Show caption ‘The woke are not undermining the west. They are seeking to ensure that all are represented and have a place in society.’ Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images We must wake up to the danger of rightwing woke wars Letters Ric Carey, Richard Barnes, Prof Andrew Moran and Rosemary Gill respond to attempts by the Tory party to weaponise the term ‘woke’ Mon 21 Feb 2022 18.11 GMT Share on Facebook
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Nesrine Malik (Scared to be ‘woke’? It’s time for progressives to take a stand in the culture wars, 21 February) sets out the bemusing battlefield surrounding the concept of being “woke” and how it has been weaponised by the right wing of Conservative repression. Part of the issue is clearly the way different groups and factions define the meaning of woke. She correctly deduces that Labour needs to own it.
We have already been pointed in the necessary direction by a man speaking in the saddest of situations. Dave Merritt, the father of the young lawyer Jack Merritt, who was killed in the London Bridge terror attack in 2019, gave a moving speech after his son’s inquest. He described how proud his son would have been to be called woke. He defined its meaning very simply as “the opposite of ignorant”.
• Nesrine Malik expresses the problem brilliantly. But I’m so angry I couldn’t read her piece all in one go. Angry because it’s impossible to imagine anyone on Labour’s current frontbench saying anything a tenth as powerful, and angry that I, and many thousands of other members, were gulled into believing that Keir Starmer had a fairly radical and progressive agenda. He must have known perfectly well that he would never get elected if we knew then that he would align himself so completely, whether through conviction or tactics, with Labour’s right wing.
• The weaknesses of the west are not the result of a “painful woke psychodrama”, as the Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden claims (Report, 14 February). His slur is simply another distraction for those who are angry that the high-skilled, high-wage jobs promised by the neoliberals never materialised. We are among the largest economies in the world, yet 30% of children live in poverty and we have food banks. Years of austerity are now being followed by a catastrophic cost-of-living crisis. None of that was caused by woke ideas.
Instead, the west has been divided by politicians playing fast and loose with democracy, undermining the validity of elections, refusing to take responsibility for their actions and widening the divisions between people through racist tropes. Politicians have weakened European institutions, either by undermining Nato (as Donald Trump did) or Europe itself (as the populists have done).
The woke are not undermining the west. They are seeking to ensure that all are represented and have a place in society.
Decolonising the curriculum is about telling a more complete picture, ensuring that everyone sees themselves reflected in a classroom and that we do not hide from the past. Spoiler alert: the empire was brutal, cruel and exploitative. It involved slavery, murder and the stealing of land and resources from other people. Perhaps understanding the past and ensuring all are represented will bring greater unity rather than the divisions Dowden claims.
Prof Andrew Moran
Saffron Walden, Essex
• Reading Marina Hyde (You can’t erase history. But if you lived on Prince Andrew Way, you might have a go, 18 February), I was reminded to check whether my Tory MP had answered my fourth request to explain what woke means (apart from not being asleep). Again, no explanation. I assume that even Tory central office doesn’t know.
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