May 8, 2022

I’m Willing to be Called “Woke.”


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Apparently, one of the biggest insults a person on the political Far Right could lob at someone Liberal (besides “Libtard” and “Socialist”) is “woke.”

I consider myself a social justice advocate who runs most of my decisions through the filter of how it will affect others. Do I live in a cave, transport myself on foot everywhere, grow my own food, and weave my own clothes? No. But I do drive a fuel-efficient car and belong to a local family-owned CSA that grows the veggies I eat from Spring to Fall.

I compost. I recycle. I carry reusable bags in my car to take into stores. As much as possible, I buy organic products. I use skin care, hair care, and cosmetic products that are cruelty free and not tested on animals. Heck, even my purple hair dye is vegan. I have a refillable water bottle made from recycled material from which I drink throughout the day. I don’t litter, and sometimes I pick up other people’s trash.

As a white, middle-class, cis-gender, educated professional, I am abundantly aware that I have privilege that is part and parcel of that identity. As such, it feels incumbent upon me to use it as a platform to amplify the voices of those whose culture, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic background doesn’t afford them that kind of power.

I can’t claim to speak for anyone since I haven’t lived their lives, even if some of my experiences are similar. If I am asked my opinion about what I perceive as unjust statements or actions, I defer to others who know more than I do about what it is like to walk in their shoes. I can only speak as a witness and ally.

I am also mindful of the quality of my thoughts. Do I get angry, frustrated, and enraged at injustice and desperately want to engage in a verbal smackdown? Hell, yeah! I don’t, for many reasons. The first is that I know that clinging to anger and resentment eats away at me like a corrosive substance. The second is that as a professional communicator (therapist, speaker, and journalist), blasting someone who has different opinions isn’t likely to convince them to change those views.

Admittedly, it is hard to listen to people using hateful rhetoric or demeaning others because they don’t look like them, worship like them, speak like them, or vote like them. I drive through my suburban/rural region and see banners and flags heralding TFG (the former guy) or stickers that feature President Biden, placed on gas pumps, saying “Look what I did,” as if he is responsible for the price of gas. Of course, I peeled them off and tossed them.

I know that members of local school boards are adamantly against anything remotely resembling DEI (Diversity Education and Inclusion), referring to it as Critical Race Theory. My take is that the people who object to discussion of inclusivity are insisting on holding on to their perceived positions of power and privilege.

My state of Pennsylvania is second in the country for the number of banned books in schools, which turns my stomach. What gives me delight is that when books are banned, their curiosity has people buying them to the point of reaching best seller status.

Yesterday, as I was driving in my area, I saw a group of people standing in front of a Wawa (a Philly regional convenience store) with signs protesting the high cost of gas and inferring that President Biden was responsible for the high cost of gas and that people should vote Republican to remedy it. What part of “the president doesn’t control gas prices” do these folks not understand? I thought about stopping for a conversation, but I wondered if there would be a beneficial outcome.

There are times when I would love to have a heart-to-heart, rather than go head-to-head with someone whose beliefs are polar opposite mine so that I could understand what is at the root of their beliefs. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have just listened to understand, but in order to change their mind. I know it is possible. Consider the work of Christian Piccolini who was a white supremacist and had an awakening experience, purged his hatred and now reaches across the divides. Singer songwriter Fred Small tells the tale of a Rabbi and former KKK Grand Dragon in Lincoln, Nebraska, in a song called “Dragon to Butterfly” with the chorus:

“But a man can move mountains, a world can be turned
And the greatest of distances easily spanned
When the strength that’s invested in making a fist
Is transformed into shaking a hand”

And then there is the cringe factor around the sudden attack of amnesia professed by one Marjorie Taylor Greene who claimed not to recall numerous tweets, interviews, and messages about her role in the insurrection and musing about whether TFG should declare Martial Law, which she misspelled as “Marshall Law.”

A pointed song by singer songwriter Nancy Schimmel called “I Don’t Recall” illustrates the MTG credo, along with her compatriots who tout The Big Lie. Nancy comes by her social justice sensibilities genetically as her mother was legendary musician and voice for social justice herself, Malvina Reynolds.

Some would say that what I do is virtue signaling. I ask myself this question each time I am contemplating making a choice. Is what I am about to do only of benefit to myself or will it serve others as well? If that means I’m woke, may I never fall asleep on the job.




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