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Image / Editorial

WATCH: Barack Obama’s comments on ‘woke culture’ are so true


by Jennifer McShane
31st Oct 2019

Being ‘woke’ is important in 2019. That we are culturally, socially and environmentally aware is crucial if we are to bring about real tangible action and change. But as former US President Barack Obama pointed out this week, it’s not as simple as that  


Who knew we’d have young activists like Greta Thunberg setting an example of what it means to be ‘woke’ in 2019? For those who may be unfamiliar, ‘woke’ is described as being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice, along with being aware of what’s going on in the community.

We’re seeing it in the youngest generations; that need and want for action, for a better life, for something other than what we are presented with. Why shouldn’t we strive for more, for something better? After all, future generations depend on us too – simply ‘living in the moment,’ focused on ourselves does not cut it.

Related: WATCH: ‘We’re a team’: Greta Thunberg meets Barack Obama

But being woke is more than retweeting a hashtag or challenging someone on social media as Barack Obama eloquently pointed out. He challenged its very concept at the Obama Foundation’s annual summit in Chicago this week.

Because the other side of this is extreme shaming and trolling, all under the guise of being correct – at least on social media.

Calling people out on social media did not bring about change, he insisted, because change in itself was too complex to be that easily defined.

Forget cancel culture

Participating in cancel culture is also not the way to do it.

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,” he said. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids.”

“I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people. And that, that’s enough.” 

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how woke I was? I called you out!'”

“[But] If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far. That’s not activism.”

Oh Barack Obama, how we miss you and your wise words.

Main photograph: @Stylist


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