Over the next year, we will be launching four informational campaigns to explore the root causes of sexual violence: oppression. We will take a journey to understand oppression, our history, and the way these play out in our current lives and political climate. To read other parts of this series, click here, here, and here and follow us on social media at #AtTheIntersections.
Dear Garden State,
As we close this segment of NJCASA at the Intersections: Unpacking our History, we ask you to sit with us in the information we’ve explored the previous three months. The history we’ve been taught of a nation built on the heroics of those who defied an oppressive government has been whitewashed and sanitized, leaving out the atrocities committed in the birthing of this nation. Oppression as the root cause of sexual violence is clearly seen in the ways sexual violence has been used a tool for enslaving, colonizing, and displacing people. Sexual violence against historically marginalized and oppressed groups has not been taken seriously, and has often been justified as necessary or acceptable by those in power.
We are also a nation that has fought injustice, and we have an unending list of leaders to look to for evidence of that. However, we often either erased or whitewashed them and their contributions. We leave out discussion of radical action and focus only on the soft, peaceful actions that make us feel good about the role we play today in upholding society. We discuss the aspects of history that don’t force us to really think about if things have actually changed, by how much they have or have not changed, and how they have or have not changed.
We erase the contributions of People of Color, LGBTQ+ leaders, of Native and Indigenous people. We owe it to them to step out of our comfort zone and embrace the discomfort this kind of critical analysis requires.
By failing to critically analyze our history, we continue to contribute the same harmful norms our heroes so often fought against.
The information shared over the past three months is only a snapshot of the rich, and often painful, history that lies under the surface of what our mainstream education has given us. Under the simplistic, whitewashed, sanitized, and male-centered history we’re taught lies a deep ocean of communities resisting the oppression that has been forced onto them.
Diving deep into the richness underneath expands our perspectives of the rich communities that make up New Jersey. History is just as complex as the individuals who made it, and must be understood and analyzed as such for us to gain the most learning possible from our past. History can inform us of trends, human behavior, and political and social issues that play out in our modern lives. Drawing the parallels between the lives we live now, and the lives our ancestors lived informs us of how to respond when injustice occurs. We must know how marginalized voices have been erased from history, how institutions were designed to privilege dominate groups, and the dynamics that occur just before major cultural change. All of this informs us on how to respond when the same patterns happen in our modern lives. We are not doomed to repeat the same mistakes. We are not doomed to cause the same suffering our ancestors did, ancestors who justified their actions in many of the same ways modern-day oppressors do.
Embrace the possible learning if we expand our understanding of history, and how our world was made, to include those things that scare us. How might that change us? How might that change our decisions and actions? How might that benefit the spaces we occupy, and help us move toward ending sexual violence? We are not personally responsible for the harm committed by those who came before us. We are responsible for understanding how those harms affect our modern world and working to change it. An informed person is a powerful person. An informed community is a world-changing community.
The NJCASA Team
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