The Insufficiency of Liberal Wokeism
If it's not both antiracist and anti-capitalist, then it's not woke.
A few brief comments on the meaning of “woke” and how the concept is being deployed within mostly white/professional/liberal (i.e. members of the American Democratic Party) contexts:
1. I define "Wokeism" as the utilization and policing of woke language and cancel culture as a cudgel for the purposes of in-group purification and homogenization rather than to actually protect anyone or reduce harm. Critically, it treats the offender as an impurity to be expelled rather than as a comrade embedded in relationships of collective solidarity. In-group purification is a marker of fundamentalism, which is how I would classify Wokeism.
3. Wokeism almost always lacks a class analysis, thus, it fails to be intersectional. The Combahee River Collective Statement of 1978 was the first elucidation of "intersectionality" as the concept of interlocking oppressions that foundationally include race, gender, and class - combining both an anti-racist and anti-capitalist analysis. Wokeism generally strips class (and anti-capitalism) out of the analysis, creating empty symbolisms like corporate DEI retreats that result in hiring more LGBTQ and Black middle managers (sure, fine, whatever) but have no understanding of how wealth inequality and global capitalism impoverish BIPOC communities, much less a plan to reverse and repair this damage. This empty symbolism is the cooption and defanging of a radical concept for the purposes of insulating the status quo - and that cooption and defanging is not being done by MAGA racists, but rather by white professional liberals who definitely would have voted for Obama a third time.
2. The most ardent "Wokeists" are usually white people. It's white people who do WAY more language policing and cancel culture shit than Black and brown folks - including white folks IN THESE ACTIVIST communities. My theory of the case is that Wokeist white people (of which I was certainly a member in the past) are operating out of unprocessed white guilt (a real and legitimate thing that must be processed and grappled with and worked through) and they project their own self-policing and need for internal purification onto others in a damaging way. This is analogous to how sometimes the most angry and abusive Christian fundamentalists are those with a secret shame to hide.
3. In Black activist circles that I have observed, being woke is not about cancel culture or policing an in-group - it's a deep awareness and foundational lens that analyzes how race and class intersect with every part of society and create shit outcomes - with the heaviest burden usually falling on the poor and BIPOC. And that foundational lens and deep awareness drive both internal/individual change and organized, collective solidarity to create meaningful, material change that is both antiracist and anti-capitalist. So, yes, language is important and, yes, growth is important, and, yes, safe communication is important - but this is happening within a context of restorative justice and collective antiracist/anti-capitalist solidarity rather than symbolic, idealized homogenization and purification.
4. It's good and necessary to be thoughtful and intentional about your own words and how normal everyday things we have been taught (e.g. "Sit indian style" or "I was gypped!" or "That's gay!") have been shaped by deep underlying -isms that are unjust and causing harm. We should absolutely do that. But it takes more to create material change in the world. Doing a land acknowledgement is a meaningful symbol but it will never restore indigenous people to their land or kick off the capitalist imperial extractors who treat that land as a source of private profit - and, thus, a land acknowledgement is insufficient for the purposes of justice.