Recognizing Systems of Oppression

Content warnings: mentions of current events, police brutality, racism

Recently, I’ve been watching a show where the following line appeared:

The losing side is our side.

This was in the context of how often people would state, “I will stand on the winner’s side because the side that wins is the side that will write history and conquer.”

The character in this show stated that “The losing side is our side” because even if we stand along on the same side as the winners, does that mean that the winners are standing along the same side as us as well? There’s a fair chance that even if we side with the winners, the winners may not regard us as being on the same side.

Many Asian folks like myself have grown up in communities and families that have emphasized that the Black man is dangerous and to stay away from Black folks. Whether it was demonstrated through verbally commenting on why there were Black people are my college graduation or physically moving away from Black folks walking toward us on the street, anti-black sentiments run rampant in my Asian communities.

On the other hand, I have observed how White men and White folks were praised and almost worshipped as our saviors. Whether it is through skin-whitening products or changing names to ‘easier ones’ that White folks are more accustomed to saying, there was always a sense of wanting to appeal to the White man, because that is how we gain power and succeed.

But is this the only way I can gain power and succeed? Through becoming someone less than myself who profits off of the pain and suffering of others?

“The losing side is our side”

I am often disappointed in my community whenever we avoid political conversation and berate those who do engage in conversation as “snowflakes” and “SJWs”. What is more political than our lived experiences? Our mere existences are political in and of itself but we constantly avoid dialogue and opportunities to grow and improve.

Even within my family, news about police brutality or murders of Black folks are brushed away as, “Not our problem” or “They probably did something to deserve it.” By staying quiet and not speaking up against injustices, we are letting the oppressors know that we are not united and letting our allies know about our stance in our allyship. As Asian Americans, we can no longer continue to embrace the model minority myth and benefitting off of the oppression of other groups. We need to contribute however we can for the liberation of all oppressed groups.

Furthermore, with the recent rise of anti-Asian sentiments in this age of the coronavirus, I have seen more of my community speaking up about racial injustices. Some of these folks that previously shamed others for being “SJWs” and “snowflakes” are now engaging in discourse about racism in our communities and encouraging others to do the same. I was happy that my community was becoming more outspoken and open to learning and growing. But when events like the murder of George Floyd occur, these folks suddenly become quiet.

“But when we were getting racially targeted, they didn’t speak up for us!” It is easy for us to think about “us” versus “them” and it not being “my” problem. But at the end of the day, we are all trying to survive and overcome systems of oppression. We are all on the same side. People of Color, womxn, LGBTQ folk, and minorities — we are on the ‘losing side’ against the ‘winning side’ of white supremacy and patriarchy.

Systems of Oppression

The document here goes into detail about the Four I’s of Oppression. When we think about oppression, we can understand it using the above image.

  • There is internalized oppression that occurs in the individual, where the individual internalizes the idea that they are inferior and undeserving of respect.
  • Interpersonal oppression occurs between individuals, where one individual may believe they are better than another, and mistreat those they view as inferior.
  • Institutional oppression occurs at a larger level. No longer between individuals but instead between groups, one group has control and their beliefs are embedded in institutions in society — e.g. law making systems, police forces, education systems.
  • Ideological oppression operates based on the idea that one group is better than another. These are ideas that are shared culturally in society and then are elaborated in institutions, interpersonally, and individually.

I bring up the point from the show about “The losing side is my side” because we are all on the same side — the losing side. Under the systems of oppression we are currently in and white supremacy, we are all losing. Individuals are continuously aggressed, murdered, stereotyped, and more within the current system that we occupy. Sure, there may be moments of benefitting off of these systems, but those moments are ephemeral and fleeting.

What is needed most is recognizing our biases and reflecting on how we can grow as individuals and be better allies for each other. This includes reflecting on how we can support our communities to grow alongside us. Only through rising up together can we overcome these oppressive systems, and that includes recognizing faults of those in our community as well. Only then can we be the ‘winning’ side. If an individual in your community perpetuates white supremacy and systems of oppression through their speech and actions, take a moment to reflect and acknowledge your faults together. Avoiding discourse about negative topics and mistakes only further promotes oppression and reinforces oppressive systems. Acknowledging mistakes and analyzing them helps us grow to not make those mistakes again in the future.

Below I have included some resources on social media and other internet sources that may be helpful to consider. I am by no means an ‘expert’ on this topic and am an individual that is learning and growing as well. My use of the terms “winning side” and “losing side” are also by no means a way for me to belittle minorities, but rather a way for us to conceptualize how white supremacy, patriarchy, and systems of oppression screw us all over at the end of the day. My writing of this post has been a part of my learning process and I hope that these resources and my dialogue has inspired some reflection and learning of your own.


Other Resources

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