What do oppression and a broken toilet have in common? They both stink! Ha, ha, that is some great comedic skill, right? Nevermind, here is my true metaphor. When the toilet breaks there is a pretty easy to maneuver process for fixing it. You can use a toilet plunger and if it is worse than that, you call the plumber expert and she fixes it. It might cost you a lot, but in the end it is fixed and you don’t have to worry about it after that.
But, oppression doesn’t have a quick fix. You can’t call the expert and be done with it. I get the opportunity to do anti-racism/anti-sexism trainings throughout our state and also get called on to sit on various panels on the subject. It is a pleasure to be part of these ongoing conversations. Yet, there is one thing about these opportunities that I hate. In just about all of the conversations, someone will ask, “What is the solution?”. They aren’t asking it as a rhetorical question, or an ironic starter. They really want to know, how to fix oppression. For a long time I’ve answered this question by saying we need to increase anti-oppression education, build allies for the movement, focus on systemic and institutional change and/or increase the roads to access for equity building. I’ve tried to find that solid solution for us. If you ask me, who do we call, I have a long list of experts for you. The famous best seller authors and university darlings that will drop into town and give a lecture that creates thought and sometimes action, for a high price. Or, the regional trainers and consultants that will energize and educate for a smaller fee. And, I have the local nonprofit staff who have an analysis of local issues and mad skills to do a short anti-oppression training and also get you involved in the local causes. Still, they aren’t the solution.
There just isn’t a solution. I’m not saying, throw your hands up in the air, go sit in the corner and chew your hair because it is all hopeless. I’m saying, I can’t answer your question and I’m not gonna keep deluding myself or you that there is a quick fix–a call the expert, fix what is broke and only look back on the broken times when relaying the story. Why not? Because, here is what you’re really asking. “How do we (a nation) unlearn centuries of brainwashing that tell us groups in power are better and more deserving? And then, how do we act on that unlearning every single minute of every day to reverse it?” We haven’t even begun to know just how entrenched oppression is in our everyday thoughts. And, even though we know that all our institutions were formed from a racist and sexist foundation, we have no idea how to dismantle and rebuild those without the inherent bias. The solution isn’t a quick fix and even when we find progress we have to work continually to keep that going.
For many who are asking, “What is the solution?”, you’re actually asking, “When can I be done with this?”. We’re all looking for that pot of gold equity at the end of this long rainbow of marches, protests, trainings and advocacy. But, we just aren’t there, yet. Knowledge and understanding about oppression is actually a rare thing. For every one of you who showed up and are a part of dismantling oppression, there are 100,000 or more:
- Who didn’t show up;
- Who haven’t recognized there is a problem;
- Who think it isn’t as bad as we paint it;
- Who think if they are silent it won’t be bad for them;
- Who derail the conversation by forgetting the intersectionality of oppression;
- Who derail the conversation because they don’t want to feel guilty or examine their privilege; or
- Who want to go backwards from our progress.
There isn’t a solid response to that question. However, here is how I will answer it from now on, “Get woke. Stay woke. Wake somebody else.”