Killer Mike is sharing his frustrations around white people using the term ‘woke’ without knowing its historical context. In a profile with SPIN to promote his new album Michael, the Atlanta native elaborated on white people ‘appropriating’ the word.
“First of all, white folks 25 years ago couldn’t tell me what the f*** ‘woke’ was. They’ve just appropriated your word,” he said. “Being ‘woke’ is more than having other people appropriate your struggle for their cause. Who has profited more from affirmative action? White women.”
The rapper continued, “So what the f*** you gonna keep doing sh*t that way for who’s who? Who now do you see profiting off Black Lives Matter? People who ain’t Black and who really don’t think your lives matter. They just throw the sign in their yard and advocate for whatever they want. Then when you laying on the side of the street dead, or if you walking down the street and they don’t know you. They calling the police on you.”
The misuse of ‘woke’ has also been called out by Erykah Badu, who appeared on MSNBC’s The Beat to discuss the matter with correspondent Ari Melber. During the segment, the vocalist said that white politicians intentionally substitute “woke” for “Black.”
She went on to give her own definition of the word, which she first used on the Georgia Anne Muldrow-featured “Master Teacher” from her 2008 album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War).
“I can tell you what it ‘woke’ means,” she said. “It just means being aware, being in alignment with nature, because if you’re in alignment with that, you’re aware of everything that’s going on. It’s not only in the political arena. That means with your heath, that means in your relationships, that means in your home, that means in your car, [and] that means in your sleep ”
‘Woke’ was given an official definition in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017 as an adjective meaning “well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke.” The word will also reappear in the upcoming Oxford Dictionary of African American English.