Oppression comes in two forms: internal and external. The racial tensions of today are highlighting this in a clear way.
Neo-Nazis are protesting while Black Lives Matter groups are marching. Antifa riots while children are murdering one another in school. Senators defend the violence of drug cartels while threatening law-abiding citizens. Our president repeatedly reminds the world of our potential for nuclear violence. Oppression is everywhere.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe that “defending the oppressed” is one of our most important tasks (Luke 4:18). With how much oppression exists within our world today, sorting the offending parties and identifying a solution is becoming more and more difficult. Especially when oppression comes from within. External oppression is easier to identify but still very difficult to solve.
Police brutality, defined here as “excessive, unwarranted, and driven by racial or class prejudice,” has typically been inflicted against minorities.
While I understand that police officers are in stressful situations and that they must consider their own safety when dealing with perpetrators, their preemptive use of violence has too often resulted in the unwarranted murders of numerous minorities who were unarmed.
I understand that hindsight is 20/20 and it is easier to see that a threat never existed after the fact, but there are too many cases of extreme over-reactions of white (ethnic majority) police officers brutalizing black (ethnic minority) civilians.
This is external oppression and should never come from a government official against a civilian. This causes the populace to perceive that the oath to protect and serve seems to only extend to the color and/or class of the officer.
But as every action has an equal and opposite reaction, the communities that respond to police brutality with violence against the police worsen their own situation. Not only do they reinforce the racist mentality within the minds of some police officers to expect the worse from the minority in question, they also remove the rule of law from their own communities.
The police presence within poorer minority communities dwindles, allowing oppressive groups to take advantage of the defenseless population; causing crime to skyrocket and violence to swell. However, if and when the police step in, more often than not the oppressed and the oppressors unite against the police and internal oppression continues.
One of the major talking points for Republicans is that welfare oppressively holds minorities in a place of dependency.
Republicans argue that Democrats want the poor minorities to stay on welfare because it keeps the welfare recipients uneducated, suppressed, and continually voting for their welfare providers. If this is true then the oppression of the poor is coming from within the party that the poor are voting for – internal oppression.
Similarly, it is argued that the violence and destruction caused by minority groups like Black Lives Matter has been inflicted primarily upon their own people. The looting and vandalism has focused on the poorer neighborhoods that BLM is intended to represent. Again, internal oppression.
On the other hand, Democrats argue that Republicans are focused on prioritizing the power of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. In this view, the rich corporations and Wall-Street type lobbyists manipulate the government to consolidate their ever-growing power while the rest of the country suffers.
Power is a zero-sum game. If one group gains more it must be at the expense of another. If the wealthy are gaining more and more, then the poor must be losing. This would be external oppression of the rich against the poor.
To the Democrats, the poor must be empowered at the expense of the rich (reversal of the oppression), through increased taxes on the wealthy and giving the money to the poor (welfare).
The problem today is that all of the oppression has reached a tipping point of tolerability.
Everyone, from the far left to far right, has had enough with the status quo and will not tolerate the equation any longer. The issue is that neither side wants the other’s solution to be implemented. Also, neither side bothers to see the issue from the other’s perspective.
Victimization is dividing the warring parties further and isolating the groups until they are unable to perceive any goodness in the other. Neither is completely innocent nor are they completely guilty. Some form of equilibrium must be found if we are to progress and reach peace.
I believe the problem to be highly political.
Our political system was designed to provide the majority with the responsibility to lead while protecting the minority from having their rights infringed or violated. However, both sides have manipulated their donor base to consolidate their power and wealth.
Democrats, while not always and not the only ones, have manipulated poor minorities and kept them in a cycle of dependency. Republicans, while not always and not the only ones, have sold out to corporations at the expense of their constituents. Politicians, while not always, sell out their purpose to stay in power.
The professionalization of politics has been one of the worst evolutions in our country.
The business of government has twisted to serve the leaders rather than the constituents.
Politicians pander rather than represent. The fundamentals of our country are intentionally eroded to profit our “leadership.”
To restore the integrity of our political system, I argue that we should do away with political parties. Every politician should be independent and unaffiliated. Then, and probably only then, would senators actually work for their state and not just the Republicans/Democrats in their state. Congress would work for the people and not the corporations that lobby them. All campaigning would have to be grass-roots. Donors in one state couldn’t affect the outcome of elections in another.
Our representative republic would actually be representative of the people. If we did away with the aisle in the capitol, then (hopefully) our elected officials would work for what’s best for the country and not their own side or themselves.
At the very least, it would be more difficult for the politicians to effectively unionize against the country, as that is essentially what the political parties have become: political unions.
Resetting the political structure will not solve all forms of oppression within our country. But it should be able to minimize the ability of politicians to oppress/suppress the people and allow us to focus on the isolated communities that need healing.
Culturally isolated whites make up the majority of white supremacist groups usually because of their limited exposure to other ethnicities and cultures. Their leaders prey upon these racial fears and stir up the people into neo-Nazi and KKK groups.
In the 1960s, civil rights groups hoped that integration would familiarize the previously segregated races with one another and bring about harmony. While this might have been successful, people often found ways to re-segregate themselves from one another. Suburbs developed and private schools kept kids “safe” from outside influences.
Familiarization never fully succeeded. However, this was partially due to forced integration, which infringes upon self-determination and freedom of choice.
People must want to integrate before it can be achieved. Familiarization is the true merit of diversity, but it can only be taught through a desire for love, rather than at gunpoint.
Lower-economic, urban neighborhoods are the hotbeds of minority upheavals. Gangs keep poor minorities oppressed while their leaders stir up anti-police emotions. Schools in these neighborhoods are notoriously inadequate, and the cycle of poverty continues as opportunities for life outside of the ghetto are few.
Nobody wants to live in such a system, and so it is understandable when the oppressed minorities cry out for a better life. Their leadership, however, redirects the righteous rage at ineffective targets: political competitors rather than the policy makers, the police rather than the gangs, the wealthy rather than the welfare system.
If minorities were to be empowered, rather than manipulated, then we could see actual improvement. Improve educational opportunities by improving the school systems (or giving the right to choose a school through voucher programs). Improve economic opportunities that encourage job growth rather than government dependency.
Oppression has two other forms: covert and overt. These frequently line up with the internal and external.
Police brutality is obvious and from the outside. However, I think the secret oppression of one’s own people is possibly even more malicious as it is less likely to be addressed, continuing unseen and unchecked.
If we can, as a society, move towards a position of open equality where “people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” where minority and majority won’t be classified by ethnicity because we are all recognized as ethnically human, then hopefully our society can then suppress oppression to extinction.
* Lawrence Zadok is an international development worker specializing in agricultural education. He has worked and lived in Haiti, India, Afghanistan, Mozambique, Ghana, and Ukraine teaching farmers improved methods of production.
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