We Have Not Been Silent. Will You Listen?

ALL social justice problems are deeply interrelated and intertwined. You cannot liberate one group of people without liberating ALL people. And you cannot begin to understand the various forms of oppression all of us endure until you pick somewhere and get started, not by discussing “their problems” among “yourselves,” but by listening to what other people have to say about their own experiences.

Underneath, above, and around all oppression lie:
Capitalism: “profit” is obtained by paying people LESS THAN what their work earns–whoever started with more money can get even more by paying people less than what their labor brings back (and significantly less than they need to live).
Imperialism: this is ours now–you will be murdered, assimilated, and/or enslaved.
White Supremacy: white people sure are the best, most smart, most beautiful, accomplished people who ever existed! Just look at any (white) history book and everywhere in white culture for evidence of this “fact.”
Patriarchy: Men hold the power and women are largely excluded from power. Culture is male. Women are produced and taught to produce themselves for male consumption. Women do most of the labor for little to no pay, both inside the “home” and out.
Heteronormativity: humans, by birth, fall into two distinct genders (male & female) that compliment each other and carry a host of inherent traits. And therefore, only heterosexual relationships make any sense or are “natural,” and any other experience or expression of sex, gender, or sexual orientation is DEVIANT and should be punished and/or “corrected.”

If you spend any time at all actually listening to people talk about their experiences and their oppression, you too will see the underlying structure of all oppression and how it is interrelated and intertwined.

Recommended Reading (I have attached PDFs to make it easy!):

“Coalition Politics: Turning the Century” by Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Coalition Politics -Bernice Johnson Reagon

An argument that you MUST fight all forms of oppression at once, addressed to people who could loosely be addressed as follows:

“You must believe that believing in human beings in balance with the environment and the universe is a good thing. You must believe–and I’m being biased and bigoted here again–that having a society that doesn’t solve everything with guns is a good thing. You must believe that when they sell bread to Russia and then go to El Salvador and say that the biggest problems in El Salvador is Russia, that they’re pulling your leg. And you must not let them pull your leg. There are some people who have a problem with people killing people, and people robbing people, and people raping people, and people exploiting people, and people not giving people jobs because of the way they look and because of the way they’re born. Some of you are in here trying to change all of that right now. The thing that must survive you is not just the record of your practice, but the principles that are the basis of your practice.”

“How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa.
How to Tame a Wild Tongue-Gloria Anzaldua

An exploration of the many traditions of silences that Anzaldúa and others face.

“I remember being caught speaking Spanish at recess–that was good for three licks on the knuckles with a sharp ruler. I remember being sent to the corner of the classroom for ‘talking back’ to the Anglo teacher when all I was trying to do was tell her how to pronounce my name. ‘If you want to be American, speak “American.” If you don’t like it, go back to Mexico where you belong.”

It’s amazing how often we’re told to LEAVE or GO BACK TO places when we don’t like being treated poorly by others! As if there’s some amazing utopia available to all where we could flee at any time and be welcomed with open arms! Ah, fantasies!

If you think the practices mentioned above aren’t common today, in 2017, you are the one living in a fantasy.




“The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” by Audre Lorde
The Transformation of Silence…Audre Lorde

Lorde has given me strength to more forcibly and audibly speak the truths I know.

“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, in the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.”

“No Name Woman” by Maxine Hong Kingston
No Name Woman- Maxine Hong Kingston

Who is told to be silent about what, why, and how? What are our differences that we can use creatively, with joy? What are our similarities that we must acknowledge?

“‘You must not tell anyone,’ my mother said, ‘what I am about to tell you. In China your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born.'”


“Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective” by Leslie Marmon Silko

Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective – Leslie Marmon Silko

What “values” do you take for granted? What have you been taught to believe is “natural” or “right” or “better” that is really only one way of being in the world, one method, with it’s drawbacks as well as benefits, that have been hidden from you, obscured? What do you judge harshly without realizing you are not “objective,” but a member of certain classes and cultures of people with prejudices and rules?

“Where I come from, the words that are most highly valued are those which are spoken from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed. Among the Pueblo people, a written speech or statement is highly suspect because the true feelings of the speaker remain hidden as he reads words that are detached from the occasion and the audience. I have intentionally not written a formal paper to read to this session because of this and because I want you to hear and to experience English in a nontraditional structure, a structure that follows patterns from the oral tradition.”

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