On “Recovering” from and “Weighing” Oppression

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

From adrienne maree brown’s Holding Change:

Transformative Justice/Resilience. Make room for the inevitable presence of socialized oppression. Keep a systemic view on it, even if it appears as individual behavior. Recover from oppression together by addressing it at the root. Seek understanding of what and who needs to be in the center of the struggle in the room, as all oppressions are usually present, but not equally weighted in each group.” (Emphasis in original).

There are so many elements of this little quote that I love. The recognition that oppression, socialize oppression is always there. That we need to “make room” for it, not to invite it in, I am guessing, but to account for it when we facilitate. And the element of connecting what appears individual and interpersonal with what may be more systemic. The idea of “recovering from” rather than resisting or challenging or dismantling. As if oppression is an illness or damage we need to recover or heal from, rather than something to resist/dismantle only. The recover term feels more constructive, warm and positive, it feels? And I love that it also emphasizes together. She does not differentiate between the oppressor and oppressed, not mentioning intersectionality or whatever other identities are in a space. Whatever it is, the invitation is to recover together.

Finally, I think the element of weighing oppressions and recognizing which oppressions and groups need to be centered in a particular context is really important. I do not think she means “equally weighted” in terms of balance of people, but in terms of context. For example, African Americans are among the groups who have historically faced an enormous amount of oppression at all levels. In my institution, though, most of the time, they are Americans and have more power than any Egyptian professor. However, when the murder of George Floyd happened, my African American colleagues became people whose experiences had to be centered and prioritized, and I remember how a conversation with one of them led to us collaborating to “recover from oppression” together with other people – this is how Socially Just Academia was born.

For the classroom context, it is so important when planning any activity to account for oppressions and imagine how you can address them. Part of it has to be at the pre-design phase of who helps you think through your teaching. Past students, diverse colleagues, diverse sources of new ideas for teaching? Parts in how you design it in ways to recognize inequity and strive to improve equity, and parts in responding to the moment where unexpected oppressions occur, how do you make the classroom a space for everyone to recover together and what might you doing term to keep healing from the damage of that moment? Everything in that quote is Intentionally Equitable Hospitality, and resonates with work Mia Zamora and I are doing to build on this concept. Stay tuned!!!

Featured image of abstract humans hanging onto scale from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/libra-pan-weigh-kitchen-scale-2071305/

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