The Oppressed, the Oppressor, and the Importance of Dialogue

I think we can all agree that over the past weeks, we have all gone through our own personal transformations, however small or big. I am certainly no exception. A part of this personal transformation includes the new ability to express some things that I was previously unable to express in any sort of coherent way. So, here we go…

There are many people that choose to identify as many different “cultural people”, or with many different identities that contain specific qualities that have received discrimination throughout history from “the oppressive white man” (like race, gender, etc). To be extremely clear, I think that a person having multiple cultural identities is not only immensely important for living a rich life, but it is also a part of what makes this place great. I also understand that some entities of these different identities are heavily discriminated against STILL, even if it is significantly less then before. Finally, I acknowledge that “the system” is inherently racist and biased in favor of the “man”, and that I am a part of that system and thus a part of its perpetuation. There should be a whole different blog post on this issue.

The same person that has multiple cultural identities (that have previously been discriminated against) can have the desire to surround themselves with others who naturally feel “entitled”, often including “the oppressive white man”, because there is a sense of personal/internal confidence that is contagious and has a positive internal impact. One specific situation that demonstrates this best is in academia; schools or school programs that cost thousands of dollars in beautiful corners of the world are EXACT situations where entitlement runs rampant, because only the fortunate and often-times well-off can participate. I see this as fact.

Those people who feel slighted somehow by “the oppressive white man” are, themselves, choosing to participate in the same system (of education) as that person, and that is both unavoidable and a good thing. The problem for me arises when those people say specific things within those “privileged/entitled” groups that perpetually condemn its members for being the oppressor. For example, “your struggle is so hard”, with a sarcastic tone that immediately creates a conversational gridlock.

I acknowledge that a part of my (The White Man) ancestral history includes oppressive regimes towards your ancestors. I also acknowledge that we are here, in this very safe academic space, together, meaning that being “privileged” or “entitled” is a part of both of our lives… not just me, the white man, but also you, the oppressed. To be accusatory, aggressive and sarcastic doesn’t offend me. I’m willing and excited to listen, and I’m comfortable enough in my body and the ways in which I personally identify with myself to take accusations and criticism (even though my ancestral history includes ethnic roles of “oppressor” AND “the oppressed”). However, given the situation of us being here in this safe space, talking about the duality of oppression, aren’t there more productive ways to discuss this struggle between two people without needing a representative of both sides? Is it even possible to have such a talk without both sides present? Can we talk in a normal way that isn’t an argument but instead a discussion? After all, if it can’t be done here, where can it be done?

These three weeks have taught me the power and importance of Dialogue, and a part of that is the ability to keep people engaged by using appropriate language and tone. By immediately taking on the accusatory tone, you shut the conversation down and make it impossible to understand you point, in addition to the fact that it deems you straight-up unpleasant to be around. This seems quite counterproductive since the purpose of you taking that tone is to impact some sort of change in the way that people see these issues.

I agree that there are MANY spaces where this sort of tone/attitude is completely necessary. Structural violence in this country towards racial minorities is disgusting; unfortunately, I foresee the only way to change this being a revolution of sorts, where there are no limits. However, there are situations where a little more finesse is required I think… if your goal is to make someone understand your point, that is. If you are using a conversation in a safe space as your opportunity to speak your mind and get something off your chest, then go forth and conquer. But do so knowing that you are not being heard, you are just talking.

To summarize, I hope that these words are clear. I’m reaching out to those who read this to help me better understand this situation. It’s difficult to be perceived as the white male oppressor AND speak out about such topics, but I hope it is clear here that I’m trying to make sense of these things for myself, and I am very open to listen to people that have new insights and want to open a dialogue about it.