This Applies to You

February 23, 2010

As I’ve recently begun to write for a larger audience (some contributions to Racialicious), I’ve run into a common problem for those going from a small community to a wider sea – not everybody knows me or has read my writings. I can no longer just assume that people know where I’m coming from, or my personal preferences, or who I’m allied with, etc. But I can’t fill all my posts with disclaimers to cover for that, either. So – I’ve got to improve my writing, of course. That said, I wanted to make one thing clear, and that lies in the message of this post. If you only read one of my posts fully, this is probably the one.

This. What I’m writing right this second. This applies to you. Whoever you are. Whatever your background. That which I’ve written before, and the messages I deliver in the future. The celebrations, the frustrations, the strategies and possible solutions – they all apply to you. And me. And everybody else.

And I mean that in the most positive, triumphant way – because we’ve all been (and still are) the subject of oppression, in its many forms. Race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, class . . . name a way of grouping, and oppression applies. To you. So I am hearing your call, and I write this as a rallying cry for all of you/us to fight together against the B.S. you have to deal with every damn day.

This applies to you. And me. And everybody else.

And I mean that as a call-out, as well. Because we’ve all been on the flip-side, we’ve all stood on the side of the oppressor and got our digs in. We’ve all taken down another group of people (whether by intention, ignorance, or a combination of the two). We’ve all done our part to keep an unjust system running as it is. To us – this is a wake-up call, a move to examine every way in which we make things worse or back off and allow things to be as they are.

This applies to you. And me. And everybody else.

Recently, I’ve gotten my own series of wake-up calls, and I am so very appreciative of that. As I begin to branch out and write for a larger audience, I forget the way it’s been done for so long – and the repercussions.

Because most people only write as things apply to themselves, personally. We treat race, and class, and gender, and religion, and sexuality, and ability (you get the point, right?) as all these separate points of oppression – and so if we use one as an example, the understanding is that what we say only applies to that category. That means the rest are discounted, invalidated, and ignored.

That’s how it’s been. That’s how it generally is in the world.

But it’s not what I’m trying to do here. No. I am trying to push past that – bring us all onto the same "team," instead of letting us continue to be scattered, less-powerful groups and individuals. Whatever your fight, if you’re battling against oppression, then I want this to be the space for you. What I write about one oppressed group should be understood to be relevant to any other oppressed group.

Because oppression is just the same set of rules applied in different situations. It begins with fear of a different group of human beings. That turns to prejudice. And then that prejudice is applied.

And each version uses the same set of oppressive tools that people have been using for thousands of years, in all sorts of contexts, on so many different kinds of people. De-humanizing other human beings for the sake of perceived "safety" and – mostly – power.

I will take down a darker race of people by fashioning them into “less-than-human,” creating a narrative of lesser intelligence and capabilities, a tendency to be less “rational” and “scientific” than those "civilized" folks in power.

Well, hmmm . . . that worked so well that I will do the same thing to women. “Irrational.” “Emotional.” Poor at “more academic” subjects like “the sciences.”

Religion? Muslims are “irrational” and “violent” and “backwards.”

People in poverty are “loud” and “violent” and “unintelligent.”

Homosexuals are “overly sexual,” “unnatural” and only good at artsy, “non-rational” lines of work. Gay men are “too feminine” (so see above) while gay women are “butch” (and then we can apply the PoC “savage” arguments).

People with disabilities are – well – “disabled” and unable to do “normal” things. They are “deformed” or “mentally inferior.”

Kids “should be seen but not heard;” the elderly are equated with “disabled” and a “burden;” hip-hoppers are “unrefined” (hence, “savage”); and anybody that doesn’t speak my native language is “incapable” and “backwards.”

You get where I’m going with this? And this is only taking up one simple oppressive tool – there are so many more creatively-applied, subtle ones. Every instance of oppression, every tool used, is brought forth to bear on so many different groups. Because they just work so well.

Now, does that mean that every instance of oppression is the same? Hell no. Not even close. They just use the same basic tools, modified to fit the differing circumstances.

But I’m saying what we should all know, on a gut-level analysis: none of us is unique. This is good when it means that you are not alone – so many other people stand beside you in the experience of oppression. It’s bad when it means that you aren’t immune to the inherently human aspects of your mind that cause you to take things out on others.

And so, when I write these days, I tend to write in generalities. Less often will you see me refer to just one category of oppression. Now I’m a lot more likely to refer to “oppressed peoples.” And I do that very intentionally – because I intend for these messages to be applied to as many oppressed groups as possible – every time. If I write about just one group, it’s too easy for the rest to discount it and tune it out- the fall-out from the "Oppression Olympics." I’m trying to write to everyone.

Of course, there are times when I will get more specific. Recently, I have done that without thinking it through, and a lot of mis-messaging has occurred. From here on, I will do my best to put full intention into any references to a specific oppressed group.

So – if I get specific, I will do that because each group needs to be validated in this world. Again, we’re all so used to being discounted that – if I only stick to generalities – it’s too easy to feel like I’m simply ignoring your personal group. It also may be that a specific form of oppression applies more directly to specific groups. I will be intentional about making sure that a change from generalities to specifics doesn’t come off as “singling-out” in a negative way – which it has, recently.

However, please note that if I do not mention your group, specifically, I am not leaving you out, nor do I want you to be discounted. No individuals can totally avoid the grasp of systemic oppression. It affects you all. The connections are there to be made, and I am fully aware of that fact. However, if you would like them to be made more clearly and directly – then please drop a comment.

Finally – I am not writing in order to speak for any of you. I am only speaking to you. So when I mis-speak, or over-generalize, or say something that doesn’t sit right with you, please keep in mind my positive intentions . . . and then let me have it. Hard, if need be. Because intentions are no excuse against the continuation of oppression, and I’d rather you tear me a new one than let me assist the system through ignorance. Just please be willing to dialogue with me about it afterwards – because I’m trying to learn here, too.

As we all should be doing. Because none of us are experts on all oppressive systems. We all wear the (generally unintentional) mantle of “oppressor” at times, and until we get that and learn to stop doing so, our own goals of equality will never be achieved.


Please keep in mind that this applies to you. All of you. And me. Everybody. Together.

And thanks for stopping by.

* Speaking of "letting me have it," you can now reach me – directly – by e-mail at "choptensils AT gmail DOT com." I don’t check that account daily, so comments on this site are the quickest method, but if you feel the need for a real dialogue, or have some suggestions, etc. feel free. And if you’re the current owner of "theCVT AT gmail DOT com," please hit me up, because I would love to convince you to kill that account. So I can have it.*


One comment

  1. I ‘m so happy you are writing for racialicious! Love your work and how willing you are to learn and listen.

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