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The Oppressor-Victim Mentality

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

"Whether he is a Christian or he is a Muslim; as long as he is Black and a member of the negro community, the white public thinks that the white policeman is justified in going in there and trampling on that man's civil rights and on that man's human rights. They can go in and question, brutalize, murder unarmed innocent negroes, and the white public is gullible enough to back them up. This makes the negro community a police state. This makes the negro neighborhood a police state. It's the most heavily patrolled, it has more police in it than any other neighborhood, yet it has more crime in it than any other neighborhood. How can you have more cops and more crime?

-Malcolm X

We are all human regardless of color, and in this life, we want to protect, feed, and nurture our family so that they can carry on our legacy for generations. As a minority, we understand the hardships that we face based on our skin color but we work hard anyway to thrive in a system that we know is not for us. Currently, I live in a black low-income majority neighborhood in Southeast DC. I am close to my neighbor and have been heavily involved in my community since September of last year. DC, as a whole, is prospering economically and has expanded public services throughout the city to help a population in a high-cost area. However, those amenities seem to stop at the Anacostia River where east of it is made up of more black and brown people.

I am here to suggest that communities “East of the River” are the most neglected areas in DC. East of the River has no hospital, failing schools, two grocery stores, no access to jobs, high police presence and often forgotten about politically. Conversely, people are wondering why our health is horrible, why our kids are failing, why crime is so high, and why so many people are homeless here. The most simplistic answer is that people do not want to do right for themselves and would rather be lazy. I remember when then-candidate Barack Obama told a mostly black audience that “you need to pick yourself up by your bootstraps”. While black people in the audience ate it up and cheered him on, the question would then be how can anyone pick themselves up by their bootstraps if they don’t have boots in the first place?

I fell for the trap as well, where I would mostly blame my own people for their problems than years of oppression caused by society. Now, while I do believe everybody has a responsibility, there is a glass ceiling where minorities’ upward mobility stops at in order to protect the status of eurocentrism. Furthermore, I believe that politicians, white and black, do not invest in our impoverished black and brown neighborhoods unless they are gentrifying. However, the whole concept is frustrating when people of privilege and politicians are appalled at impoverished communities reacting to chronic problems exposed to them.

Whether it be the Baltimore Riots, Black Lives Matter marching, Native Americans protecting their land, or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem, these mass movements have always been painted as something dangerous to society. The oppressors are not only surprised but disgusted at how these movements operate regardless of their position. In my opinion, the movements are only controversial and painted negatively in order to protect their status in society.

Furthermore, they don’t want to go down memory lane of how white privilege began. This is what I call an oppressor-victim mentality: When we speak the truth we have to fully understand that humans are going to protect their interest before they do for everybody else. If it becomes a group, that group will make sure that they have a seat at the table before anyone else. What they are failing to see, however, is that said group at the seat of the table must face the consequences of their actions when they deny access to another group.

Institutional racism is alive and well and has rejected many minority families’ access to wealth. Examples include redlining, denying small business loans, disparities in every sector, high incarcerations, etc. Not only has this been done institutionally, but violently as well. Racist rioters burning down black wall street, bombing a black neighborhood in Philly in 1985, bombing of black churches, police killing unarmed black men: These are just a few examples. The church, the community and home-ownership are an intricate part of Black America, but they are far too often taken away to ensure black people remain at the bottom of society.

The ones in power make sure to suppress how their ancestors got them there in order to maintain the privilege that has been granted to them. They want to make it seem as if something is wrong with minorities, and that it is inherently their fault that they are unable to make progress. My dad always told me you cannot continue to poke a bear and expect nothing to happen. In that same breath, you cannot continue to neglect and disenfranchise a community and then play the victim when the people from those communities passionately bring those issues to your front desk.

East of the River has some of the hardest working families I have ever witnessed, yet they hardly have a strap on their boot to pick themselves up by. Now you have people, not only in DC but around the country as a whole, fighting the old guards in order to provide fair and equitable policies that address pressing issues in the most distressed communities. To have a real conversation about racial disparities and institutional racism, we have to understand how we got here in the first place. Minorities are not poor because they choose to be poor, and nobody in the black community came together and decided that we wanted to be at the bottom of every single sector in society. We have to be honest that racism is about power and keeping a specific demographic on top of the other. We have to understand that we all play a part in this. Moreover, if we want to have a conversation, we have to be honest instead of using stereotypes as a scapegoat for why society is the way that it is.

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