“Coke is Woke!”
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
To be mindful of declared inequalities or trending issues in the arenas of social, economic, climate, and political matters is to be “woke”. To be woke is to be “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)”. (www.merriam-webster.com) This term is used to describe heightened consciousness and awareness as defined by current media pundits and politicians.
However, the unholy alliance of mainstream media, social media, and big tech has hijacked the current mindset of the populace, as millions struggle to grasp hold of what’s currently considered “woke”. Many corporations have jumped on the bandwagon to demonstrate their political correctness and “wokeness”, regardless of public opinion and consumer bewilderment.
Examples of “wokeness” in corporate political narratives:
Coke: “An expose of Coca-Cola’s ‘diversity’ training revealed it was using highly provocative slide presentations focused on the race of its employees”. (www.nationalreview.com) “The tips to ‘be less white’ included: ‘be less arrogant, be less certain, be less defensive, be more humble, listen, believe, break with apathy,’ and ‘break with white solidarity’… Another slide tells viewers that in order to confront racism, they must understand ‘what it means to be white, challenging what it means to be racist.’” (www.foxbusiness.com, Bradford Betz, Feb. 22, 2021)
Nike: “It’s quite the juxtaposition of image and reality: Nike, the wokest of woke corporations, paying millions to LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick to brand itself as the sneaker of protesters and rebels and champions of the counterculture… but turning its back on the very retailers — often urban-centered, often owned and frequented by people of color — that helped it build its empire.” (www.msn.com, “Nike’s idea of ‘woke’ is to kill the small businesses, in Philly and elsewhere, that made its sneakers popular”, Mike Sielski, 6/29/21)
Taco Bell: “Grammy Award-winning musician Lil Nas X [was] named Taco Bell’s first chief impact officer, in the latest example of brands partnering with candid and uninhibited voices… Earlier this year, Lil Nas X faced criticism for releasing ‘Satan Shoes’ with the Brooklyn-based company MSCHF and a music video in which he can be seen giving the devil a lap dance.” (www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/lil-nas-x-appointed-chief-impact-officer-taco-bell-more-n1277473)
Ben & Jerry’s: One of their newest flavors is “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled”. Their website declares, “We’re proud to be working with a dedicated activist like Colin Kaepernick, whose work helped spark the international conversation around racial justice.” (www.benjerry.com) As background, “during the 2016 season, Kaepernick began kneeling while the national anthem played at the beginning of each game to protest racial injustice, police brutality and systemic oppression. The year following his polarizing protests, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Since then, he has been unable to sign with any NFL team.” (https://people.com)
Penzey’s Spices: Bill Penzey uses frequent emails sent to customers to sell spices, and also to lash out about current political issues, express his viewpoints, and attack the right-wing politicians, including former President Trump. Penzey recently stated, “From the environment, to the coronavirus, to the continuation of our democracy itself, Republicans have crossed the line and need to be called out, as do those who want to claim ‘both sides’ are to blame. They really aren’t. At this point, Republicans are offering no honest solutions to the problems we face… And seriously, the last occupant of the White House really did trash pretty much every aspect of our country. So much to be done, but every month we get a fair bit further towards getting things fixed.” (Bill Penzey, email, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021)
Facebook: Pew Research reported, “Americans have complicated feelings about their relationship with big technology companies. While they have appreciated the impact of technology over recent decades and rely on these companies’ products to communicate, shop and get news, many have also grown critical of the industry and have expressed concerns about the executives who run them. This has become a particularly pointed issue in politics – with critics accusing tech firms of political bias and stifling open discussion.” (www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/08/19)
Do corporations have the right to speak out and express their opinions? Perhaps. But when their wokeness becomes part of their ad campaigns to sell products with blatant and prejudicial opinions interlaced with their marketing, it definitely seems “a bridge too far”.
“Ohio native Vivek Ramaswany in a new book ‘Woke, Inc.’ argues that many of the companies that are purporting these socially responsible platitudes are actually doing so not to help the causes they claim to help, but to improve their own bottom lines. He calls this insincere woke capitalism.” (www.thepublicopinion.com, Perry Haan, Nov. 2, 2021)
What do we as consumers expect – and frankly deserve – from big tech, retailers, and major corporations? Honesty, integrity, well-priced products that last, and advertising campaigns that focus on their products or services. We don’t need or want Amazon or Walmart to tell us what to think or how to vote.
All of us are bombarded by thousands of messages each day – many of which are advertisements. We accept that infiltration as part of our current culture. We have learned to decipher ads and decide what to purchase and what to ignore. But this new proliferation of political and social presumptions needs to stay in the op-ed department. Companies gain money, power, popularity, and influence from the financial support of consumers, but that shouldn’t give them authority or wisdom about policy-making or partisan politics. Let’s stay in our lane, folks!
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
Try these activities with teens:
• Watch and then discuss the video created by Consumers’ Research called “Woka Cola”: https://youtu.be/J2x_ovDsa3Y
• Research the recent “woke” behavior and decisions by such companies as Starbucks, Disney, Google, and Target. Remind them these companies are owned by stockholders and ask them what, if any, influence stockholders should have regarding the public behavior of these corporations. Discuss what is the appropriate direction for corporations regarding political and social viewpoints that directly impact their customers.
• Ask, “What actions or viewpoints have you noticed in your friends or classmates that seem to follow current woke opinions?” Discuss.
• Read and review together the Romans 12:2 scripture (shown above). Then read and discuss Colossians 2:8-10:
“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.” (The Message)
Ask, “How are these biblical directives related to the current topic of wokeness?”
• Share, “It’s important to stay aware of the influences of the culture around us.” Ask, “How can we stay grounded as Christ followers in an age of distractions?”
• Start a small group gathering that meets on a regular basis to discuss topics of current interest including the influences of social media, big tech, and politics.
Note: Share this blog with your church’s youth pastor as a lesson for youth group gatherings.
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Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
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