Archive for September 29th, 2011

September 29, 2011

On the institutional and the personal

I was recently reading another article giving your basic rundown of anti-oppression 101. On this occasion it was about the distinction between white people and whiteness. While I think it is hugely important, in doing anti-oppression work to remain focused on fighting systematic/institutional oppression, I also think that we should never forget that at the heart of these systems and institutions is *people*.

We like to talk about how race, gender, ability, etc. are social constructions, which is important for debunking essentialist talk usually used to perpetuate oppression, but we forget that societies are made up of individual human beings.

Why am I pointing this out? Because I wanna say straight out: if you have privilege and are not actively struggling and resisting the system that privileges you, then you are personally and directly responsible for the oppression of other people. How can I say this? Clearly not every white person is a bad person, or every man a bad person, or ever straight person, or every cis person, or every neuro-typical person are bad. Except… Oppressing people is bad. If you oppress people then you are bad. Classic syllogistic logic. Of course, no single human being is all bad. There are good and bad things about all of us.

To be very clear, note how I said if you are not actively resisting the oppressive system then you are oppressing people and, thusly, bad. Why? Because it is the default of this society we constitute that if you are white, you are racist. If you are straight, you are heterosexist. If you are cis, then you a cis-supremacist. And so on. This is the default. Saying you are not these things is not enough if you continue to benefit from the system. Activity is necessary because the default position is oppressing other people.

While we all may not be able to escape the privileges arbitrarily conferred upon us, we can all do more to work towards a more equitable, fair, and just society.

We are all responsible. We are all complicit. We are all guilty. And we all will continue to be until oppression ends.