Stay Woke.

By Michelle Sarfo |

You might know of the term “woke” among all the other current millennial slang – you know the ones I’m talking about: “lit”, “slay”, “turnt”, “fleek”, so on so forth. As amusing and annoying as some of these terms can be, the term “woke”, despite the fact it’s been overused and most likely misused, is actually an interesting and important term to consider. The term itself, according to Urban Dictionary, means being aware of what is going on around you and not shutting your eyes to the problems that are occurring. Specifically, not closing your eyes to the current injustice and racism that is continuously proving to be a constant problem across the world. Becoming “woke” is actually a term of importance, to me it means to educate yourselves and each other because in order to eliminate racism we need to eliminate ignorance first.

Educate Yourselves.
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First things first, understand that racism still exists in many forms and is still a problem. Do not close your eyes and try to convince yourself that it is something of the past, that “racism is dead”, because it only feeds into ignorance.

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We can start with theories such as critical race theory and postcolonial theory to help us understand race and racism. It highlights that racial inequality exists in a larger social system; it exists in education, health care, income, and jobs. Critical race theory specifically, talks about race being socially constructed by social relationships, institutions, and the state and this socially constructed term has gone on to shape individuals identities and minds which in turn has produced oppression and racism. Another important theory, conflict theory, recognizes that racism stems from the desire of the social majority to exploit those who are not like themselves. These theories, as well as others can be used as starters to educate ourselves about racism, where it stemmed from, why it is still a current issue, and what we need to do to stop it. It is not hard to take the time to inform ourselves instead of choosing to be blind to the problems at hand and blaming ignorance whenever we step out of line. And when you do step out of line, acknowledge it and stop relying on the person of colour to educate you, because it is not our jobs to do that.

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Do it for the Children. 

As future educators, parents, or people who will come to have an influence or impact in children’s lives some time in the future, it is extremely important to be teaching them the right kind of values, to set good examples and be role models of recognizing the basic humanity of others. As a person of colour, I cannot tell you enough how much microaggression I have faced, not only from peers but teachers and adults themselves! The people who we believe will help guide and instil knowledge in children. In the fifth grade, my class watched a film that involved an African tribe speaking in a different language, which then my teacher paused the movie and asked me if I knew what they were saying. In the eight grade I’ve had a teacher pull my black friends and I aside and ask us if she could touch our hair and feel the difference from her own. When I was 10 years old standing at the bus stop, a parent made a “joke” about my winter jacket, saying it looked ghetto. It may not seem purposely harmful, or malicious but in each situation I was being singled out or targeted because of the colour of my skin, which is indeed racism whether intentional or not. Racism is everywhere, its disguised in comments, in actions, in photos, in academic journals, in the curriculum and it is very easy to sometimes go unnoticed. What’s awful is that many other young children of colour face subtle racism and microaggression in their daily lives from teachers, adults and peers.

Lets End This.

Its saddening to think about young children and youth of colour who will grow up learning that they are disadvantaged in this world and they wont have the same privilege and opportunities as white people. Some of these children even come to self hate; its evident when they alter the way they act and talk so they don’t come off as ‘ghetto’, its evident when black boys say they are not attracted to black girls, and its evident when little black girls are upset because their hair texture is not the same as their white friends in school or as their Barbie dolls. As someone who hopes to work with children some day in the future, it is my passion to change this. I want children to be able to love and respect one another regardless of skin colour and culture, to be able to call out racism and stand up for each other, to love themselves and not feel discriminated against. I want them to grow up not having to feel uncomfortable or scared to speak up because their thoughts may come across as “making everything about race”. It is a continuous problem facing children and youth and it can be changed through education. Each one of you has the ability to teach yourselves and each other on the current racial injustice that is happening all around us. Take the time to realize when your words or actions are racist, intentional or not and if called out on it, do not deny it, do not get defensive; instead, listen and learn from your mistakes. Be aware of the actions of people around you and educate people with what you are learning. These are only a few different ways to change this reoccurring cycle of racism. It was said many times within this blog and I will say it again: education is key in eliminating racism.

Devote yourselves to becoming woke ladies and gentlemen.

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