I’m OK With Oppression, As Long As You Don’t Mess With My Television
“Today, we have no political or national will to end injustice.”
The problem with this statement is that there are people in this country who believe that there are no injustices. Seriously.
But every issue we face as a nation, comes down to some form of discrimination and many just don’t see it that way. Instead, most see our call of injustices as an excuse.
You can look through my Facebook timeline and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Growing up in a conservative, rural town in New Mexico, most of the families appeared to have the same things, same experiences. Disparities in wealth, health, etc existed, but as a young child I didn’t see it and no one was really there to tell me otherwise. It wasn’t until I left for college and graduate school and my work with communities across the country the last fifteen years, that helped me to think critically and see injustices for what they really were.
Yes, we have choices. But our choices are predetermined by who we are as a people because it is embedded in our society. Not one person in this country can tell you what justice looks like, because not one person has ever seen it. While people continue to internalize and justify racism and discrimination, we will never see it, at least not in my lifetime.
Our upbringing didn’t help us either.
During my EMERGE NM class this week, I learned something from our instructor, jona olsson. It is something I’ve known for a long time, but I could never put it into words. She couldn’t have put it any other way:
“we are expert scholars in the propaganda our parents taught us.”
Powerful, right? I mean, really. Think about that statement for a second.
Not to blame my parents for everything, but we’ve been taught so many things from generations before us, particularly on how we treat other people and how we’re supposed to be treated and we can’t seem to shake it. Thinking about it this weekend, I go back to comments and statements made by family and friends overtime, stereotypes they hold to be true, and it makes me angry. So angry, I choose to not surround myself around that as much as possible. But Saturday night’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial didn’t do anything to lessen this feeling.
The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida is the dumbest piece of state legislation I have ever read (we’ll leave Texas law out of this conversation, because Texas is just another freak of nature). The law is one thing we need to argue about, however to see people sit back and say that Travyon Martin, a young black kid, was not targeted and discriminated against by George Zimmerman, a known violent person and racist, is absolutely outrageous. The verdict wasn’t so much the surprise, it was the shock and awe I felt from those who decided to come out in support of the murderer’s actions and characterization of Travyon Martin.
With the character assassination of the murdered child, the quote above brought it home to me the night we found out the verdict. I knew George Zimmerman would not be convicted. I knew because 1) Stand Your Ground is way too broad and 2) our justice system in this country is jacked. What I was not prepared for, however, was the utter carelessness of loss of life from those around me, especially from communities of color, who were ok with the verdict or did a *shoulder shrug*, like it was no big deal. Some said, “get over it.”
Get over it? As a person of color, we are devalued in our country because of who we are; the color of our skin, our language, what we wear and even our name, and yet we defend the system that is built to keep us oppressed? What the “get over it” people did, was show me that once again, they have drunk the kool-aid of oppression. They actually believe that there is no such thing as injustice in this world and that we each have control of our own destiny and that those with privilege are actually good people and looking out for the best of us. Racism is over. GET OVER IT!
I remember a story my dad tells me and although he means well, when he tells it, it really infuriates me. My father was a farmworker for all of his life until retirement over a decade ago. During his career, he worked for a gentleman here in Lake Arthur, New Mexico, a farm owned by a family that my dad had strong ties to. To say that my dad was loyal, is an understatement. He was so loyal that one day, one of the owners of the farm came by where my dad was burning weeds along the area where he was farming. The owner fell into the burning brush and my father jumped in after him and saved his life. My dad insisted that this man go to the hospital while my dad stayed behind, letting his own burns heal on their own. The infuriating part about this narrative is that when my dad tells this story, he shares it in a way that makes him nostalgic for those days. You know, the good ole’ days? What he never mentions, or does not want to argue, is that his boss never provided him basic health care, he worked six days a week, from 6a to 6p, and managed acres upon acres of farmland on his own. When he retired, he was so proud to have learned that his former boss hired three guys to do what he had done on his own! For him and my family, this “built character.” Sure, it did! But the toll it must have taken on my dad physically. This story also reinforces this mentality that we we don’t deserve to be treated fairly and equally. So when I bring this up, I’m told to not say more.
It’s just an excuse.
When you pass this farm that my dad managed for so long, it’s no longer the beautiful land he once cultivated. Instead, the land is unkept, without nourishment, and saddens my father each and every time he passes through. The owners of this land are now extremely wealthy, living off the money they made after selling the water rights to the farm my dad worked so hard for.
I love my dad. I love him because he worked hard to make a better life for me and my family. But his hard work also lead me to question the system and think critically about what and how we are treated. We are two very different generations and we see the world differently. What he sees as loyalty and being a good hired hand and worker, I see as an employer taking advantage of a man and exploiting him to get what they could out of him.
When I tell my dad that this is an “injusticia” it aggravates him in the same way others treat the idea of injustice all across this country.
It’s just an excuse.
The murder of Trayvon Martin, the attack on women’s reproductive rights, the nativism we hear and see during immigration debate and the justification we make for “random” acts of violence are consequences of a misogynistic society. We refuse to see it for what it is: oppression.
Racism and discrimination may not be as obvious as it was in our history books for many American’s, but to say that it doesn’t happen, especially from people of color, makes it even more impossible to initiate a national or political will to make our society better.
It’s ok to talk about it. It’s ok to say we have problems in this country and that we need to make necessary steps to figure it all out. But I worry that we may have to go through a series of challenging events before the “get over it” group finally realize that they were wrong all along.
They came for everyone else and you didn’t care. Who will be defend you when they come for you?