M&M advertisement (left), Tucker Carlson (right)
There has been a plague in the United States regarding the use of the word “woke,” as it seems everyone has to be woke or have a woke perspective on every conflict in mainstream media. All this national chatter seems to be partially separated from its most sincere meaning. To be woke, according to Merriam Webster, has two meanings: firstly, to be “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues,” and secondly, to be “politically liberal or progressive (as in matters of racial and social justice).”
While one of these definitions is rooted in historical context regarding the systems of race in America and the necessity for people to stay aware of racial injustices and dangers, the definition of politically liberal thinking is the one that we collectively use. It is also the one that the mainstream media holds to be true.
This definition is wielded fairly often by most who consider themselves politically involved. For many people, being woke just means having the liberal or progressive take on an issue. Because of this, whenever politics becomes the topic of discussion in the American symposium, political ideology gets mixed in with a word more closely related to social injustice. Obviously, there is a relationship between politics and social injustice, especially in how our government is set up. The Republican and Democratic parties believe that their policies will help reduce political issues of injustice in the nation—at least, that is what they advertise on their platforms. However, the correlation of the word woke with politically liberal or progressive takes on an issue causes practical concerns about humanitarian crises, social disasters, and the state of the nation to become party issues.
A key example of this can be found in the case of former Fox News employee Tucker Carlson. In an evening broadcast of the news source, Carlson infamously referred to M&M’s as woke, specifically stating that “Woke M&M’s have returned. The green M&M got her boots back but apparently is now a lesbian, maybe? And there’s a plus-size obese, purple M&M.” This is a clear example of the way in which the word woke is being used to represent party-based ideological perspectives. The M&M’s being woke for Carlson serves to put them in association with a liberal or progressive body (the Democratic Party), and therefore turns the matter of fair and equal representation into a heavily political discussion. Now, through Carlson’s “use of ‘woke’ in a weaponized sense,” any argument he chooses to make around LGBTQ+ and plus-size persons is attacking his opposing political party and actively trying to oppress and suppress the individual groups—even if his remarks are solely based on the topic of their existence, which he has given himself the leeway to say.
If being woke is associated with the Democratic Party, then even the act of calling for social awareness becomes a party issue. Wanting to address any kind of humanitarian concern or public community distress is not approached through the lens of finding the best possible solution, but is instead questioned for being inherently affiliated with one political party. Therefore, political aims are sometimes rooted in personal ideological goals as opposed to a hopefully uniform desire to reduce any kind of human suffering. As far as political and social discourse, the use of this definition of woke puts intellectual and meaningful conversation to sleep, working against any kind of social progress being established in our discourse.
This article was edited by Renee Agostini and Delbar Nonahal.