Are You Too Woke To Function?

Are You Too Woke To Function?

I don't know a single person who has not been shook, in one way or another, by the recent political and social climate, particularly regarding to racism in the US; Trump's, Brexiteers' nativism; islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. People seem to either ferociously react against the subversion of the status quo or are quick to embrace social awareness, aka, being woke. 

Take this Saturday Night Live parody, for example. By parodying ads for jeans it hilariously satirizes the “being woke” craze. It takes the gender debate to the extreme while simultaneously making fun of big brands that pick up on mainstream trends: “Levi’s heard that if you’re not woke, it’s bad” with Ryan Gosling judgingly looking straight at the camera. In the mock-ad, Levi’s solves "being bad" by creating jeans that are gender neutral, sizeless, and a mixture of colors where none of them are dominant. While this is clearly a hyperbole of what to many is equal to sensitivity, it does raise a good question: Is attempting to subvert all labels something laughable?

Then you have this SNL short, where a white man heads to the ATM ignoring his wife’s warning about being on “this” neighborhood. As he’s walking into the ATM a black man walks in. Rattled by the black man (clearly assuming he’s there to mug him), the white man hesitates to go first. Insulted by the white guy’s assumption, the black man immediately argues against judging others by the color of the skin. The white man agrees, apologizes, gets his cash and leaves.

When it’s the black man’s turn, however, a group of five young black men aggressively go into the ATM and immediately frighten the first black guy, who in turn assumes they are there to mug him. Outside, the white man goes back to his car and berates his wife for saying the group of black young men look “sketchy”. Unbeknownst to them, this same group of black men were in fact muggers who end up beating the first black guy at the ATM.

All in all, is SNL’s moral of the story to not be woke?  To keep jumping into conclusions for your own safety? They probably didn't mean to say that, but could they have a point?

There’s nothing wrong with being aware of social injustices and calling them out. There’s nothing wrong at all, specially if those who talk the talk also walk the walk. But it seems that what theses short poke at is the eagerness to be politically correct, and simply over doing it, that is, doing it beyond common sense and doing almost for show rather than for a genuine desire to correct damaging behaviors.

Granted, "injustice anymore is injustice everywhere," but the woke craze became trivial when it manifested in tweets, selfies on Instagram and when JK Rowling decided to update characters' secret background in order to make her work seem more inclusive.

It should not be trivialized. "Woke" and "stay woke" originated as part of the Black Lives Matter phenomenon, then it went mainstream, suffered cultural appropriation by people that were not African American and now it can be either used as a joke for mundane problems, or as a label for people who are yearning to be recognized as someone aware. 

You cannot be too aware of problems, but what you can do is try to assess whether if a certain fight is for you to steal the spotlight. Maybe it is. Maybe your voice helps more than someone else's. But if it's not, be content with becoming an ally and standing on the backlines of the fights. Also, don't brag about it 'cause you look like a fool.

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REFERENCES New York Times  Splinter News  NPR 

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