I’m writing this column in the immediate aftermath of attending the Colorado Environmental Film Festival. I was only able to watch 20 or so of the 90-plus films featured during the sixteen 2-hour sessions, but I plan to watch others this week. (You can access all the films at www.CEFF.net for $75, which gives you seven days to view any collection you log into by Sunday, March 5.)
Many of these films raised my consciousness regarding different issues facing humanity and America, which got me thinking about the term “Woke,” which is applied negatively against those of us with similar awareness of certain issues. In the parlance of the MAGA folks, I’m part of the “Woke mob.”
Obviously, the term is adapted from “awake” or “awakened.” One thing for which we can thank the previous administration is that the division it spawned awakened people like me to portions of our history (and our present) of which we may have been less aware. I’m thinking of books like The 1619 Project and Caste, which taught me things I did not know about our nation’s sad legacy of enslavement and racism, which are at the heart of America’s “great experiment.” For example, I didn’t realize that the 13th amendment abolished slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,” an exception that was exploited throughout the former confederate states by convicting Blacks of petty or false crimes and imprisoning them so that the prisons could lease them to plantation owners to continue their enslavement.
Yes, I’m awake to many aspects of our history to which the MAGA mob is (and would like to remain) unconscious. I’m awake to the environmental injustice suffered by the minority communities close to the Suncor plant in north Denver, which was the topic of a CEFF film. I’m awake to the broken promise of “40 Acres and a Mule” which underlies the calls for reparations to descendants of the enslaved.
I prefer “woke” to “unconscious.”