Oppression Doesn’t Go Both Ways


By Phoenix Calida

The problem with reverse -isms (racism, sexism, etc) is that they imply everyone is starting from an equal place. Of course, members of marginalized groups can be bigoted or prejudiced. But marginalized groups don’t have the same structural ability to behave oppressively. 

Saying “racism goes both ways” or “women can be sexist too” etc. etc. actively ignores existing power dynamics. It also leads to victim blaming because structural oppression should be able to be overcome *if* the victims are actually societal equals to the person being an asshole. 

If racism was truly a mutual 2 way thing, there would be equal incidents of oppression. The consequences of bigotry would go both ways.

So if the black community actually hated white people and decided to reinforce stereotypes that say white people are dishonest, bad workers, poor students etc. If the black community refused to hire, give raises, or allow white people into black universities, what would happen?

Most companies are not owned by black people. Most hiring managers are white. Most professors are white. Most supervisors are white. Most CEO’s are white. Most college professors are white, most admissions counselors are white.

So white people would still be able to find jobs with white employers the majority of the time. White people can submit resumes to white hiring managers, and have white supervisors. White people will still be accepted to university. Even if somehow the black community made a collective effort to “make racism go both ways” it would never happen because there is no systemic power.

On the other hand, we have so many negative stereotypes about black people, most folks can’t even recognize the damage they cause anymore. Now if there’s an underlying idea black people are bad students, how many admissions counselors and professors will treat black students differently? How many white hiring managers ignore resumes with “black names”? How many bosses will find reasons to dislike black employees? What happens if the white community overall decides to exclude black people?

So this isn’t a “both ways” issue. There is a power imbalance. Ignoring that imbalance doesn’t help people of color, it makes it harder for marginalized groups to overcome adversity, because we all believe the myth that “everyone faces racism” even though that racism is not intentionally designed to prevent white people as a class from moving up the social ladder.

We have an entire range of words and ideas, let’s use them to actually define and solve problems instead of being lazy and acting like every form of oppression goes both ways.

13 thoughts on “Oppression Doesn’t Go Both Ways”

  1. Racism: “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

    Racism absolutely can (and does) go both ways. Oppression maybe not, but certainly racism 100% does.

    1. There’s a difference between prejudice and racism. There’s no such thing as being racist against white people in America genius.

      1. 1- One’s skin color doesn’t entitle or bar them from doing anything.

        2- You don’t know if he’s white.

        3- He didn’t define the word, he quoted its definition, which is a very widely accepted definition of that word.

  2. Unfortunately the largest constituents whom are racist towards the black population are blacks themselves. They created their silos within all genre of society ridiculing and promoting the stereotypes, namely in rap music. Once the black population can accept their roots and realize they are their worst enemy, then and only then, will they progress.

  3. I agree with Bob. These terms are not interchangeable and we need to be much more careful about the context which we use them in.

    To the author’s point, there is also a HUGE component of population to keep in mind here! Sure, white people may hold those positions more often due to oppression (there is not better example than congress with a deplorable lack of diversity). But keep in mind that “white people” also make up over 70% of the population. So there is an inherent factor of sheer statistics taking place as well.

  4. In regard to “isms” such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, and so forth; the determinant factor is the structure of society- not the individual. This is not to say the individual has no effect- individuals are responsible for racialized biases and can be supportive of racist institutions, but when we talk about and analyze racism what we are doing is examining the institutional makeup of society and how it effectively privileges select populations at the expense of marginal populations. So, looking at the U.S. for example, what constitutes racism is a structural establishment that excludes or disadvantages people of color while providing advantages for white populations. This does not have to be a self-conscious phenomenon, indeed it often isn’t but many times racist institutions are the residual result of overtly racist policies and systems (such as slavery and Jim Crow laws). And none of this is speculative or vague, we can see the symptoms of racist institutions just by glimpsing at statistical data such as the outrageous prison population that ranks as the world’s highest and is disproportionately comprised of people of color, large gaps in income distribution between whites and people of color, even larger gaps in wealth distribution between whites and people of color (which is much more important when we’re discussing matters of economic equity), extreme de facto segregation between whites and people of color (which affects the quality of education, health services, etc), and I don’t think I need to beat this point in anymore- you get it.

  5. “Saying “racism goes both ways” or “women can be sexist too” etc. etc. actively ignores existing power dynamics.”

    You’re confused. It doesn’t “actively ignore existing poser dynamics.” It ignores your whizbang bullshit definition of racism, sexism, etc. As being necessarily linked to power.

    It’s amazing how many people who think of themselves as smart and educated can keep arguing idiotically on the use of a word they know for a fact is not understood to mean what they use it for.

    Are you not aware that anyone who hasn’t been wasting his years in humanities indoctrinated circles uses the word “racism” to designate exactly what the dictionnary definition of that word means?

    Are you not aware that the definition of racism as “racial prejudice + power” is basically just a stipulative redefinition.

    You’d have much more success talking to people about systemic oppression in a calm and rational way if you retards didn’t chose to use a word as accusatory and inflamatory as racis, aaword of which the meaning is already well understood and integrated by the public at large.

    Somehow I can’t see this equivocation as innocent.

    “I know you didn’t spend years learning about MY cool definition of racism which I only learned about in university, but i’mma call you racis anyways and i’ll act as if you were a special kind of retard for not getting my point”.

    Also, you do know, don’t you, that all these nice theories about power dynamics and systemic oppression are not fact in any way, right? That there is legitimate criticism of them and that you can’t treat them and all of their assumptions, or the conclusions you derive from them, as axiomati, self-evident truth that everyone surely knows.

    1. So you didn’t bother to read past the first line then. Or even the title. The whole point is that oppression only goes one way, and people who say “racism, sexism, etc goes both ways” are trying to make both equal, when they inherently are not. Use the colloquial definition, it doesn’t matter, saying that racism goes both ways is an entirely meaningless statement because in one direction it destroys lives and keeps an entire population in poverty and prison, and in the other direction it, at most, hurts someone’s feelings. Regardless of how you define racism, racism against white people results in nothing.

      1. I did read the whole thing.

        A thing and its effect are two different things. The fact you think the net effect of racism in one direction is comparably insignificant to the effect of racism in the other direction doesn’t mean it’s not there and that it “doesn’t go both ways”.

        Pretending that all that matters is the systemic oppression that results from racism and not racism itself when making a statement about racism is misleading, and dishonest. It gives some people license to keep racist attitudes and is guaranteed to lead to more race-based injustices in the event that they do manage to end up with some power in their hands. It also only serves to create division and perpetuate more racism from the other side.

        Anyone who wants to be honest in their assessment will judge every person according to the same ethical standard. This whole “racism doesn’t go both ways” gimmick is just another way of saying “I’m entitled to be a shit person and not work on my own prejudice because I see myself as a victim”. It’s an excuse. It’s a way of putting the whole burden of acting decently on others while not subjecting oneself to the same standard as they expect or even demand of others.

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