Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.
- Audre Lorde
Anger from being oppressed is completely justified. I feel anger and outrage all the time. After some time, anger felt too emotionally difficult for me to bear, not because I was feeling it, but because of what I was expected to do with it: engage with and educate those I was angry at until I felt validated.
When he jumped in front of the dog, he did so because he wanted to be seen. For him, at that point, his commitments were based heavily on the fact that the colonialists wouldn’t “see him as a man, as a human being,” and he wanted to be heard, to be recognized—by the oppressor! As slaves, colonial subjects, We tend not to feel worthy unless the oppressor in some way acknowledges our existence…More attention should have been devoted to ridding Ali of his emotional commitments and related lingerings of a colonial mentality.
- Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, James Yaki Sayles
Anger is pain from the denial of a need to be acknowledged. It is evidence of the denial of affirmation that I’m truthful, just, powerful, good, and deserving of being humanized. I already know myself as such, and so, why would I need such affirmation from the oppressor?
The Black Panthers were never a group of angry young militants full of fury toward the “white establishment.” The Party operated on love for black people, not hatred of white people.
- Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word “love” here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace - not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.
- James Baldwin
Compassion is difficult. It’s not a charity that is used by people who can afford to look down on others. It’s not a weakness that is given reluctantly under pressure and bullying. It is to give power to yourself and to be powerful enough to validate yourself.
At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality…We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.
- Che Guavara
What is the vision? Is it assimilation into this society of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy? If so, we must educate and engage with the oppressors to demand that they repress us less but continue to dehumanize and oppress us under their constructs and systems of values.
And when we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.
- Audre Lorde
Or is it liberation from said society and constructs? If so, wouldn’t the first steps towards a liberatory practice be to decolonize our minds and bodies based on the self-affirming love of yourself and the people?
In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is a way to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both.
This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well. The oppressors who oppress, exploit and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves. Only power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be sufficiently strong to free both.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire
In practice, I engage with everyone with an understanding of when I don’t need to engage, when I want to engage, why, and for what purpose.