Overcoming Oppression

It's easy enough to see that our culture and society oppresses entire groups of people, and most of it happens so covertly and so automatically, that we don't even allow it to register. Dismantling this oppression is a long and never-ending process; we're working towards an ideal after all, and so it's hard to announce victory, ever. On a more positive note, we can make progress towards dismantling the oppression within and around ourselves, and bit by bit, this can change the world.

The first step in dismantling oppression is learning to see oppression. We can see it around us, and that's easy enough to learn, but it takes some time to learn to see the oppression, the fear, the hate, the ignorance, and the justifications, that live within all of us. This isn't the same owning your own biases and judgmental behavior, that's the second step, the first is simply learning how to be aware of them.

Then the second step would be owning and acknowledging the parts of you that are oppressive, and that support the system. Graduates of the NCCJ's Anytown program will know this affectionately as "owing your own shit." If we ever want to overcome oppression, we have to make the first step and look deep within ourselves and be able to acknowledge to ourselves and others that we're oppressive; and that oppression lives within ourselves. So not only do you have to know how to see hate, bias, discrimination, oppression, you also have to see it in yourself. Because it's there, even in the best of us. And that's not a bad thing; it's just part of life and the system; to deny its existence is only stalling the pursuit of change.

The third step is interrupting and acknowledging oppressive, hateful, and discriminatory thoughts, actions, and language both in the environment around you and in your own life. Steps one and two combine and "calling people out" is something that takes practice and that you get better and better at. This step also doesn't fit in linearly with the other steps as it's omnipresent in the process, and logically belongs here. For the third step, in addition to outright oppression, you also have to call out collusion, or actions that unknowingly support the oppression.

The fourth step is a simple repeat: you have to work on all three steps all the time, and slowly you'll improve, slowly we work through our 'own shit' slowly we improve, but we're never done. This isn't to say that it's a lost cause, because progress is welcomed and needed, but for us to declare victory would be complacent at best, and we can't allow that to happen.

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