Tag Archives: Oppression

Understanding Repression, Suppression, Oppression

We tend to conceptualize the terms oppression, suppression, and repression to mean exactly the same thing in general conversation and while this is not true, they are nonetheless, interrelated.

To repress is to keep under control, to keep down or to suppress.

To suppress is to put an end to the activities of a person, body of persons, etc.

To oppress is to burden with cruel or unjust restraints, subject to a burdensome or harsh exercise of authority.

The aim of all three of these is to seek to control a person or group of people for some end that is not defined by the subject but, rather, by the object. Any time person (A) seeks to limit or control the actions or thoughts of person (B) is an expression of repression. Both suppression and oppression are means to achieve repression. At the core of this is the denial of person (B)’s agency by person (A), which is in turn a rejection of person (B)’s humanity. This is precisely how Paulo Friere defines oppression and what is wrong with it in the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

However, the situation is a bit more complex because not all acts that appear to fit the definition of repressive are by their very nature unjust. To seek to control the actions or the thoughts of a rapist, molester, or murderer, or an anti-Black racist Ku Klux Klan member with the aim of preventing harm to others is not necessarily unjust. The factors that may make such repression unjust are not the repression, but the manner in which the repression is carried out. For example, murdering members of a racist group merely for their affiliation and not because they have themselves done anything harmful. To do so is to become the oppressor and not to achieve real liberation for our people, as Paulo Friere argues can happen. Furthermore, this is by definition one of the conditions of genocide.

 

On the other hand, accountability circles and restorative justice practices which bring into focus a person’s behavior respecting their agency and humanity and working through what was wrong with a particular situation and working with them to grow so as not to recreate those same harms is a just form of seeking to help a person develop their thoughts and actions. As such, this overcomes the definition of oppression and is not exactly consistent with suppression because it is not an outside entity that shifts the behavior of person (A), but rather internally within person (B) because through a process of reconciliation their analysis has broadened and deepened, thus, becoming more humanizing.
Understanding these terms and what they mean is vital to developing our critical analysis of the conditions under which we live through deep personal and interpersonal examination. Furthermore, it permits us to engage with the complexity of social organization and what may on the surface appear to fit the definitions of oppression, suppression, or repression and to draw a clearly defined boundary between the just and the unjust practices, policies, procedures, and socialization processes of our world.

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Reverse Racism

You ever notice how those who scream about #ReverseRacism almost never deny that harm has been done to the subjugated and opressed groups?

This reveals that the supposed ‘dominant group’ is terrified that their system of harmful behavior will be reciprocated upon them. This is an acknowledgement of the harm and a direct opposition to do anything about it!

Reverse racism is a farce, a fantasy that would require the subordinated groups to have the same system of oppressive institutions, practices, and beliefs because racism is systemic; it cannot by definition function on an individual and particular basis. Although, it is true that an individual may act in discriminatory ways, unless that behavior is part of a larger system of oppression and suppression, then it is not racism.

When a person screams “Reverse Racism!” what they are telling us is, “I am just fine with the way they are treating you, and yes, I know that it’s wrong.” It serves as a weak and fallacious ‘justification’ to maintain the status quo.

An Open Letter to those who Oppose the Protests in the United States

The protests that have been occurring nationally in the United States ignited because of the recent Grand Jury decisions of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but there is a much longer, older, and deeper system of oppression that tolerates and permits these decisions. These cases were the proverbial straws that “broke the camel’s back,” so to speak, that galvanized the people to action.

The negative responses about these protests are precisely the reason that the protests have continued and why some people decided to protest at the Seahawks game, most people do not know, and or disregard the importance of an unjust Department of Justice and Criminal Justice System in the United States. It is very clear that most people are not aware of the “New Jim Crow” and how the laws of the United States have been crafted not only to be discriminatory towards people of color—McCleskey  v. Kemp (1986)—but also fill in the Prison Industrial Complex with people of color at alarming rates, and disenfranchise entire populations. The legal framework that permits this new system of Jim Crow to exist is the same system that is permitting the Grand Juries to make and levy the decisions that they are making in these cases and essentially, allowing police officers to kill with impunity.

The assertion that a “thug” got what he deserved because she or he was a “criminal,” when the label of criminal is almost ubiquitously paired with being a person of color—even though the data shows that white people commit just as much if not more crime as do people of color—what is being presented is a justification for the murder of people of color by an institution established for the protection of the people.  The people who are protesting feel that either, they themselves or others are not being treated fairly by the system and are correct in the feeling. We do not feel like we are being granted the full status of People of the United States.

It is unfortunate that these protests have to occur at all and it is also unfortunate that The People had stand outside of a stadium where fans were gathering to make our complaints heard. If the system was fair and just then The People would not be taking the actions they are taking all across the country. Just that fact alone should tell the civilization of the United States something is wrong. However, what we see most are people who are upset that events are being disrupted and are presented with arguments like “get over it” and “the Grand Jury already made their decision and there is nothing you can do about it.” But as was stated earlier, this is a much bigger problem than any two Grand Jury decisions. Many people in the United States either fail to understand the depth of the injustice or choose to ignore that it is unjust and would prefer that these issues not be brought to the surface.

I challenge all of you who think that these protests are a pointless waste of time and that they should stop, to imagine, just for a moment, how you would feel and what you would do if, you were a member of a marginalized group being discriminated against and denied your rights. Then imagine that your marginalized group has also been relegated to this inferior position because of some benign characteristic that has nothing to do with your character or merits and the world tells you to “just get over it,” what would your position on the issues be then?

When Justification Is Not Sufficient

I think it is ironic how people pick and choose what of a religion to honor when it suits them to do so, but ignore the parts that do not fit so well with their perspective. I have studied several cultures who practice several religions and I have repeatedly encountered the sobering fact that regardless of what is written it is interpreted in many ways by many people. Not that I am not arguing that religion is bad, here I am just asserting an observation: If a person looks hard enough, they will find some line or other in a religious text to justify an act; or likewise to un-justify an act.

The point is that there is a difference between practicing a religion and “using” a religion and religion can be highly dangerous when it is used, no matter what religion it is.

For example: It was used to justify slavery, to justify the subjugation women, to justify colonization, to justify witch hunts and burning, and now it is being used to foster hatred of people who choose or are with someone of the same sex. In all of these cases religion has been “used” as a tool to justify some form of oppression which drives a wedge between human beings. To be fair, religion has also been the impetus for much good in the world, but for the sake of this conversation wherein the propagation of hostile views are being justified by religion, I feel that these points bear a lot of weight.

Regardless of the justification for it; hatred is still hatred and oppression is still oppression. Religion, as a moral standard does not give people a blank check for their behaviors, they are still morally responsible for their actions however ‘right’ they believe themselves to be.