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 about this series click here. To read the first section, Unpacking our History, click here and here. For tips on caring for yourself through this journey, click here.
Dear Garden State,
At NJCASA and within the anti-sexual violence movement, we often talk about oppression as being the root of all power-based violence, including sexual violence. We understand that in order to completely prevent and end sexual violence, we must eradicate oppression. This means that all our work must come from an anti-oppression framework, which includes ongoing education to understand what oppression is.
Oppression exists for the sole purpose of subjecting one group for the benefit another, essentially creating two groups that are differently impacted by the same set of structures and systems: the group that is harmed by oppression, and the group that benefits from it. This second group, the one which benefits, has what’s referred to as “privilege.” Conversations about privilege can often lead to defensiveness, frustration, even anger, making it one of the harder aspects of anti-oppression work to talk about. Many people struggle to understand what it means and how they have benefitted from it. It’s natural for people to feel uncomfortable when being told they have benefited unfairly, and it’s tempting for a person to want to stay inside the bubble of comfort and refuse to acknowledge their privilege. We live in a society that deeply values the myth of meritocracy. This leads us to falsely think that all our accomplishments can be credited solely to our hard work.
The reality is that a person’s position in life deeply influences what opportunities are available to them, how the broader society sees and responds to that person, and what we perceive their worth to be. All of this works together, influencing a person’s experience as they navigate the world.
A painful truth to admit is that opportunities are not equal, particularly when you have grown up with the privilege to believe they are.
Collectively, we are told that all people need to do is work hard, seek out opportunities, prove themselves, and everything will fall into place. The truth is far more complicated than that. Some of us have to fight against racial stereotypes from birth, some of us can’t afford to live in neighborhoods with good schools that boast a college track, some of us have to invest incredible amounts of time and energy in hiding our true identities to stay safe in communities that aren’t physically safe. These folks don’t have the privilege of simply ‘proving themselves’ because they have to focus on surviving.
In the coming months, we will explore what privilege is, how it’s present in our lives, and how it intersects with trauma and oppression. We acknowledge and appreciate that this may be difficult for many people who have never explored their own privilege, and we ask that you stay with us through that discomfort. This is a normal and expected response. Please know that discomfort is not the same as oppression or harm, and that as you move through it, you become a stronger ally. We will dig into what different aspects of privilege means and how they relate to the anti-sexual violence movement.
The NJCASA Team
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