Challenging Oppression

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

January 14, 2013


“Well, it was he who is responsible.”

The comment was made in reference to securing an amazing gift. The comment was made to undermine the talents of another. That’s the only relevance it had. It was a power play. It was said to diminish the power of another under the guise of inflating the power of the observer.

I’ve seen a lot of that lately. Comments are made to chastise another, under the pseudonym of trying to better our … something. But, as I reflect, it’s not. It’s not about that at all. All those little comments are doing is bringing other people down.

I get really annoyed, to the point where I can’t hold my tongue, when I notice that. I recognize it’s a fine line between. One has tried to argue that I am caught up in my own judgments of righteousness. Maybe there is truth to that. Maybe I am too righteous for my own good. I can’t decide that. All I can speak to is when I can’t hold my tongue, and there is a consistent theme.

The theme was named as I was trained to be a hotline volunteer. We dealt with people on the spectrum of crisis, who were facing terrible threats to their homes. The degree of threat varied. Sometimes people were being evicted. Sometimes people felt like their personal property was in jeopardy. Sometimes people felt like their neighbors were responsible for all the ills that they experienced. We were instructed to listen for these statements and call them out as proper. We were instructed to do it in a compassionate method, which is something I struggle with when the person who says such ill will is close to me. Usually it’s because I’m so flabbergasted that this person who is close to me could say something I deemed so cruel.

The first instance was earlier this year when a family member made a racist comment, in front of my son. I knew the conversation was edging along that way, but when the comment came up… I was in shock. I left the table, and my actions were questioned, at which point I said, “For the blatant racism.” But, I was stewing, and I couldn’t hold my tongue, so I went back and scolded, loudly, the offender, in front of everybody. I was whisked away shortly afterwards.

Another occasion was actually at work, and more private. A co-worker publicly chastised another over email. I was confused because it wasn’t clear what was going on. The co-worker later told me the motivation  looking for understanding, I think. When she finished  I asked her if she wanted my opinion. I explained that the chastisement didn’t make a lot of sense and it came off as cruel and unkind.

And, then, of course there was the incident that has me thinking about this even more.

So, I need work on the compassionate end of things.

But, we want this world to be a better place.

Today marked the 50th anniversary of Gov. George Wallace’s infamous inaugural address where he defended segregation and racism ending with, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” If it weren’t many, many people challenging the oppressions spewed in this infamous speech, where would we be today?

I may not have been the most compassionate in my challenging “oppressions”, but I’m not sorry for calling out the little injustices I’ve witnessed. I’m only sorry for the way I might have done it.


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