Monday, June 05, 2006

Oppression(s) + Pain + Anger

As a child in the late 1950's and into the 1960's - being Jewish and "different" (no tv in our household, no guns including squirt guns allowed because they were "guns", living on hand-me-down clothes where others dressed in the latest fashions) felt like I was "being oppressed".

In retrospect we were White, middle class and I was and am male.

I'm not "oppressed" in the terminology I would use.

Areas where oppression can be most visible might include:
1. Being of Color (particularly Black or Latino),
2. Poor,
3. Gay/Lesbian/Transgender/Bisexual
4. Physically or Psychologically Impaired
5. Young or Elderly - in various circumstances,
6. Religion - in some circumstances - such as being Muslim today in the US, or being
7. Female
8. Being a survivor of: sexual or physical abuse (as a child or an adult) or other major trauma - such as having lost close relatives due to violence (particularly that one has witnessed)

Though it is a matter of semantics I think that "oppressions" are generally "one way". Where wealthy, mostly White Men - have their own segregated worlds not allowing others to enter it is different (and potentially oppressive) than a group of radical lesbians wanting to live in a "male free world". The lesbians aren't carrying privilige in excluding me from their lives.

Black people can be obnoxious and "wrong" and cruel and many other things in lashing out at White people, but generally they aren't being "racist" in my world vision. Where a wealthy Black Woman were to "oppress" a Poor White Man - her action would generally be: "classist" but not racist or sexist.

When and where these "oppressions" are quite real - may depend upon both circumstances and where one is in other potentially related areas.

A poor, Black, Female, who was sexually abused as a child


be seen as "more oppressed" than a wealthy White woman who seemingly was "normative" in other areas.

Oppressions are not "competitive". A wealthy White Woman might have been put down for being female or otherwise have faced major life struggles whether related or unrelated to being female.

Most problematic is when we don't try to understand and be emphatetic to others. Telling someone that "your oppression isn't so bad because ...." or whatever generally isn't helpful. I can't easily understand much about oppressions that I've not experienced at a deep feeling level through my own experience. Reading books doesn't generally give me that.

Whether or not we are oppressed - we may be in a lot of pain. I have been seriously depressed in the past. When I was hurting badly I couldn't really emotionally support anyone else much of the time and my abilities to "live" were limited.

Often we also don't recognize "how lucky we are". I didn't appreciate some things when I was younger that I no longer have as a "getting older" man and simply person.

I can be Angry in many circumstances - feeling left out - of "Black Society" or "Black Culture" or "The World(s) of Women". Usually, it is important that I look within myself as to Why I'm hurting or Angry. Most of the time no one has done anything to me. In other circumstances occasionally I may have been treated rudely, but nothing more than that.

Thankfully - I'm happy now - and not feeling oppressed, in pain or angry!



L>T said...

Hi! I linked over from thinking girls blog. Guess what I live in the Pacific Northwest also. Coquille, Ore. as a matter of fact. Do you know it?

your blog is very thot provoking. :)

Happy 6/6/06 BTW

thinking girl said...

HI Geo,

sorry, it took me a little while to catch up on reading your blog. I really liked this post on oppression. I share your view that oppressed can't be oppressors in the same way; that women can't be sexist, that black people can't be racist, etc. I wrote a paper on that subject last year that was well-received. Nice articulation - you are a very good writer!