According to the great depository of knowledge in this Universe, Wikipedia, the term “woke” refers to awareness of issues that concern social and racial justice. Use of the term “woke” resurfaced in 2014 in connection with the Black Lives Matter movement as a label for vigilance and activism concerning racial inequalities and other social disparities such as discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, women, immigrants, and other marginalized populations.
“Woke,” however, has earlier beginnings. Centuries ago, the term was used in place of “woken,” which is the usual past participle form of wake (I had to look this up because I had forgotten what a past participle was from my high school English courses. I studied accounting in college, so what do I know from past participles? Nevertheless, a past participle is the form of a verb, typically ending in “-ed” in English, which is used in forming perfect and passive tenses and sometimes as an adjective, e.g. “looked” in “have you looked?” or “lost” as in “lost property.” Now I have confused myself a bit more…). This then, led to the use the term “woke” as an adjective similar to “awake,” which has become mainstream here in the United States.
In 1860, the term “awake” was adopted among supporters of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party who referred to themselves as the “Wide Awakes” movement primarily formed in opposition to the spread of slavery, and members of the group were often encouraged to remain “woke.” A 1938 recording by Black American folk singer-songwriter Huddie Ledbetter tells contains the phrase “”best stay woke.” By the mid-20th century, “woke” had come to mean ‘well-informed’ or “aware,” especially in a political or cultural sense. More recently, however, the use of “woke” has now encompassed the earlier meaning with an added sense of being “alert to social and/or racial discrimination and injustice.” The term’s more current usage was popularized by soul singer Erykah Badu’s 2008 song, “Master Teacher,” where in the song’s chorus, he uses the words “I stay woke.” In 2017, “woke” made its debut in the Oxford dictionary.
Today’s “woke” movement has brought with it “cancel culture” by means of “woke activism.” We have all seen it in the news many times over the past year or so the instances of statues coming down or being broken apart, names of schools changed (What did President Washington, the “Father of Our Nation” ever do to a woke activist?), speakers banned from college campuses to stave off violence or just merely to stifle differing opinion, or even the seemingly history altering curriculum that is now being taught in schools across the country.
During these past couple of years, the “woke” have truly “awoken.” As rental housing providers who despite whatever little income we may earn or equity in rental properties we may hold, we are being outcasted along with all other perceived societal evils that exist in the world today. Many of us are now vilified through the media, or under attack by those who we rent to or that are elected by popular vote. If there was a time when being a “landlord” was ever easy, those times “ain’t” today. Not by a long shot!
This “woke” initiative of “cancel culture” is what really has me most concerned. Sure, absolutely, we need to address the fact that social injustices exist, but should that come at a price of eradicating those who are perceived to be “asleep” (opposite of “woke” is “asleep”) or the “non-woke?” Slowly but surely, it feels we are all being “chipped away” at here. Some may recall the apropos phrase, “Death by a thousand cuts.” That’s where we are at. Will “cancel culture” lead us down the path and over the cliff of “cancel private property?” I do not know and I certainly hope not, but it seems we may be headed slowly in that direction unless something is done. And that’s where YOU come in.
These past years we have been subjected to chants of rage to “cancel rent.” More and more we are subjected to rent regulations such as lower and lower “caps” on increases, just cause eviction protections, anti-tenant harassment ordinances, and far more rules and regulations that we struggle just to keep up with and make sense out of. Far crazier proposals such as taking away our right to exit a money losing business (a/k/a, proposal to place restrictions under or eliminate entirely the Ellis Act) or requiring us to grant a right of first refusal to purchase our properties to our tenants who are supposedly struggling to pay rent let alone commit to a mortgage payment (a/k/a, Berkeley’s “T.O.P.A.” or Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act) is enough to make us all insane. And don’t even get me started on the multitude of unfair eviction moratoriums and rent increase freezes many of us have now been subjected to for over a year with (as of the date of this writing) no end in sight for many. No wonder I drink!
So, where does this all “gonna” lead to? I have to say, we have some major issues to face here, folks. But, while there seems to be a constant barrage of issues we must now overcome and deal with, nothing is insurmountable with any of this. We can and have battled back, and we can and will prevail. It just takes “numbers.” If we can just all get on the same page, eliminate our apathy that may exist in some of us, and constant expectation that “so and so” is going to take care of things for us (that “so and so” by the way is the very large owners who, by the way, are tired of constantly putting up for smaller owners), we can make progress in turning the seemingly worsening situation we find ourselves in around. I have seen it before. Just look at our results on Propositions 10 and 21 – we can do this.
I have to say, though, I often find myself frustrated when we here at the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles place a “call to action’ to get you involved by calling into a council meeting, writing to a state official, and giving to our Legal Fund or one of our Political Action Committees (PACs). In case you have not realized it, here in California politics, it takes money to sway our state and local governments. Yet why is it when it comes to paying membership dues, fewer than 20% of members make the voluntary contributions we ask for our Legal Fund and PACs? That’s a bad statistic and shows me that housing providers are not on the same page. It really saddens me. Additionally despite what could have easily become utter devastation to us all, so many failed to help us out in defeating Propositions 10 and 21 (“so and so” still did help us out there fortunately).
Often, I hear from members via email asking about the status of one or more of our four outstanding lawsuits, requesting or sometimes demanding an update from me, saying if our chances are good that they will help the cause, and I always respond to you with the latest update, and then “nothing.” No help! Did I somehow say something wrong? I ask that you help just for you, your property rights, your livelihood, your wealth, and your financial security. That is why I am as passionate as I am, and why I am never afraid to ask for money from anyone to help our valiant cause and to seek justice for all housing providers. I am in the same boat too, by the way, I own rental property too and help out our Legal Fund and PACs as much as I can.
I encourage you. Please help us to win back our rights and alleviate the regulatory burdens we face. Give and encourage others to do the same. Know that the voluntary contributions on your renewal invoice go to a noble cause – to you and others like you. Heed our calls from time to time for financial assistance. We are a mere non-profit corporation with a limited budget and resources, and your basic membership dues only cover so much, and with your help, we can do far more.
Always know, our team here at the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles will always have the best interests of you, its members, at heart. We want to serve you in the best way possible. And, please, consider making a contribution today to our Legal Fund at www.aagla.org/legalfund or to one of our PACs at www.aagla.org/contribute. It takes money to win, and with money, we will win.