White People Keep Misusing the Word ‘Woke’

They twisted it into something it never meant

Allison Wiltz
5 min readApr 17, 2021


Photo Credit | Illustration by Tara Jacoby via the Observer

The word woke, got tossed like a salad. What started as a phrase amongst Black advocates has become an abused tool. White people on both sides of the ideological spectrum misused this word.

Liberals often use the term as a sense of pride. They theorize that wokeness can save them from white privilege and their role in white supremacy. This perspective is noble but misguided. On the other end, conservatives lament, woke police, accusing them of cancel-culture. Instead of self-introspection like the liberal, the conservative rejects the assertions by woke Black people. Thus, they try to condemn the very idea of condemning them. See how convoluted that got right quick. They see the insistence on racial equality as problematic as opposed to actual racial inequality. Tsk, tsk. Both groups made the same mistake by taking a word out of context.

The term woke has been around for while within the Black community. But, it gained steam through our music. Erykah Badu used the term in her 2008 hit, Master Teacher. Woke went viral after officers shot Michael Brown. This injustice left a mark on the Black community. Black people then started using the term woke to gain a consensus. Folks also referred to this group as “the conscious community.”

This ideological framework finds itself rooted in Black identity politics. A white person may ask, “What are they conscious about?” Well, my dear reader, Black people who are conscious are consistently aware of white supremacy, its impacts on our communities, and the purpose of unity. See, someone who is Black, but unconscious may hurt other Black people and work against progress.

Now, you may ask yourself where white people fit into all this. The answer is — they don’t. There is no role for white people to play in arising a pro-Black state in complacent Black people. That’s something we have to do as a community and white people cannot help us with that. Even if they are theoretically conscious of the same injustices, they can become accomplices, but cannot become us.

Black people are not automatically woke and this word began as a way to awaken complacent Black people from their slumber. It’s easy to fall into a vat of…



Allison Wiltz

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, Cultured #WEOC Founder - Learn about me @ allisonthedailywriter.com ☕️ ko-fi.com/allyfromnola

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