Content Warning: This article contains mention of racist killings. We all know what woke means, or rather, what it has come to mean for conservatives who fear “woke” people corrupting their schools. White liberal culture has appropriated the word from its origin in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and conservatives love to respond to the appropriated concept.
In the song “Master Teacher Melody” Erykah Badu repeats “I stay woke” as she describes her search for herself and beauty in a racist society. Written by soul singer Georgia Anne Muldrow, who sings the refrain “I stay woke,” the song imagines a hopeful future for African Americans while acknowledging the reality of the systemic issues they face. Can we step away from woke as an appropriated buzzword and recognize AAVE wokeness’ role in social and psychological healing?