Word of the Year 2021: Woke
Woke is a term commonly used in the current political climate and it means to be on high alert regarding issues of social injustice, racial prejudice, and other forms of discrimination. In the past year, the state of the world has been turbulent and unprecedented with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still felt in all parts of the world.
During the pandemic, issues regarding public health and the safety of others through limited interaction and masking has become a point of controversy and the term “woke” has been used in these situations as the awareness of the effect our actions have on others.
Woke derives from African American Vernacular and gets its origin from the Black Lives Matter movement and song titled “Master Teacher” by Erykah Badu’s. It is indigenous to African American thought and advocating for social equality in a largely disproportionate society. It became a mainstream term after the “#staywoke” campaign took to social media in the face of racial injustice in the US.
The word “woke” not only transformed to include the action taken to reduce the effects of injustice but has also been confused and applied to other situations that do not have to do with social injustice. We have seen it used on social media with less pressing, more casual issues such as conspiracy theories and dating red flags.
It claims its spot as word of the year especially because of the way it has been applied to the current controversial social, political, and public health situation that made up a majority of the year.