Your Centre for New Zealand News

Join the Newsletter

What is “woke”? 

In brief 
  • “Woke” was a slang term amongst African Americans in regards to staying alert to racism and discrimination. 
  • The term was appropriated by far left activists to include identity politics, sexism and practically all causes relating to the poorly understood “social justice”.  
  • Practically anyone politically to the right is then deemed “far right”. 

The origins of woke

Generally the concept of being “awake” to political issues has been in use in American political discourse since the 1800s. The slang term “woke” or “stay woke” then grew out of African American culture as a way to describe being alert to racism and discrimination.

Since around the 2010s, the idea of being “woke” has broadened, although it lacks a formal definition. The political left began using the term to describe alertness to issues of “social justice” generally. That has come to include issues pertaining to identity politics, sexism, LGBTQIA+, and critical race theory, which includes notions of “systemic racism”, “white privilege”, etc.

The problem with being woke

Over the past few years, “woke” has been used pejoratively and ironically by many (including on the left) to describe a movement of increasingly intolerant social justice warriors captured by collectivism and group think. 

Many are suspicious that strident “wokism” is out of step with a politically moderate majority, but in vogue with media, academia, the Government and public service. This makes it appear mainstream when many just don’t know about it.

Woke attitudes tend to justify prejudice against heterosexual Caucasians (particularly males) in the name of “equity” (this is different from “equality”). 

While pitched as anti-racist, anti-sexist, et cetera, woke attitudes may embrace authoritarian tendencies of general intolerance towards different opinions, the promotion of cancel culture, censorship, and anti-white bigotry.  

Both the media’s uncritical acceptance of an increasingly militant trans movement, as well as that movement itself, are examples of a society influenced by “wokeness”.

Marama Davidson, a Green Party co leader and Cabinet minister, brazenly declaring “white cis men” are responsible for “violence in the world” is indicative of a “woke” attitude.

Other examples include the anti-white sentiments expressed by Māori party co-leader Rawiri Waititi and the state-subsidised works of Tusiata Avia inciting the killing of white men like Captain James Cook.

These incidents share many far left characteristics of being intolerant in the name of self righteousness, social justice and – ironically – inclusivity.

What is “woke”?  - Centrist
Wake up and be WOKE!

Then who is the far right?

Since being woke is generally synonymous with far-left attitudes, then to the woke, “far right” is practically anyone even modestly right of them.

A lot of people, perhaps the majority, would not be comfortable with a lot of what woke extremists are pushing, from gender to race, but don’t know what is going on. Even raising questions about woke issues  is enough to have one labelled as “far right” or “insert your favourite despised group”. This reduces discourse and leaves many in the dark about such polarising  details as biological men who declare themselves women wanting to go into women’s private spaces.

Will the woke movement burn itself out? 

Is being “woke” a political and cultural fad? Will the movement burn itself out as proponents become more divided as more fringe movements are promoted? Will the majority naturally seek distance from the vocal but small group of woke proponents agitating for the acceptance of ideologies that simply aren’t popular? 

Your vote can help  decide.

Feature image by yanalya on Freepik

Enjoyed this story? Share it around.​

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Read More


Chris Luxon on cigarette black market claims | TVNZ Breakfast
Listen to new National MP James Meager's maiden speech to Parliament



Sign up for our free newsletter

Receive curated lists of news links and easy-to-digest summaries from independent, alternative and mainstream media about issues affect New Zealanders.


Sign up for our free newsletter

Receive curated lists of news summaries from independent, alternative and mainstream media about issues affecting New Zealanders.

You’ll also receive our NZ News Essentials newsletter. You can unsubscribe from either at any time.