It’s always darkest before the dawn, or so the old saying goes. And for my fellow early birds who know – those pre-dawn hours in all their darkness, is also the time when the most work can and should be done – if and only if we’re awake at that crucial hour.
“GET WOKE!” You may have heard it said before, perhaps best by Erykah Badu. It has become a popular saying for those of us millennials and others who assume, however correctly or incorrectly, that we are somewhat “conscious.” We dread our hair, burn our incense, attend our obligatory lectures on the state of the world (or, alternatively, how best to meditate), and in all of that we tend to see the sentiment of “getting woke” as an easy given: “I’ve read the book, attended the lecture, worn the T-shirt, and spouted the mantras … I’ve arrived!” It’s like spiritual-ease-y or that 101 introductory version to consciousness raising that doesn’t require the stretch. It assumes awakening is the same as getting woke – that it can be undertaken in 7 easy steps, that this activity can be as gradual a transition as going from processed to natural hair. The truth is however that getting woke is a jolt. Getting woke usually implies an outside event or circumstance that pulls us out of the comfort of our sleep. This is not the gentle, rub your eye and hit the snooze button kind of exercise that awakening might suggest, but rather it’s more immediate – that 3am fire alarm that shoots you up and out of your bed in a state of panic, confusion, frustration and ultimately, action.
The recent events in Florida, Ferguson, New York, California and right here at home in Toronto, while tragic and unjust, are collectively just what is required for not only the Black community, but all communities, to see the dysfunction, disorder and dis-ease that is still underlying our modern world – loud and in effect. White supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism make up the thorny bed our behinds have slumbered on for quite some time. This sleep has intentionally been made deeper by the force feeding of a cult-ure of busyness, divisive politics, consumerism, group think religion, fast food and the illusive distraction of the “next best thing.”
Undeniable and unavoidable depictions of anti-Black violence for all of us to see online and on our news media have been our jolt, our kick in the ass reminding us that all is not well in our world. We as communities of Black people (and of all peoples really) are beginning to see, getting WOKE is uncomfortable and all out painful too. It’s shocking to our senses of normalcy and decency; it causes confusion, disorientation, upset, and yet it too serves a purpose. Its purpose, I believe, is getting us reacquainted with the bed of bad ideas we’ve been lying on and the pack of lies we’ve been sold for far too long. Getting woke counters the intentions of those powerful few who bank, quite literally in fact, on the ignorance, avoidance, compliance and silence of the many; the poor, the disenfranchised, the racialized and all those others marginalized by social location, orientation, race or ethnicity.
As a minister of New Thought teachings I believe that we are all on this planet with a mission; a call on each of our lives that is meant to be expressed. We are, I believe, created to be free and in that freedom to assist the Universe in better knowing Itself. Racism’s systemic and systematic oppressions are intentional, and meant to keep us from fulfilling our mission in the world which, regardless of our vocations, is always a Spiritual one. As author Toni Morrison stated best, "It’s important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being.”
This distraction focuses us continually on the fight for existence, acceptance and personhood, and convinces us that the material and not the spiritual is the impetus and objective. It tells us that the outer world, not the inner world, is where our attention should lie. So in the exhaustion of it all we resign ourselves to the busy-ness of our performance of self, of identity, of collecting trophies and getting by to get by, forgetting that we were actually placed here to live, love, laugh, grow, and leave ourselves and our world better off than when we inherited it. Oppression and violence, keeping us situated on survival alone, rob us of the energy to live fully. That said, I believe, thankfully, that G-d, Life, Law … Bob! Whatever you choose to call It, if you choose to call It at all - wastes no situation or circumstance to bring about a needed course correction. The prophetic Black science fiction author Octavia Butler summed it up best in her book series Parable when she penned the line, “G-d is change.” And indeed G-d is. The only constant we know of is that no thing remains the same forever, including unconsciousness.
We are waking up. And during this initial frenetic frustration, we have to trust and be assured that we will adjust and a just new thing will be born of this – if we allow it to. We as a people, particularly as Black people in this sleepy day and age, needed a wake-up call and call to arms, to begin to galvanize us and resolve in us a commitment to making change – within ourselves and within the world. Dismantling the White-supremacist, hetero-patriarchal order takes a combined effort, involving everyone – White, Black, gay, straight, CIS and trans – all classes, conditions and dispositions, to ensure a new and better world not only gets woke, but stays that way.
#GetWoke #BlackLivesMatter #AllBlackLivesMatter
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