“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, None but ourselves can free our minds Won’t you help to sing, These songs of freedom?, ‘Cause all I ever have, Redemption songs” Bob Marley
“They say you can’t know a man until you walk a mile in his shoes, but you can’t walk in my shoes, you know why? I walk barefoot.” FeatherLeaf
There is something to be said about oppression, it takes a psychological toll on both the oppressor and the oppressed.
The history of the United States is one of chattel slavery and genocide. The indigenous peoples of this land and people who descended from the slaves stolen from Africa have a different psychological makeup than those who identify with the European majority. Furthermore, the reality is, that the oppression of these groups has never stopped. There is systematic racism deeply embedded in the system, which works to keep the oppressed down.
Historically the Native Americans were a noble people who fell victim to the lies and evils of the settlers. The United States government made over five hundred treaties with the Native Americans. The government has maliciously and flagrantly violated every single one of them, and to this day they do not honor their word. As such the Native Americans have been made ‘outcasts’ in their own land. They do not even have self-determination on their reservations. This has been manifested in various ways, such as taking away their children to attend schools, the forbiddance to speak their native languages or practice their own religions, to governing or enforcing laws on their own land.
For African American slaves the reward for the blood, sweat, and tears that they invested into the system was rewarded with a penniless ejection into the Jim Crow society. There was not even forty acres and a mule as a reward. To this day racism is manifested. Whether it is from the massive incarceration of young ‘black’ men, the government’s efforts to pump in heroin and crack cocaine into the inner city, or police brutality and legal lynchings, the terror is real.
I cite these historical truths and show the present oppression by the system to point out that the suffering and racism is far from over. A simple drive in my state of New Jersey shows this oppression. When I drive in the parts that the majority is ‘white’ I see nice houses with large lawns. When I arrive in the ‘hood’ I see people packed together in dilapidated conditions. As far as the Native Americans are concerned their small land where they live has been badly poisoned. The Ramapough Lenape Nation has been poisoned by benzene and other harmful chemicals, so much that life expectancy has been reduced considerably.
It is hard to climb up when forces are pushing you down. The United States has never come to terms with their evil. They justify their ugly crime of genocide by presenting some glorious quest of god called ‘manifest destiny.’ In likewise fashion African Americans are subject to the lie of the ‘White man’s burden’ where the superior ‘whites’ had some obligation to instruct their darken kin. Everytime in school when American history is taught it is molesting the wounds of the oppressed peoples.
As a result, the people who are oppressed have drawn together in a tighter bond than their oppressors. When there is a funeral in the inner city the turn out is always tremendous, the churches are packed. Furthermore, they address one another as ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ considering each other family. I have seen many impoverished people sharing the little that they have.
Whenever people of the inner city or the reservations organize to emancipate themselves they are met with bitter oppression. Whether it was the Black Panthers, MOVE, AIM, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X or others they have been met with brutal violence from the states. In this fashion, the movement of racial oppression mirrors the movement of economic oppression, as those seeking to help the poor by changing the system have been met with deadly violence as well.
The only answer to this problem is the solidarity of all people. Racism is a taught attribute. Innocent children don’t display prejudice, it is something that is learned. The roots of racism are found in economics. Oppression is very profitable when it means getting labor for nothing or stealing vast resources. Today, through racism dividing workers, the owners can extract labor at a very low rate.
On the oppressor’s side, they demonstrate great fear. They fear that the evil they inflict on others will be turned on them, just as the slave owners feared that slaves would rebel and kill them. The people guilty of the oppression know exactly what they are doing.
So in the oppression, both sides suffer. It is up to us as individuals to tear down the walls that divide us. To treat everybody in our lives with the love, compassion, and dignity they deserve as a human being, regardless of race. To understand that we see life from different realities is a necessity as well.
Please check out this book of poetry called “Poet To The Poor, Poems Of Hope For The Bottom One Percent.” It is a book that energizes the struggle against oppression by celebrating historical and everyday heroes of my life. https://amzn.to/2KJ508F