Wake up!

Why the War on Woke is an assault on all of us

Denis Donoghue

6/28/20233 min read

people walking on street during daytime
people walking on street during daytime

The term 'Woke' is increasingly used by the right as a slur against those on the progressive left; with the so-called 'War on Woke' a Trojan Horse for all sorts of extremist policy measures and restrictions. But, being Woke is not only nothing to be ashamed of, it is a term that we in the Yes movement need to reclaim and wear as a badge of honour.

Woke is now defined as “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”. It originated in African American English and gained more widespread use beginning in 2014 as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. That was the same year as the Yes movement campaigned for a more equal and inclusive society; starting with the right to self-determination for all of us who live and work in Scotland. We spent the summer of 2014 imagining a better Scotland where we would control our own land and resources, along with the tools to address endemic poverty and injustice. It's no surprise then that being Woke is closely aligned with supporting Scottish independence. As you'll see from this chart, Yes support is highest among those who strongly identify as Woke, with a 77% to 16% margin among those who very much identify as Woke, and 66% to 25% among those who somewhat identify as Woke.

I'm lucky enough not to face injustice on a daily basis. But you don't have to look very far to see it all around us. The UK right-wing press use the small boats as a thinly veiled attack on refugees and immigrants, trans offenders are used to vilify that community and Just Stop Oil protesters provide their justification for draconian anti-protest laws. It's partly an age thing. Younger people are far more comfortable with ethnic diversity, generally don't give a toss about people's pronouns and would rather not grow up on an uninhabitable planet. So the war on Woke is a war on our children and grandchildren. And once we start on the slippery slope of authoritarian laws and protest crackdowns, who knows how far we'll go before the majority stands against it. It's worth remembering Martin Niemöller's 1946 poem: "First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist."

When the UK Government identify the soft underbelly of the yes movement, they're acutely aware of this fact. By using the Gender Recognition Reform bill as a means to undermine the authority of the Scottish Parliament, they realise that the red-tops, mainstream media and typical middle-aged, middle class voter won't stand up for the trans community. Likewise with the Deposit Return Scheme, they see a weakness in support because it's being promoted by the junior partner in the Scottish Government. By splintering off the reactionary edges of the pro-independence movement they seek to develop wedges to work with. This is where fringe parties like Reform UK, Alba and the Family Party feed. By eroding elements of the mainstream pro-independence platform, they draw away fringe supporters and work up their prejudices. Before you know it former Yes supporters are siding with unionists and abetting the destruction of devolved power.

  • First they came for the Trans community and I did not speak out- Because I was not Trans.

  • Then they came for the Greens and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Green.

  • Then they came for the Scottish Parliament and I did not speak out- Because it was only a devolved assembly.

  • Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.