Woke, Not Woke

2 min

In a conversation with his daughter, Les Bloch struggles with whether he is woke to white male privilege.

“You are not woke,” my daughter tells me.

“Oh yes I am.”

“No, you’re not. You are wired to believe all the lies you were taught.”

I was brought up by an Army POW and his liberal artist wife. I never heard the N word. Mom had me in ballet at 7. How could I not be woke? How could I not be aware of the privilege and advantage I’ve enjoyed my entire life?

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“I don’t think I was born on third and hit a triple,” I say.

“I know you don’t. But you don’t understand how much women have been kept down. You don’t understand a lot of things.”

My daughter has a lot going on in her personal life.

“Why are you so angry?” I ask.

“I’m supposed to be angry. Don’t tell me I can’t be angry. That’s patriarchal BS.”

I take mental inventory. When I get pulled over by a cop, I do not think, “I hope I don’t die.”

When I get a raise, I don’t think, “I wonder if I’m getting as much as The Man.”

When I make my house payment, I don’t think, “Why can’t I ever afford to own property?”

I take note of the inequity, the unspoken racism and sexism, the institutionalized poverty and suppression of a minimum-wage working class. It’s as though I know I can fly and see others who can’t through no fault of their own. I know the bootstraps argument is faulty. I know it’s easier not to be gay or trans or fluid. I don’t get angry when I hear Black Lives Matter. Of course, black lives matter.

I know about all the patriarchal BS. I know I’m a suburban white man that gets a certain free pass. So how can I not be woke?

“You need to try harder, Dad.”

“I was born this way,” I say, “with the wings. It’s hard to change.”

My daughter’s eyes take me in and she puts her head on my shoulder.

“Just keep trying,” she says, “and maybe someday we’ll all get a chance to fly.”

With a Perspective, I’m Les Bloch.

Les Bloch is an East Bay construction manager.

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