Barack Obama Called Out People Who Think Being “Woke” Counts As Activism

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In the age of the internet, it's never been easier to stay up to date with all issues — whether social, political, or personal. Now, a former U.S. president is speaking up about activism in the 21st Century. Barack Obama's quotes about being "woke" are strong statements towards young people.

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, former President Barack Obama visited his home city of Chicago, Illinois, to speak at the Obama Foundation Summit. During his appearance, Obama discussed Twitter activism and being "woke," speaking against the ongoing "call-out" culture that's often seen online when people are deemed as canceled. Obama called out this trend by emphasizing that every person has flaws.

This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.

Obama warned that this form of activism is especially dangerous for young voices in the United States, stating being "woke" doesn't necessarily always qualify as activism. Obama continued,

There is this sense sometimes of, 'The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough. Like if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because, man, you see how woke I was? I called you out. I’m gonna get on TV. Watch my show. Watch Grown-ish.’ You know, that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.

In case you're not up-to-date on the latest slang, being "woke" is defined as being "aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues," particularly pertaining to race and social justice issues, according to Merriam-Webster. Lots of those who are "woke" speak up on these issues on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

This isn't the first time Obama discussed his problem with excessive use of social media. In December 2017, Obama spoke to Prince Harry on BBC Radio, where they discussed the internet's role in politics. While speaking to Prince Harry, Obama stated that the internet can "simplify" reality and reinforce biases that people might already have. Obama said,

One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases. The truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated.

While Obama may have called out the younger generation, he has still remained a fan-favorite president for many young people — even after leaving office back in January of 2017. In fact, in July 2018, The Washington Post cited a Pew Research Center study that found 46% of young adults who participated ranked Obama as their favorite president.