Dr. Rupert Nacoste, the Social Psychologist who created the concept of ‘Neo-diversity’ and teaches the one-of-a-kind ‘Psychology of Interdependence and Race’ course at NC State University, brings us his fourth novel ‘To Live Woke’. In this novel, much like his teachings, he shares stories of his past experiences to aid in his teaching. Having grown up in the Jim Crow legally segregated south, and serving in the Navy during a time that involved Race Riots, he uses stories from his past to give the reader a taste of his perspective. He uses this new understanding to demonstrate why people must learn to not simply ‘tolerate diversity’ but to fully respect and embrace neo-diversity. Dr. Nacoste says ‘We can save the soul of America’ and he uses this book as a way to show us how we can contribute to this effort and actually understand what it means to ‘live woke’, not just by saying we are woke, but by ‘knowing how to act on this awareness’.
Neo-diversity is ‘that interpersonal situation in which we all have to encounter and sometimes interact with people from different groups by way of race yes, but also sexual orientation, religion, bodily-condition, sex-of-person, mental-health condition, gender-identity, age and on and on.’ (Nacoste 2017).
Dr. Nacoste uses Social Psychological principles and real life stories to make the lessons he shares resonate with the reader. He shares his nine tips to ‘help you live woke’ which include; ‘never trying to interact with a person as a representation of a group’, ‘ask open-ended questions’ (‘not stereotype based questions’), and ‘when the person you are interacting with uses the language of bigotry, do not be silent: speak into the moment: do not argue, yet speak into the moment and object.’
Dr. Nacoste introduces a wide variety of topics that demonstrate how this new ‘neo-diversity situation’ impacts our social lives in every way. These everyday encounters of neo-diversity can often cause people ‘neo-diversity anxiety’. This book teaches the readers how to handle those anxieties and keep it from causing us to ‘crash’ in our interpersonal situations.
An important point Dr. Nacoste makes sure we understand is that ‘prejudice isn’t bigotry isn’t racism’. He explains the importance of understanding this because, as he put it, ‘Something old and anti-american needs to be addressed and changed: leftover demeaning language of hate about (neo-diverse groups), and leftover anti-group prejudice and bigotry (that is) aimed at America’s neo-diversity’
‘What are you prepared to do?’ Dr. Nacoste asks.
He gives us everyday interpersonal-strategies we can use to combat these acts of bigotry. ‘Let the person know your standards for continuing to interact with you’ when someone uses bigotry in front of you ‘Speak into the moment using your inside voice to say ‘I’m sorry, I would prefer not to hear that kind of (neo-diversity) slur/stereotype. It hurts me.’’ This method has been proven effective.
There is far more important, and incredibly useful, information in this book than I could possibly fit in a blog post. You can find a link to the book below to learn more about how ‘To Live Woke’.
My advice when you read is to take it nice and slow. Read each chapter and give time for the material to set in before continuing. These are concepts and lessons I have been learning for over two years, since I first took a course with Dr. Nacoste, and I still find them powerful and impactful each time I hear them. I think it is important to stop and reflect on how these concepts relate to your life. Allow them to resonate and make sure they stick.
Until next time
Let’s stay psyched about social psychology,