My Turn, Evelyn Uddin-khan: Never too old to learn

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2023

Several months ago, I received an anonymous letter from a “shy” person accusing me of being a “woke.” Well, I confess ignorance. I had no clue as to what a “woke” is. In my vocabulary, “woke” is the past tense of “wake.”

So, I decided to improve my knowledge and explore the meaning of sleep and “slept” and wake and “woke”. After all, I ought to know if this “shy” person is insulting me or complimenting me.

Well, after digging into the meaning of “woke,” I found some very interesting “facts” on the origins, history and use of the word.

The Oxford and Webster dictionaries have “woke” as the past tense of wake. So much for dictionaries.

The sources I used for my information are the New York Times, USA Today and the Internet.

The word “woke” has its roots in the Black community. In the early 1900s Black Americans used “woke” to call attention to the racial injustices meted out to Black people. The meaning being that the other Americans would “wake” up to their being oppressed.

“Woke” is an adjective derived from African American vernacular English meaning to alert (others) to racial prejudice and discrimination. (Internet)

Later, “woke” was used to focus attention on “red line” housing to keep Black people out of White neighborhoods, education — black/white schools — and the inequity Black people were/are facing daily in this country.

NY Times: “… “woke” dates to 1962 when the term was listed in a NY Times Magazine glossary of ‘phrases and words you might hear today in Harlem’.”

In 2014, with the birth of Black Lives Matter, “woke” again became the rallying cry of the Black community.

How “woke” became a political football is not clear, but one party has turned “woke” into an insult for “progressive” ideas.

There are two definitions of “woke”:

Positive: “… to be informed, educated, and be aware of social injustices.”

Negative: “… to be … politically correct and police other people’s words.”

“Woke” (Black) people used it with reference to social injustices and discrimination. Words associated with “woke” include revolutionary, progressive, reform.

When conservatives use “woke” the connotations are an insult for progressive ideas.

When liberals use “woke” they tend to prefer the positive connotations — people who advocate racial equality.

For many reasons, people generally do not like to be referred to as “woke.”

Florida: Quote: In court, Governor DeSantis’ lawyers were forced to define “woke.” The lead lawyer described it as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them. (Internet)

There is a wealth of information on the internet and most major newspapers on “woke” and the people and movements “woke” represents.

To my “shy” anonymous letter writer, I hope you do some reading and research before you write your next nasty letter. If you can be daring enough to write it and post it, then you can be brave enough to sign your name to your opinions.

On the other hand, I am grateful to you for awakening me to a phenomenon that was staring me in the face and to which I was ignorant. You cured part of my ignorance.

You see Mr. “Shy” Anonymous, I believe that all people should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. It is never too late to learn something new. And, please do your homework and write to me again.

Evelyn Uddin-khan moved to Salisbury in 2018 after living in the New York City area for most of her life. She taught in public schools and for a community college in the New York City area.