“The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things.” – Assata Shakur
Systems of oppression are present in every sector of our society. They affect everything and nearly everyone, it’s important to understand this. I try to be patient with people who don’t understand the complexities that make up systems of oppression, because there was a time when I only equated oppression with slavery…and that was as far as my analysis went. Disastrous. I had to get my shit together, because for me, the thought that I am actively oppressing others in the same manner in which I am oppressed makes me uneasy.
Making that parallel was important for me, it helped me understand that all systems of oppression are identical. They all operate the same, which is why the language is so easily interchangeable:
“Women don’t know football. Most guys barely do. Stop coming into male spaces and demanding respect.” – John Moffitt, a motherfucking fool.
Poor people don’t know money. Most rich people barely do. Stop coming into wealthy spaces and demanding respect.
Fat people don’t know about health. Most fit people barely do. Stop coming into fit spaces and demanding respect.
Transgender women don’t know about womanhood. Most women barely do. Stop coming into female spaces and demanding respect.
Honey, I could go on forever.
However, this is also why oppressive norms are so widely accepted throughout society. We have come to a point that we cannot effectively comprehend one form of oppression without comparing it to yet another form of oppression that we benefit from, and then go on to tell the oppressed how they could/should overcome a form of oppression that we have never had to endure. (I’m guilty of this too, so I’m talking to US right now!) That, my friends, is how we perpetuate oppression, and it’s harmful. We see the parallel, but only when it affects us, and not others, therein, we perpetuate what we criticize in which case any analysis of oppression made by us is ineffective. You absolutely CANNOT effectively dismantle any system of oppression without acknowledging your role.
You want to rid society of racism? Check your colorism.
You want to rid society of capitalist ideals? Check your classism.
You want to rid society of sexism? Check your heterosexism.
It is just as important to understand your role in perpetuating oppression, as it is to understand how you are affected by oppressive norms.
Check yo mothafuckin privilege, ight?!
I am a black, (kinda) middle classed, able bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. This is the basis of my privilege.
I have the ability to oppress poor, transgender, and disabled people the same way that white people, rich people, and men have the ability to oppress me. Parallels are important.
How could I, an able bodied, cishet, (kinda) middle classed, black woman demand freedom from racism and sexism and simultaneously ignore the plight of disabled, transgender, or poor people?
That would make my quest for freedom within the bounds of racism and sexism self-serving and superficial, because I would still be actively oppressing others. Oppression does not stop with you (or me), oppression is not restricted to the United States, it is international, it is institutional, and systemic.
It is also intersectional.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde
There are people who are simultaneously affected by multiple systems of oppression, and are therefore fighting for freedom within multiple realms of society. This is EXTREMELY important. Unless you are a rich, white, cis-gendered, heterosexual man, you are more than likely affected by at least 2 different systems of oppression, possibly more. Ignoring intersections makes you complicit, thus oppressive as fuck. Therefore, your intent on dismantling systems of oppression is futile, you should shut up, we don’t need you, and we don’t have time to constantly explain our plight to you.
I am a black woman. I am oppressed based on my race and my gender, both individually and collectively. This means white people, and men of any race have a social power over me in regards to my role in society. I do not have the space to separate my quest for freedom, so my fight for freedom has to be intertwined in the essence of my being: being black and a woman. Separating the two would create a space to be oppressed by those that share in at least one of my social roles, white (women) and (black) men. I, and others who find that they are actively oppressed by multiple systems of oppression should not have to choose one over the other, we are affected by both simultaneously, therefore we must fight for freedom from both…simultaneously. That is our right as people.
Get with the plight of the oppressed, or get the fuck out of the way. You’re slowing us down with your tone-deaf ass, we have work to do!
A starting point for some of the most noted systems of oppression.