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Illustration by Gilbert Li


The term emerges from African-American vernacular as a call to action, says U of T prof Cassandra Lord

If you’re a regular Twitter user, you may have noticed people describing themselves as woke, or advising others to stay woke. To be woke, says Cassandra Lord, a professor of historical studies and of women and gender studies at U of T Mississauga, is to be conscious of the racial and social inequities experienced by black people – in the past and today. The term has been used widely by the Black Lives Matter movement, and emerges from African-American vernacular as a call to action, she says.

While the term has taken on a life of its own outside of black communities, Lord says those who use it are typically demanding an examination of power and privilege, and a commitment to dismantling systemic forms of anti-black racism.

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