argument top image

How do we think about the "woke" debate? Show more Show less
Back to question

To proponents of "woke culture", the term denotes only a simple awareness of the fundamental inequalities and injustices suffered by minorities - religious, racial, social (LGBTQ). To its critics, woke culture smacks of liberal authoritarianism - a new cultural religion that tolerates no dissent on threat of 'cancellation'. Which is it?

Wokeness is an awareness of privilege and inequality Show more Show less

Wokeness stayed true to its origins in the American Civil Rights Movement. It was applied to show awareness of structural inequalities.
(1 of 4) Next position >

Wokeness is being conscious of inequalities

The term is a call to arms to be aware of the (largely racial) inequities that govern Western society. Historically, it has encouraged peaceful protest against systemic racism and spawned positive forward-looking movements.

The Argument

Woke culture, in its purest form, aims to acknowledge that many oppressive functions of society are not blatant acts of racism and bigotry, but systemic and behavioral. For example, the criminal justice system in the United States represents an institution that perpetuates racial inequity, primarily for black Americans. While this is not an overt act of racism, it is no less harmful. This is where the utility of being woke appears. Through observance and criticism of these structures, we can hopefully dismantle oppressive systems. [1] With wokeness becoming more prevalent on the left, a coalition of social activists can begin to hold accountable the people, institutions, and systems that have been protected under a veil of power for centuries. Once their true nature is clear, protests, activism, and policy can all be employed to fight for change.[2]

Counter arguments

Racism is an overt act of bigotry, so to define it in such broad terms is too black and white. While there are still some racists and boots, most aspects of society present an equal opportunity to everyone, regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. When woke culture criticizes something like the criminal justice system, they conflate racism with policies they disagree with. The breadth of things that become racist and oppressive through a woke worldview is too wide. Many of these can be explained by other factors, such as wealth inequality, crime, health, and education. Considering this, activism is misplaced when we should be discussing other issues that ail disadvantaged populations.



[P1] Woke culture aims to expose and become aware of oppressive functions in society. [P2] Awareness of these functions acts as a touchstone for activism against and dismantling of oppressive structures and behaviors.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Many of the perceived inequities are not the result of systemic racism and bigotry, but problems with poverty, education, and health. [Rejecting P2] Many of the institutions, individuals, and systems that are criticized are not guilty of any bigotry, but just bad policy and behavior.




Not sure yet? Read more ↑


This page was last edited on Friday, 28 Aug 2020 at 09:31 UTC

Explore related arguments