Are you woke? In terms of online slang, being woke refers to being active, both socially and politically. It means that an individual is aware of issues that are happening today and that this person sees through the hype and is active in the search for the truth. This term first developed during the #BlackLivesMatter campaign started through Twitter.
Those who use the social networking platform Twitter are constantly developing memes, challenging offensive posts, and using this network to offer short, 140-character messages about issues happening in the real world. Twitter is a huge collective of individuals from every walk of life. From preteens to government officials to famous music stars, it is an extremely public and favorited way to voice an opinion and make a stance. “Woke Twitter” was responsible for shedding light on racist remarks that Penny Sparrow, Chris Hart and Justin van Vuuren had made in previous days. These remarks were not just noticed on the internet. These comments caused Hart to be suspended as an analyst by Standard Bank and all three individuals had charges pressed against them for their comments.
While the constitution protects the right of free speech, it also dictates that these freely-spoken statements can only be made providing they do not infringe on the rights of others. Legal analyst Brenda Wardle had this to say: “We must remember that free speech or even freedom of expression, unlike human dignity, is limited by specific clauses in the constitution. So what Penny Sparrow did was to prejudice the rights of all black South Africans by equating them to monkeys, apes and animals.
With such a large collection of individuals coming together using hashtags and re-tweeting, re-posting, and favoriting the tweets related to these incidents, the online community urges everyone to “stay woke” and diminish the ability for certain people to escape the law by passing under the radar using such hateful words and descriptions.
Brenda Wardle on the Pistorius Trial: