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Raymond A. Hult: There’s nothing wrong with being ‘woke’

How can it be wrong to oppose racism and violence?

(Ted S. Warren | AP photo) Bob Zeigler holds a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. as he poses for a photo, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, before taking part in a vigil urging a peaceful transition from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

In a nation evenly split between Republican-labeled red states and Democratic blue, Utah is red. It’s no surprise my local Republican friends consider the word “woke” negatively. Because I’m a progressive, I’m labeled one of those bothersome whiny complainers.

Webster’s Dictionary added the word “woke” in 2017, defining it in more positive terms as “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues; especially, issues of racial and social justice.” Simply explained, woke is taken from the word awaken, inferring to having previously ignored or been lethargic in confronting racism and social justice, but now conscious and committed to contest such inequalities including other ignored problematic conduct.

The term “cancel culture” has now been negatively tied by detractors to the woke movement, referring to woke activism resulting in individuals and businesses being unfairly abandoned by followers and advertisers. Thus, essentially, canceling some degree of previous favorable admiration and financial standing.

One example is the alleged canceling involving Mike Lindell, the CEO of My Pillow. The woke movement is alleged to have castigated his indefensible support of a rigged election as claimed by former President Donald Trump. As a result, two of his banks subsequently canceled doing any further business with him due to his bogus claim negatively impacted their future reputation and other existing financial relationships.

The argument boils down to whether woke represents a positive or negative activity. I side with the former. I can’t see it being negative by awakening the public to combat ignored problems including racism, police brutality, homophobia, misogyny, reducing gun violence, combating climate change etc.

A recent example of attempting to silence woke advocates concerns Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Stop Woke Act.” The act prohibits colleges from promoting critical race theory and targets other similar woke-inspired concepts formerly taught in institutions of higher learning. One reason given is historical racial instruction creates unwarranted guilt on the part of white students who had no part in any past racist instances.

I never felt personal guilt, only a strong desire for whatever action might be required to prevent its recurrence.

The problem with outlawing woke-inspired historical, racial and other past problematic introspective is it contributes to proliferating current outrages unabated into the future. Despicable conduct championed by White supremacist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. The current unacceptable situation in which past unjust, immoral and ignored tribulations have been essentially ignored with the resulting failure to be adequately addressed and corrected.

I presume mocking woke protagonists includes Martin Luther King. Instead of being admired, by that thinking, he should be loathed for his incessant woke-like attempts to disparage racism. If there was ever a standard bearer for the woke movement, it was King. He understood the importance of repeated criticism no matter how many times being ridiculed. Constantly irritating racists paid off in the end. The tactic of relentless complaint bested backing off.

I’m on board with one dedicated woke advocate I read about who commented, “If Republicans ever call me woke, I’ll just thank them for the compliment. It means I know I’ve done something right. Because, if the opposite of woke is to be one of them, I’ll keep being woke, thank you.”

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent

Raymond A. Hult, Bountiful, is a retired FBI special agent who investigated numerous civil right cases.