In my social justice work, I’ve noticed people using a word in a way that wasn’t part of my vocabulary. Some communities refer to people who seem to actually “get” the challenge that’s present and the action that needs to be taken as “woke.” As in, that person is “woke”; he/she realizes what’s happening; what really matters in this moment; the action that needs to be taken.
I’m working to be more woke in the weeks ahead. For me, a woman of way too many words, that means shutting up and listening, particularly when my dominant culture mind wants to take over and share my “point of view,” something I’ve come to see as, sadly, most often simply a lifetime of programming that privileges my perspective. A perspective that’s too often blindly derived from my race, education, cultures, and social location.
It’s not that having a point of view is bad. It’s just that I’ve come to believe that it often doesn’t forward the action. It can even set it back.
The readings for the first week of Advent, which starts this Sunday with a new liturgical year, exhort us to “stay awake.” On the surface, that challenge doesn’t seem so hard. Digging deeper, it is daunting. It can challenge us to interrogate the places where we are still drowsy, sleeping, and even snoring. This past year brought powerful exposure of racism, sexism, and more. Am I nodding off now, because I’ve heard it before, or because I am overwhelmed? Am I inclined to snooze through this one, a victim of privilege and compassion fatigue? These and other questions push me.
My answer to them is “yes.” You will have your own answer, of course. But I commit, as this holy season begins, to stay awake and watch. And to work to stay woke, come what will.
“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!‘”