In our politically correct society, admit it or not, oppression reigns. We are hit daily with politically correct sentiment in an attempt not to offend anyone. Some work places mandate anti-oppressive trainings. I am of the opinion – if I am allowed to express it, let alone have one – that anti-oppressive training and political correctness are both offensive and oppressive.
Anti-oppression, or anti-oppressive practice, stems from the social work field and states that it is an “attempt to acknowledge oppression in societies, economics, cultures, and groups, and to remove or negate the influence of that oppression.”
I would share the concept that judging, criticizing, condemning, and excluding people based on race, colour, sexuality, religion, or nationality is wrong. However, there are some anti-oppressionists who tout a level of “acceptance” beyond logic. At this end of the spectrum are those who state it isn’t even acceptable to ask someone, “So, where are you from?” because it creates a divide and assumes that the person isn’t from the same area as you. Really? From this basis, a culture of drones and clones would seem to be the end goal.
I once asked an anti-oppressive activist if it would be acceptable to one say that if individuals did not fit a certain societal mindset, should a public service employer be permitted to refuse the applicant. His response was a responding, “Yes. It is my hope that one day employers could ask, ‘Do you believe in this and that’ and if the answer is ‘No,’ then they are not hired.”
Wait a minute. I thought this was anti-oppression?
Being a white male, I have been reminded repeatedly that I have a position of privilege. Really? If anti-oppression is about breaking down barriers, why am I labeled? I didn’t elevate this status, I didn’t place myself under this umbrella label, I didn’t seek to have this privilege. YOU labeled me! By all accounts, that would be considered oppressive.
Within the past week, I was told that it’s healthy for me to acknowledge this privilege. What? The anti-oppression position seems to take the labeling of *people like me* as a right, but excludes all other labels citing them as offensive and oppressive. If labeling people is actually oppressive, the movement is counter-effective. In the effort to break down barriers, it puts one up.
How can we get to know each other or understand each other if we don’t acknowledge differences and ask questions? I will always ask questions. Understanding is how the barriers are brought down. We won’t understand unless we ask questions and get to know each other. I want to know your story. I’m not trying to be oppressive, I’m curious. I want to know you for who you are, not under the guise of a label, a title, or a brand.
I have maintained this position throughout the years of propaganda: First and foremost, people are people. Because of that simple universal truth, because of their backgrounds, their heritage, their experiences, and their differences – everyone has a story.