Oppression

“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”
-Simone Weil

The riots going on in France, and April’s post both started my mind turning. How would I explain the oppression that I have felt? Yes I have been discriminated against just based on my skin color, several times. Some of those times were pretty clear racism, some I try to think as just people being ignorant and just not knowing any better. The damage in all situations is the same and the feeling is not a good one, but how to describe it to someone that has not experienced it can be a tough thing to do.

I came up with a simple explanation. We can all remember at one time or another when we were kids playing in the playground. Kids can be very cruel because they are not equipped with the sensibility to accounts someone else’s feelings when they say things. When we are adults we try to incorporate that sensibility into our personalities. At least I hope must of us do. Remember when other kids were being cruel and that hurt our feelings in some way, something about your Mother, or the way you looked, your clothes, etc. That was a horrible feeling, insecurity, fear and eventually anger. That is what oppression feels like, some people grow up and never have to experience those feelings again. People that are oppressed feel that way every single day of their lives.

I found a great resource about anger. It states “Anger is an emotion that centers on getting control.” When people feel oppressed, they feel mostly like they have lost control. Eventually after years of oppression someone can become so full of anger that it turns into hate and then despair. It is hard to relate to some of those situations because there are so many levels of it. I try to empathize with people in oppressed situations and while I have experienced racism I am lucky enough not to have to experience it every day. I cannot comprehend what someone that feels oppressed every single day must feel like, but I do know that they will eventually explode of pure anger. I am not sure if after reading this you feel like you understand oppression any better… Do you feel like you understand the word?

7 Responses to Oppression

  1. Hey Logtar. I thought I’d go ahead and copy and paste my response I put on my website to yours since your decided to write your post about oppression:

    I find your first statement quite interesting, and it makes me want to understand you more. When you mention “we disguise open mindedness with our inability to take a real stance”, what exactly is a “real stance”. I would assume, in my own value base that a real stance is believing one’s own values whether they be conservative, liberal, or independent. Now, as far as the explaining racial oppression via the playground routine… well, I do not believe that is accurate. Racial oppression through racial discrimination does not necessarily have to exist all throughout one’s life… in fact, sometimes, depending on where one lives can completely not have to deal with racial discrimination. One thing I would say, however, is that racial oppression through racial discrimination is something in our country that has been institutionalized. There is no doubt in my mind that the incident with hurricane Katrina was an unfortunate example of institutionalized racism at it’s worst. Please view this definition to understand further what I mean by this term.

  2. Oh, for some reason the link didn’t work. click here. You see, racism can only exist in our country when it has been accepted to a degree. The reason why you have ended up discriminated is because not enough Americans fight against this sort of behavior. Most try to ignore it through a dellusional state of believing that it really isn’t as bad as it was 50 years ago. Funny thing though, is that racism is now more subtle, but it is real… very real.

    I observed what you mentioned about people who experience anger because of oppression; indeed, I am angry because of this… and I feel that it motivates me to do good… to show people the truth. How can one not be angry? Are we not human, do we not breathe, exist? No human being derserves racial oppression, and I believe that one has the right to be angry for that sort of injustice… that is the reason why it is happening in France right now… the riots that is, because for so long, the Muslims and North African immigrants could not take any more of the treatment they had been receiving… and since the people would not stand up for them, they had to stand up for themselves… yeah, that’s what happends is the US too. No one stands up for the oppressed… well, actually I do (heh-heh). Did you know, that the National Association of Social Workers theme is “stand up for others”… In order to end racism in the U.S., and anywhere else, we must not trivialize racism, but get more involved and stand up for one’s self or stand up for others. Indeed, one might lose one’s privileges in standing up for those who are oppressed, but doesn’t it feel good when we do it? You know why, becase we know it’s the right thing to do.

  3. I said in a Comment over at April’s

    I feel that a lot of times we disguise open mindedness with our inability to take a real stance. It takes a lot of courage to stand behind what you believe and that is not something a lot of people have or understand anymore.

    What my mean by my statement is that I have experienced that a lot of people claim to be open minded simply to not enter into conflict. Many people claim to see other’s point of view, when in reality they either disagree or don’t even understand that point of view. I love when someone is having a conversation with me and they ask me to expand on why I stand for something, be it political, religious or whatever the topic.

    Our society chastises free though in many levels. Intelligent discussion has been tainted with a negative mantra, and if you happen to disagree in a political or religious level a lot of people feel like the friendship is lost. In other countries talking about politics is encouraged, I remember not to long ago how sports is banned in some households from the dinner table but politics is perfectly ok. In the US that is the total opposite. Bad, good… that is a whole other post, but to get back into the point I feel that people that hide behind being open minded instead of standing for what they belief are a product of a society that has made us afraid of expressing our views out in the open. A black man that is passionate about civil rights is an “Angry Black Man”, a young liberal that cares about the environment is a “Tree Hugger”, a Hispanic that believes in speaking proper English and climbing the corporate ladder is an “Uncle Tom”.

    Saying you are open minded about a view on a topic you have morals or strong beliefs on to me is to be afraid of stating your opinion. Being open about the things I believe has resulting on me losing friendships. A lot of people have always tried to tell me that I just have a “Holier Than Thou” attitude, which in reality is not a correct description. I am very strong on what I believe, in the past I may not have been very clear as to how I don’t mean to push my opinion, just state it. People often confuse my eagerness to explain a point of view, with trying to change their mind on what they believe. I actually love to change my point of view, once I have changed my point of view on something it means that I have learned something, that I have grown in some level… at the same time I am happy to have morals and values that I hold onto very strong, so if you want to change the way I think you better have some proof.

    One of the reasons that Cielo has made such an impact in my life is that she is a very strong woman. She has very strong opinions and they are different than mine. She does not change her point of view on something just simply because of someone else’s, that it is very valuable to me in many different levels. Building a family is a lot more than just having a house and kids, it is building a strong set of values and beliefs to live by, that is what Cielo and I try to do every day, to make that castle we call family stronger and stronger with bricks from both of our belief systems.

  4. Thanks for making the playground analogy. Whether or not it is completely accurate, it does help me better understand what it would be like to be a minority. I have always been in the social majority in the US as a white male, but growing up in an area where there was a large percentage of people of different minorities I try to empathize as best I can. That hasn’t always been easy, but I started to better understand what minorities experience when I went to college and met my wife, who is hispanic. Since Katrina is from Spain, that changes things a bit because she is hispanic on paper, but typically seen as caucasian in person, being from Europe.

    The interesting thing is that since we took each other’s last names when getting married, I’ve started getting solicited postal mail written in Spanish addressed to Mike Jimenez from companies who can’t handle the whole “double last name” thing. I’m sure the social aspects of marketing could bring up an entirely different topic altogether.

  5. Mike: I find that so interesting that you are stereotyped like that because you took your wife’s last name in addition to your own, lol. The opposite happends to me actually. My maiden name, being “Spreeman” is a German last name, usually one might think of a white person when they read that last name. Boy are they surprised when they see me! heh-heh.

    Logtar: You know, a colleague of mine has this quote on his email signature: “My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”
    -Adlai E. Stevenson Jr., Speech in Detroit, 7 Oct. 1952
    US diplomat & Democratic politician (1900 – 1965)

    Ain’t that a trip? Yeah, I think we can both agree on that one. It is unfortunate that when one believes in something, and wants to stand up for it, they end up truncated… oh well, but you know, we free thinkers are multiplying like rabbits Logtar… and it won’t be long until we make that free society a reality! ((hugs)) Say “HOLA” to Cielo and to Ty. :D

  6. 50 years ago it was very unusual for a ‘white’ person to marry a ‘hispanic’ even thought the term hispanic was not used then. My husband was Mexican ancestry, born in U.S.A. and he was white. Me? I am white and of French & English ancestry and maybe a bit others as well. Matter of fact he had some French background and probably others.

    We grew up together and with our children… all strong individuals… and all women! He especially did not like the term ‘hispanic.’ Perhaps it was the labeling he did not like. … and as April says, we also ‘multiplied by rabbits!’ Does that make us ‘free thinkers’ – or just thinkers? ;-)

  7. I have also not had to live in a place where I’ve been oppressed, so it is hard to say. But you’re right in that feeling can develop into the willingness to do just about anything to relieve it. Even aside from the race issue, imagine where we’d all be if the Americans hadn’t rebelled against the British?

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