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Yesterday while I was on Facebook, a picture of a man dressed all in tinfoil popped up in my newsfeed. Above the picture a friend of mine wrote, “There sure is a huge population of unmedicated paranoid schizophrenics in this world–sadly, with the Internet, and social media, they now feed each others’ delusions. Maybe I’m just paranoid?”

When I first saw this post, it stung. The man who wrote the post is gay, and common sense would say that a person who belongs to a stigmatized and oppressed group would have sympathy and empathy for another group of people who face some of the same challenges.

In the black community, some people use the word “woke” or “staywoke” to mean being aware of the issues in the community. The word or phrase has recently become popular across the Internet and with teenagers. Although the original meaning had to do with racial issues, it has now morphed into meaning staying aware of social issues. An interesting progression of the use of the word or phrase is in Fusion.

I don’t think that I am “woke” about all social issues. I don’t always catch a racist situation on television or in other media. I am not the person who can point to every gender stereotype in a movie or book. I’m not always up to date on the issues that still put the LGBTQ community at risk of discrimination. The point is I try, though. I care about all people and their civil rights and their right to live and shop and be safe without harassment. I believe in liberty and justice for all.

How do I try? I listen. I read. I read books from people who are a part of these oppressed communities. I actively seek friends on social media that have different experiences than I do. I watch what they post. I read articles that are important to them. I try to become increasingly more educated, sensitive and aware.

I am not perfect, and I don’t expect anyone else to be perfect. I ask for patience from the people who belong to communities where I don’t yet know all of the correct language or all of the meaningful events happening that directly affect them. I am slow, but I am trying.

What I want to ask people from these various communities, and groups is, are you giving equal effort to others who face discrimination that you hope people give to you?

If you only care about the issues that affect you personally, don’t attack those who don’t care about the injustices you face, because that is hypocritical.  It’s all of us or none of us.

I would love to earn the badge of “woke” by a community I stand up for and stand beside but am not necessarily a member. I would love to give out the badge of “woke” to people who get it about mental illnesses and champion our cause.  Some of you are on my list of recipients. I hope more people will want to earn that honor.

  • Update: The person who posted the offensive comment and picture on Facebook has made a very public and formal apology. One more person, one more step closer to being woke. We can all help change the world one heart and mind at a time. Ready? GO!