What does woke mean?

When the word ‘woke’ was named word of the year in 2019, it reflected the ongoing culture wars around issues on race, gender and climate change.

Since then, ‘wokeism’ continues to be used as a provocative expression - often on social media.

It is being used more often now as an insult, amid clashes of ‘cancel culture’. Perhaps the most high-profile example in recent months was the fallout from the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan. Those who sided with the Sussexes over a series of claims about how they were being unfairly treated by the palace were often accused of being too woke.

Earlier this year, Boris Johnson was even asked if Joe Biden was woke, to which he replied, “There’s nothing wrong with being woke.”

When celebrities led the public in #Blackout Tuesday during BLM protests after George Floyd’s death last year, brands, organisations and individuals were called ‘woke performative activists’ for posting one when it wasn’t believed they had demonstrated consideration for race relations in the past.

Watch the video above to find out more about the origins of the word.

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