What Is Woke Culture?

Mary Joseph
Mary Joseph May 1, 2023
Updated 2023/05/01 at 6:18 PM
What Is woke Culture

The word “woke” has become common in everyday language, but there are still people who don’t fully understand what it means.

As time passes, language undergoes modifications and develops, causing certain words or expressions to become commonly used by society and leaving individuals uncertain about their true definitions.

In recent years, the term “woke” has become more prevalent, but what does it really signify? Here’s all the information you require to understand it.

The original definition of the term “woke” referred to the past tense of “wake,” meaning to awaken or arise.

 However, its meaning has evolved significantly in modern times, and in 2017, the updated definition of “woke” was included in the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster characterizes it as primarily American slang, defining it as being conscious of and actively concerned about significant facts and problems, particularly those related to social and racial justice.

Currently, the term “Woke” pertains to having consciousness or updated information about political or cultural matters, mainly related to underprivileged groups.

It characterizes an individual who has gained awareness of social inequalities.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “stay woke” was adopted by some members of the Black community to describe individuals who were conscious of their surroundings, critical of established beliefs, and working towards a more desirable future.

 The Origin of the Word “Woke”

The term “woke” first appeared in a politically conscious context in 1962 when William Melvin Kelley wrote an article titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It” in the New York Times Magazine.

The article discussed how white beatniks were using African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

The term “woke” entered common usage when the Black Lives Matter movement started using the hashtag #staywoke after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

This word became linked with the movement, and it evolved beyond simply indicating awareness of inequality or racial issues to represent an active stance toward social justice.

People who were actively working for change were referred to as “woke,” and they encouraged others to remain vigilant and informed. Merriam-Webster offers this explanation.

Evolution Of “Woke”

Many individuals view it as informal language. The concept of being “woke” originated from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), where “awake” is expressed as “woke.” While it previously served as the past tense of “wake,” its meaning and references have evolved significantly in recent years.

The current definition of “woke” has transformed entirely.

Initially, it was used as a catchphrase in certain parts of the Black community to describe those who were self-sufficient, self-aware of the dominant societal patterns, and continuously striving for self-improvement.

In addition, “woke” is used mockingly to describe white individuals who have changed their views on racism due to historical injustices.

This term gained widespread use during the Black Lives Matter movement.

 Woke Culture In Today’s Context:

The founders of woke culture believed it would benefit society, so there shouldn’t be any issues with it.

However, the term has lost its intensity and people are beginning to lose interest in it.

Unfortunately, some people misuse cultural and societal trends, and the term has been adopted by certain social groups as a slogan.

 This has made being woke seem rebellious, and it is now a common term used for ridicule in groups where some are for it and others are against it.

Due to its improper implementation in various situations, woke culture has lost its reputation and respect.

There are individuals who oppose the current culture and argue that people are misusing it, rather than focusing on their rights and actual interests.

One such person is Lawrence, an actor. In January 2020, Fox faced controversy when he engaged in an argument with an audience member who called him a privileged male for stating that he was finished with racist accusations.

Fox accused those who hold woke views of being racist and claimed that identity politics is extremely racist.

Similarly, former US President Barack Obama also challenged the woke culture.

Woke Culture Vs Cancel Culture

The concept of cancel culture pertains to the current trend of disassociating from public figures or companies due to their controversial or objectionable actions.

This trend is primarily observed and discussed on social media, where groups engage in collective shaming.

 In addition, companies often utilize this culture to their advantage by using it against their competitors.

They create trends and hashtags on social media to manipulate and influence public opinion.

Woke culture refers to individuals speaking up and demanding clarification, whereas cancel culture involves abstaining from supporting and respecting a favorite celebrity due to any reason.

This phenomenon has become commonplace, where followers of a political figure or celebrity withdraw their support and affection after the figure commits something offensive.

Frequently, when progressive social media influencers are dissatisfied with a celebrity or politician’s actions, they may lead a public backlash against them, which is commonly known as cancel culture.

 This phenomenon can result in damaging someone’s reputation, career, and even personal life.

In addition, some political figures may use cancel culture as a tool to discredit their competitors.

Woke culture and cancel culture have some similarities in that they aim to teach individuals a lesson and make them aware of their mistakes.

According to Romano, the two are related, with woke culture being referred to as the cousin of cancel culture.

Woke Culture And The Media:

When the term “woke” and “woke culture” became popular in mainstream media, businesses also began incorporating them into their marketing strategies to appeal to customers.

 This trend led to the creation of the term “woke capitalism” by writer Ross Douthat, who criticized brands for using the term as a marketing tactic rather than making meaningful social change.

The Economist has noted that companies often use advertising campaigns that appeal to the liberal values of younger generations, but this approach is often viewed with skepticism by supporters of genuine woke culture.

As a result, there has been pushback against the use of phrases like “get woke, go broke.”


The rise of “woke culture” can be traced back to the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Florida, which led black people to start the Black Lives Matter hashtag and campaign on social media, as well as organizing protests. “Woke” originally meant “awakened” or “aware” but has since become associated with awareness of racial prejudice. The movement gained popularity among liberals and has been linked to cancel culture. Various definitions of the term and the opinions of influential figures on the subject have also been explored.

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