I think it’s time we as a community address something that is doing more harm than good in my opinion, the idea of being “woke.” First, let us examine what it means to be “woke.” In its most mundane form, it means to see beyond what is provided for the public and to see—to be awake while the masses are asleep. What used to be a term used by people who studied the sciences is now a mainstream term for knowing just a little bit more than someone else. You can see this term used on Twitter hashtags (#Staywoke), or in a Childish Gambino song, being woke is literally a thing now.
The Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters (5%) teach that 85% of the population is blind to the knowledge of themselves and God, while 10% of the people know the truth, but teach a lie for their personal gain (religious leaders). The remaining 5% are the Poor Righteous Teachers who know the truth and disseminate the information to the masses. Today, if we went by what we see on Twitter timelines, you’d think it was the 85% who are the teachers.
As we live in the age of information, knowledge is easily accessible. There is no excuse to be ignorant when we all carry mini-computers in our pockets. As Jay-Z so eloquently put it, “type it in Google’s ya friend bruh.” My father likes to criticize the attention span of my generation by telling me how he and his colleagues would sit in 9 or 10-hour lectures held by Dr. Phil Valentine, or Bobby Hemit ( and many others) to receive their information. Then they were forced to go back with their newfound knowledge and study on their own. I can’t lie, I shutter with fear every time I hear about a 9-hour lecture. I even sat in on a few as a youngin’.
But that’s a story for another day. The point is, more work had to be put in for your word to hold any weight. Today is much different, as we all know. YouTube and Google searches can qualify anyone to be able to spew any bit of information they have.
Even with these new tools we have at our dispense, this doesn’t mean we have to be all knowing, that’s ridiculous. That certainly doesn’t give people the right to talk down to others who may not be privy to some particular information at any given time.
The moment something in the news breaks in government or entrainment, people rush to their Twitter feeds, type a thought within 140 characters, then go on to violently debate everyone who may not share the same opinion. Rarely do I see people have a civil discourse about what is going on. Instead, you are more likely to be met with hostility if you are not woke enough.
Again what does it mean to be woke? I mean, you’d think there was an actual book we need to follow.
Do you have to dress in African cloth everywhere you go?
Do you have to wear your hair in a big afro?
Do you have to call everyone you meet “God” or “Beloved?”
Do you have to say "Hotep" when you are greeting someone?
Do you have to read The ISIS papers 300 times?
Or do you have to beat people over the head with what you know rather than teach?
I’m not excluded from this way of thinking by any means. I used to get off on proving someone wrong with all the Black history I knew. The Malcolm X movie scene when he challenged the preacher in prison of Jesus’ actual skin and hair color while he was in prison gives me chills every time I watch. Although there can be a time and place for these types of moments, they can be counterproductive when they are at the expense of our brothers and sisters. It is beautiful to see so many people reading and studying, and attempting to part some of the knowledge we have onto others, but I think its time to put your woke manual down and take a nap.
Malcom X. Bowser is a writer, curator, and founder of Urban X.