Until the day that liberation is considered more critical than oppression, regimes like Trump will continue ruling the world: he is part of a pattern, not a moment
by David V. Goodwin
A little over two weeks ago, I was editing an article to post here on Stories Connect related to racism and white self-awareness. In it, I was discussing how as a white man, my waking up to white privilege and the white race identity entailed in its earliest stages a fair amount of internal turmoil. It wasn’t an easy process learning my race identity and privileges. It wasn’t pleasant coming to an understanding of how I unconsciously wield power, and how I perpetuate microaggressions through ignorance. Who wants to look at the parts of their character that are problematic, or even villainous?
The short answer is no one. No one wants to go through those honest moments of vulnerable awareness; no one wants to question their norms in the light of oppression. Every person wishes to believe they are good, some because they are tired and cannot envision any more self-critical work, some because they fear such work might require forfeiting some present comfort. But those who have enough self-awareness to actually catch oppressive tendencies practice self-awareness believing that doing so is more important than any past or present circumstance: that liberation is more critical than oppression.
But I can no longer publish an article about white U.S. America rationalizing its turmoil with oppressed communities as a labor pain of enlightenment. Perhaps one day that will be true, but considering the success of Trump and every added portent of a dangerous future in the days since, I cannot with a clean conscience state that anything is getting better.
Do not misunderstand me. I still will not follow the leads of others and criticize King’s claim of the arch of the universe bending towards justice. To do so would be to ignore the history of movements that have never ceased fighting to bring us to an age of equality and justice; indeed, to discard the words of King would be to ignore the apathy and complacency of an educated middle class, which contented itself with letting others to do the work of liberation.
What I mean to say is that white U.S. America has finalized its intentions with the election of this new president. It has fiercely scolded its siblings, like myself, who have asked that we collectively prioritize liberation despite the hard work. It has delivered a hard “no” to hearing the cries of oppressed people. It has refused to recognize our culpability in the violence necessary to amass privilege.
Were they the only enemy of the oppressed, however, tomorrow liberation would belong to all. I fear too many wish to continue consuming, continuing some semblance of U.S. normal, some happy escapes from reality, which the elites are glad to provide for us cheaply. The owners of our banks and the suppliers of our energy would much rather we binge a show on Netflix than spend our days calling them to complain about their support of DAPL, or even worse for them, to divest en masse.
It seems to me that if religion was the opiate of the masses in the nineteenth century, it is clear that consumerism is the opiate of the twenty-first.
What I mean to say is that white U.S. America has finalized its intentions with the election of this new president
We the people must stand to make choices now with every passing day that are critical to our collective future. Especially those who feel as though the system as it stands does not work must realize that the system is stronger than ever, only it is not designed for their success. That it was not designed for the success of an egalitarian future, but created to survive upon slavery and mass complacency. That it was not designed even in a time when pollution was considered and so has no regard for a future for any living thing on this planet.
That too many of us take what scraps of comfort fall from the tables of the elites, and, in fact, pay back to them what little we are given from them in order to survive. We are the dogs who beg at the table of capital, only we are forced to pay up to our masters portions of our food bowl in order to be given pieces of their luxuries.
How can we see that as natural? But I hear too many people justify this oppression by asking if there is anything better.
We know there is better. There is surplus. There is so much produced within this country that it rots without ever feeding a body. We actually pay people in order to survive in our houses, to have energy and water, to have fuel for transportation; we actually forfeit the freedom of our futures by incurring debt to pay for education to achieve any options at all, and still these are luxuries inaccessible to too many people worldwide.
Until the day that liberation is considered more critical than oppression, regimes like Trump will continue ruling the world: he is part of a pattern, not a moment. Those who can afford housing and electronics will continue enjoying them at the expense of broken indigenous bodies and an inhospitable climate. Those who can buy clothing will continue purchasing them through the blood, sweat, and poisoning of human bodies. Those who can attend college and succeed in their businesses will continue doing so in smaller and smaller numbers, amidst the anger of an ever-expanding lower class.
And those who think they can have a future in that world fool themselves at the expense of all things because such a world will not be sustained. Either we all move now to claim the world we know belongs to all, or we wait until the dog is too starved to beg. I pray the former because the day the starved dog grows tired of begging, the food of the masters will mix with blood.
The strategy of liberation...must be as persistent as it is collaborative
Violence is for oppressors and for the desperate, and though things seem bleak, we are not yet the desperate. Actions for liberation may require us to confront the violent tendencies of our oppressors, but if we do not return their violence we may invite some of them to our cause. If we claim our ends as liberation and not the destruction of any human life, perhaps there are still many people who will convert. Indeed, we know there are many waiting to decide.
The strategy of liberation must move like a net through water, catching up more and more people with every pass. It must be as persistent as it is collaborative. It must be as strategic as it is consistent. But most of all, it must be considered a most critical priority, now.
The future of all is in the balance.
ABOUT THE ESSAYIST
David V. Goodwin
is an M.Div. student at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He is also the Co-editor of the seminary newspaper and a student intern at University Church, UCC/DOC, in the neighborhood of Hyde Park. In his spare time, David helps organize seminarians for People's Lobby and practices graphic design and photography.
Photos by Christopher Flowers, Noah Dobin-Bernstein . Report uncredited images here.