Today’s lesson: Anti-Oppression Don’t just talk about it be about it!

I’ve been noticing lately that everyone and their parent/guardian are doing anti-oppression training. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Shu, what the shit bleep is wrong with that, isn’t that what we want?”

Well yes, I would agree that recognizing one’s privilege is important, knowing forms of oppression we often do not think about is amazing, and those who take what they’ve learned and are doing the work in order to actually change the world around them is the point, but when we think, one or 10 workshops on anti-oppression make us the experts on the oppressions others face, it’s what some of us call, problematique. I see the raising of your eyebrows,  and the change in your body language– arms crossing, and closed body language–and I’d like to congratulate you on your discomfort with these words.

When you can name every oppression in the book it gets you mac-tivist points (who doesn’t want that?), even gets you  accolades that span beyond bedroom frolicking, but when you then constantly use such knowledge to then make light of the fact you are perpetuating such oppressions, it is, dare I say it again, problematique. It also makes it difficult to call you on your shit, because who wants to call out the funny mac-tivist? Nobody likes a party pooper right? Well guess what, I’m about to lay down some shit.

Stop making racist/sexist/ableist/transphobic/homophobic/xenophobic (i am using words you’ll understand…but you get what I’m saying) jokes when you know that’s what you’re doing….”oh my god i’m being such a racist/ableist/blah-phobic” is really not funny. A few rules on how to accomplish such:

Rule 1: if you know it’s offensive, try to unlearn it;
Rule 2: if you are fully aware that people most definitely will look at you with cocked heads, and venomous eyes, but because of the environment you’ve now created know you can get away with it, don’t bleeping FUCKING say it.
End of rules.

When someone calls you on your -phobic/-ist language or action, don’t, i mean, DO NOT, make light of it/deny it/look at them like they grew three heads all of a sudden, because most likely they’ll then feel: 1) too embarrassed; 2) too put on the spot; 3)too defensive (just like you’re about do) to continue with their train of thought. This will then put a halt to the healing process or the unlearning process that you were presumably trying to gain by taking those anti-oppression workshops in the first place.

Hear them out, and if you feel like there is something more to add do so. In the words of a friend who’s trying to help me curb my habit of over-apologizing , “Sorry doesn’t mean anything unless you follow through with actions to show me you’re actually changing the reason why you are apologizing for in the first place”–in other words, until you change the way you address people, or are conscious of your ‘obliviousness’ to how your actions effect others then sorry means nothing…soo..don’t um say sorry, unless you mean it!

Now that you’re sitting at the edge of your seat for the next step…..
Learn and move on, don’t dwell on how much of an asshole you were or have white/straight/cis/able-bodied guilt, move the fuck on. Chances are you are awesome, and will change your -ist/-phobic ways, and obviously it will take a while to do such—one or 10 anti-O workshops and my blog post, are not going to change you over night (don’t think that it will!) because to be about anti-o means you will have to constantly learn and re-learn, and un-learn). And as with everything else once you’ve addressed it in an honest and open hearted way, you will find out it isn’t really a big deal to be called out, it’s a big learning moment, and your friend/companion won’t hate you forever because you said sometime stupid, we all do from time to time. But by ignoring it, disregarding it, making light of it, means you are perpetuating what you supposedly are fighting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no expert on any/all oppession like previously stated, I’m merely an expert on my own experiences with the oppressions dealt to me. As such, I also welcome you to challenge me when I say something stupid, my queer, black ass could use a kick too, I know I am not exempt from this, you should know that too.

Another note about anti-oppression training, once you’ve finished the training or have read a really awesome article on anti-(enter oppression) stuff, please don’t present yourself as an expert, it’s not sexy. Quoting the presenter without any critical analysis, also not sexy, because that person is only speaking their truth, thus, you quoting them means you are taking their truth to be your own, without doing the work they did to come to their conclusions. My usual, “read a fucking book” retort won’t really apply here (though reading a book or two when/if you are able to is helpful) , as being an academic isn’t the answer, I say find your own truths in whatever way you can, just don’t steal someone else’s.

In love and respect,

Shu A.

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2 Responses to Today’s lesson: Anti-Oppression Don’t just talk about it be about it!

  1. Brook.Tight says:

    Amen to that last line.

  2. Jacky V. says:

    “it isn’t really a big deal to be called out, it’s a big learning moment, and your friend/companion won’t hate you forever because you said sometime stupid, we all do from time to time. But by ignoring it, disregarding it, making light of it, means you are perpetuating what you supposedly are fighting.”

    Yes! I think this is a major hurdle for a lot of people. It has been for me. The fear of saying something that will be offensive can become paralysing and has often led me, in workshop scenarios for example, to not say anything at all, which doesn’t allow growth and learning. I would just wind up sitting there with thoughts racing trying to find the best way to phrase my question and by the time I figured something out, the topic would have changed or the workshop was over. (Coupled with my brain’s trait of being slow to process, you can imagine . . .) Dialogue is important and it’s probably unavoidable to sometimes say something that will inadvertantly be hurtful, or ignorant. But being called out on something and using it as a learning experience can be humbling in a very fruitful way instead of being humiliating if one does what you suggest: acknowledge it, own it, learn from it.

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