The horrific cake of oppression.
And why you must understand each layer.
If you were to go on Twitter, specifically during this month, you would see two vastly different types of tweets dominating the platform. On one side, you would see various different people celebrating Pride, and uplifting a specific group of people. On the other side, people attempting to tear them down with every opportunity, or asking what makes that group of people so special. They spend their time talking about how laughable it is to say that they are now oppressed, and that they’ve done nothing important enough to deserve a celebration. What’s caused this rift, is a specific side misunderstanding the word Oppression. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the side that is interested with celebrating a marginalized group. To clarify, the misunderstanding is not fundamental, they get the general idea. What they fail to understand, is just how layered and complicated oppression is. While the dictionary definition of the word is rather short, the real life effects make quite a long list. Oppression is a cake, and they understand the icing. What covers the entirety of the concept, the most obvious of ingredients. However, it can be difficult to understand every layer of a cake until you have tasted it, and the vast majority of people haven’t tasted anything close to this cake. Nonetheless if you were to take a glance at the true ingredients, you may just be able to grasp the concept. So, let’s get into exactly what makes up the horrific cake of oppression.
Layer 1. The icing, what they understand.
While a great deal of oppression is misunderstood, there are certain aspects of oppression that we can all agree on. For starters, we all understand that oppression must be aimed towards a specific group of people, and must be unjust. Few will argue this. On top of that, we all seem to understand that oppression is usually aided by the government. That is to say that the oppressed group of people will be legally denied specific rights without cause. This much we all understand, this is layer one. Essentially inarguable (that is not a challenge), we understand this to be the very literal and concrete forms of oppression. This is where oppression starts and ends for many people. Oppression strictly means that you are systematically and overtly persecuted. As soon as you are now longer persecuted, you are no longer oppressed, and you can no longer complain about what previously happened to you. This understanding alone, is what forms the basis of the “slavery did not affect you” argument. If you have yet to taste a cake, or understand the ingredients, and you were to see a pound cake, you would say “that’s not cake.”. And that’s understandable, because you’ve never been forced to understand what cake is. However, the rest of the cake does not disappear as soon as the icing is gone, and oppression does not fade away as soon as the government stops implementing it.
Layer 2. The sugar, the social side of it.
I’m of the opinion that this one is a bit more obvious than the next. For a great deal of people, the idea that society itself could suppress you without government aid is senseless. As one of my misguided acquaintance’s put it, “that’s not oppression, that’s just people being mean.” And to an extent, yes he’s right, people simply being mean to you is not oppression. However, if it is socially acceptable to be overtly rude to a specific group of people without reason, than it is oppression. Bullying has always been a thing, and despite our best efforts there will always be 1 or 2 bullies roaming about. When a bully is rude to someone, we call them out on it, and as a society attempt to condemn bullying. However, if someone can be rude and not be called a bully because of who they are being rude to, then that specific group is oppressed. This one I think is a bit more obvious, but if you never gave oppression a deeper look than you wouldn’t know its there. You would simply look for icing, and if there wasn’t any, you would say it wasn’t cake. But we still call a sugary bread a cake, and societal oppression is still oppression.
Layer 3. The bread, The mental effects of oppression.
Now, those individuals who have yet to truly attempt to understand oppression, would never grasp this layer. When we see oppression from the outside looking in, we sit its overt effects. We see that people are not allowed to eat at certain places, they aren’t allowed to be in love, or that they are not allowed to mingle with certain people. We notice when they are treated as sub human, and as soon as they are no longer treated like that, we think that all is forgotten and forgiven. What so many people fail to understand, is the longevity of oppression’s effects. When you are told that what you innately are, is both legally and socially unacceptable, it leaves a bit of a scar. You can easily become ashamed of something that you can’t control, because for so long people have been telling you that you should be ashamed of it. So simply letting the oppressed back into society is great, but it also does not mend everything that has happened. This is one of the many reasons that the “slavery never affected you” argument will always fail. Psychological scars do not heal quickly, and when people refuse to acknowledge that they even exist, healing at all can become far fetched.
I began writing this article because I was tired of hearing two statements; Why don’t we have a straight pride parade?and What about a white history month?. I’ll give them this, these celebrations are quite late. We should have had the first black history month centuries ago, and the first gay pride parade shouldn’t have had to wait too much longer. But nonetheless, for someone who has lived most of their life in the spot light, to be so unwilling to give it up for even a short month, is a bit pathetic. I choose to believe that most of them truly do not understand why we are celebrating a group of people that are “no longer oppressed”, and hopefully this article was informative to them. I hope we all realize that it’s about time we not only allow people to be what they are, but celebrate them for being that.