Traductaterm in focus: Woke
“Woke” is a term that literally means “awake”, but which has more recently taken on the meaning of someone who is socially and politically aware. The word originates in the US, coming from the dialect known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Tracing the usage and origins of a slang word can be difficult, all the more so when it comes from a non-standard dialect. Some (Hess, 2016; Merriam-Webster, 2016) point to the song “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu as establishing the use of the word in the sense of “awareness of injustice (Meriam-Webster, 2016).
The word gained prominence in 2014, after the shooting of Michael Brown by police officers in Ferguson. The Black Lives Matter movement, which arose in the wake of violence by law enforcement against the African American community, adopted the word “woke”. Indeed, a website to help organise support for the movement can be found under https://www.staywoke.org/ . As used in activism, woke does not merely mean having awareness of society’s structure and the prejudice entwined within it. Rather, it has also acquired the sense of actively working to keep one’s eyes open to manifestations of such prejudice.
The term is now also used by those with some form of privilege within society to indicate that they are aware and mindful of this fact. However, there are commentators who have argued that its use has become fashionable, a badge used by those outside of oppressed groups to gain popularity by showing off how politically engaged they are (Hess,2016).
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