In discussing racism and sexism, we came to the realization that to be black is to be male and to be female is to be white. In this framework, the black female is left out. We see evidence of other groups being left out as well when we study other structures of oppression. Often within oppressed groups, hierarchies and power dynamics are created such that those in power in a sense define the entire group.
For instance, consider homophobia as a structure of oppression. When I think of homophobia, I often think of the victim as a white male. This is probably partially because often the images that I encounter of victims who are speaking out against the system are white males. For a variety of reasons, these individuals have the power to define the group’s identity and the group’s goals. In recent years, a major platform for this group has been marriage rights. However, this is not recognized by every person within the homosexual community as the most important or pressing matter for the group. For the young Asian gay male who is not considering marriage, but instead wants the ability to hold hands with his significant other, protection is a much more important matter. Yet, his concerns may be swallowed up by the group. Furthermore, those with power and the capital have the ability to define the most important matter. Many people recognize that these hierarchies within oppressed groups create an unfair and unjust system. How then do we work to ensure that every person feels that his or her needs are met in the group? To get to each individuals unique experience, further divisions are necessary, but where do the divisions stop?
In my naivety, I would like to believe that an oppressed group would be where one could find the most solidarity and concern for each individual’s well-being. However, I now realize that the structure of oppression creates competition amongst the oppressed. The oppressed person must compete to have his or her concerns heard and desires met by the oppressor. In this regard, each oppressed person might naturally feel that his or her demands are more important than the next person’s. However, my hope in the future is that oppressed people do not feel pressure to rank their experiences being oppressed. Instead, the oppressor will recognize and feel shame that he or she is oppressing and cease oppressing. Until then, I hope that a culture of solidarity, instead of competition can be created. Such that oppressed people are able to go to other oppressed people and find strength that they are not alone.