Politics of Being Woke

by Sander Smeeks

Read Professor Lawrence Ware’s post here at the Root.

For me, being woke means awakening to the pervasive, intersectional insidiousness of white supremacy. This awakening is not limited to people of color. Black folks are not the only ones who needed a wake-up call.

Souls that inhabit white bodies can be allies and accomplices in the fight against oppression, in the same way that black folks can be agents and accomplices in promoting, promulgating and protecting white supremacy. As my grandmother once said, conjuring Zora Neale Hurston, “All your skin folk ain’t your kinfolk.” Meaning that you can inhabit a black body and be an agent of white supremacy. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or any of the thousands of black Americans who are more concerned with white feelings than with black lives and bodies. Black folks don’t have the market cornered on being “woke,” and there is no agreement about how best to actualize the potentiality of the black community.

White supremacy frames black intellectualism as monolithic. Put another way, to expect black folks to think the same is an assumption filtered through a white conceptual lens. To quote Kanye West’s “New Slaves,” white supremacy says, “All you blacks want all the same things.” But this is not true. Black people may all awaken to the reality of institutional, covert and overt racism and still disagree about what is the best response to those ills.

Even Me

The other day, as I was walking through an alley from the office to the hospital, this song came up through me. I heard it in the way we used to sing it in the Soul Children. I was having trouble that morning, pressed against myself in some painful ways. I tried to pray. I needed to try since I was going to pray with and for others.

My prayers didn’t work and I took deep breath as I walked and smelled garbage and donuts and saw the hospital where I was suppose to bring grace to others. I remembered a concert where we sang this song; we sang it during my audition for the choir all those years ago. It felt in those moments like the first song I learned with a real choir.

The prayerful words stayed with me as I walked to the hospital and were my meditation as I was reaching for the One who felt too distant for what I was facing. I hope this song takes on meaning for you. Though she has back up, Yolanda Adams is her own choir with this rendition. I’m so thankful that she’s put this prayer and music to voice.

 

Mums and None of the Expected Characteristics

I read Barbara Holmes’ book on contemplative practices in the Black Church the other month, and the book was as amazing as it was historically grounding and refreshing.  In it she says, “Some sacred spaces bear none of the expected characteristics.”

It is within the spirit of contemplation and the gift of sacred spaces that I offer this poetic piece which Nate shared with me.  You may enjoy it, but hopefully you won’t (in the best way).  There is language in this that you may not want to blast: