Blackness, history & love · Gender · Political · Whiteness & racism

Seeing oppression and privilege

“The oppression I’m most aware of is gender. But that’s me and it probably says that I’m relatively more privileged along other axes”

This is a very important insight!

I am fed up of hearing that working class White guy saying sexism doesn’t exist and it’s class that oppresses us all too, but one bug I’ve noticed going around this week is an inability to to recognise the differences between axes of oppression. From my (er broadly anarchist) point of view, class oppression is very different to, for example, anti-Blackness, because the existence of a working class is abhorrent, so it makes no radical sense to be proud specifically of being working class, while celebrating Black identity is vital and powerful. (I suppose political Blackness and working classness are both oppressed identities that would disappear in anarchist utopia… does this undermine my argument totally?)

Anyway, seeing *But you’re ignoring THIS oppression/appropriating THIS struggle* from White feminists to Black women shows that we are forgetting that White supremacy constructs Black women as, for example, sexually deviant and mentally incompetent/emotionally unstable and so along axes of mental health and heteronormativity Black women are *starting from behind* and can’t summarily be judged to have privilege along them compared to White women.

This speaks to the need to unpack what racism is and does in relation to other social structures, maybe beyond the naming and narrating enabled by intersectionality. I read this post by Sara Salem and while I don’t feel I understand it very well yet, it definitely has me re-thinking…


2 thoughts on “Seeing oppression and privilege

  1. “the existence of a working class is abhorrent, so it makes no radical sense to be proud specifically of being working class, while celebrating Black identity is vital and powerful.” Yet Gramsci’s point is that ‘production’ should make workers of us all rather than observers; not only is there ‘nobility’ in work, as in taking responsibility for material well-being but, he would contend, valid ideas can not exist in a vacuum in which work is not undertaken. From that perspective it is not the working class that is abhorrent but the speculative/managerial class who value ideas more than work. Class, is bestowed upon us and though we can at least choose or struggle to leave by dint of rejection (easy if rich, fatal if poor unless upwardly mobile), most of us are stuck. As for “black identity being vital and powerful” I’m pretty sure there is no inherent difference in either power or vitality correlated to skin colour at the level of the individual and on a societal level in ‘white’ countries, it is the white majority who have the power.

    1. Thank you for this. My online self-directed education needs more critical help! When I wrote this post, I was drawing on what I thought was this amazing realisation I had come to after reading a brilliant anarchist article, but even as I was writing I felt there was something wrong here, some kind of unserviceable essentialism. Nonetheless I’m still musing on it. I need to locate my politics in bodies, looking for the signifieds of signs!

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