Barack Obama on being ‘woke’ and activism | Inquirer News

Barack Obama on how being ‘woke’ turns into being ‘judgmental’: ‘That’s not activism’

/ 01:28 PM November 01, 2019

Barack Obama

Former President Barack Obama speaks during the Obama Foundation Summit at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019.  Image: Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP

Barack Obama spoke up on bringing about social change in the age of social media, in particular addressing the youth about the “woke” culture.

The former US President made his statement during a discussion with youth leaders at the Obama Foundation’s annual summit in Chicago on Tuesday, Oct. 29.


Obama talked about how in order to make change, one needs to work within the structures in society. “We’re born into a society, we can’t completely remake society in a minute. We have to make some accommodations to the existing structures,” he said.


He noted that in order to fund projects for social causes, one will need to work with organizations they may not totally agree with.

He advised that in “accommodating” these structures, “we are constantly testing ourselves… ‘Am I contributing more to the problem or the solution?’”

“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’, and all that stuff—you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws,” he said.

“Woke” is a slang term that refers to being socially aware, as popularized by the black community in the United States.

For him, change goes beyond being right. “I get a sense among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense that the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people.


“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how woke I was? I called you out!’

“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” he stressed. “If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”

During the discussion, he also advised about the “danger of impatience” in making change. He reminded youth leaders that the work they are doing builds over time rather than “get discouraged when change doesn’t happen right away.”  /ra


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