this is a form of white backlash, which is also present in every major movement or moment in Black American history in the US
While white backlash is often presented as IRL protestors, it’s often closer to Bethany a ‘moderate’ white woman.

The type of person MLK often refers to as the enemy of progress.

This ‘moderate’ is found at home, at work, at school, at church, and harbors the same views
TL/DR - ‘white moderates’

Here’s an excerpt from MLK’s 1963 ‘Letters from a Birmingham Jail’
In all cases of white backlash against Black movements/leaders/moments, there is a longer, more entrenched movements that act in resistance.

These operate to reaffirm the position of the dominant group by reducing and redefining their challengers.
The most successful strategy is by appearing ‘to the center’, an ever changing standard that eventually always reverts back to the dominant position of the status quo — often with more punitive measures to reduce the chance of success in the future
All of the anti-CRT bans, the culture wars, the removal of Black history from schools, the push to end DEI initiatives, the eventual end of affirmative action, the upcoming Supreme Court decisions on racial political representation in Louisiana and North Carolina—white backlash
It’s important to know that white backlash also hinders overall progress and upward mobility, hurting most whites in the process
So let’s go back to the actual word, #woke. Which again is a BLACK word derived from BLACK people.

It can be argued the origins arrive a century ago in the US with the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Pan African movement. In particular his work ‘Philosophy and Opinions’ (1923)
In that text directly, Garvey, arguably the most famous Black person in the world at that time, asks for the Pan African community to ‘wake up’.

Specifically Ethiopia and those on the continent.

He wanted them to ‘awaken’ themselves
And by the 1930s we have ‘woke’ in the sense of being aware already in Black music.

As in the case of one protest song, ‘Scottsboro Boys’ about the incarceration of 9 Black Arkansas boys casket accused of r*ping a white woman.
OK, so pause,

* disregard the use of the word [casket] in the tweet above. My iPhone still doesn’t recognize my voice or at least my accent. *
Okay, so back to #woke, the word and it’s various phrasings have managed to transition from generation to generation between African-Americans for decades.

But that idea, of ‘stay woke’ persisted b/c the environment for Black people dictated its necessity
It’s important to know that black vernacular English often changes and words/phrases can completely die.

Often across generations and even regions prior to the advancement of television, and then the Internet. But some phrases/words stay within the culture, #woke is one of those
So as Black Americans transition from the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s into the Black Power movement of the 1960s, a more aggressive and more direct form of political plus social movement emerges.

#staywoke and it’s variations are more prevalent within Black culture again
It’s also during this same period that white backlash directly went into misappropriating these two black political movements (Civil Rights/Black Power), its leaders, words and its ideologies.
Or deliberately misleading Black movements into broader anti-American ones

See: Accusations of communism running of the civil rights movement +

the broader false narratives that the movement was the byproduct of their white puppet masters, a trope which exists today
So much so that the office of the President the United States (Eisenhower) investigated
This is also when the idea of #racebaiting comes into the mainstream
And one of the biggest efforts of white backlash to black progress of both of those movements with the rise of American neoconservativism and libertarianism between the 1970s in the 1990s.

Some of y’all not gonna click, so:

‘Staying woke’ in actual practice


It’s important to note that Black people also used ‘woke’, ‘deep’ and other similar phrases throughout this time period to often reference the same thing—critical assessment of larger society, organizations, and people.

‘Woke’ is a verb
And prior to the great shift in the current white establishment-led culture wars, ‘Ebonics’, or Ebony (black) phonetics was a the biggest topic on black words & speech


Also 👇🏽

And until the recent #woke attacks by white conservatives and some Democrats, it’s been the last time, an effort in Black vernacular was attacked on this level
And since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement + the bigger, white and conservative culture wars, #woke has become the catch all term to be used in replacement of things this group doesn’t like:

-LGBT issues
-diversity measures
-actual history
And the pattern is pretty simple:

1) denigrate
2) deny the existence of and/or the validity of said subject
3) destroy — either politically, socially, or economically the subject in question.
4) (re) define — removing the original connotation and replacing it
Which is also why so much of the anti-woke debate is from people who are:
1) noteducated in black history, black English, black culture, and
2) only use their own personal interpretations as gospel.

They don’t want to understand, they want compliance.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

This person (AND ALL OF YALL) who tried to #woke on their own terms are white moderates (or think like them) are the ones MLK warned us about. Done.
If you liked this thread please sign up to my @SubstackInc below 👇🏽

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nice thread about the history of the term (h/t @bandeauxx) must be infinitely frustrating to have your language repeatedly stripped from its original context like this once it 'escapes containment' it gets transmogrified into this whole other thing