This archived article was written by: Kevin van der Spek
Oppression is believed to only be evaluated by those who are directly affected by which ever form oppression chooses to take, and anyone who is on the side lines are to be just that, on the side lines. The argument that those outside of oppression are not able to evaluate social political injustice is not only wrong, but is counter productive to solving the problems in history. There is an answer.
To understand oppression that people of color face in their lives doesn’t take being a person of color. The only criteria necessary to see the negative effects of racism is a mind that is capable of critical thought, which is any mind. When a racist person sees an injustice, in any social-political situation, it isn’t the inability to see the injustice that keeps them from acting against it, nor is it what allows someone to take part of creating the injustice.
Arguably, the factor that allows injustice to happen is a lack of will to acknowledge the problem, which is willful ignorance. Willful ignorance, with no real surprise, comes from the loss of something that is important to the person lacking in the viewpoint needed to see the injustice. Common valuable losses are material relevance and conformability.
Material relevance is embedded with all forms of culture such as religion and politics. Ultimately, material relevance is power, power in the home, church, school, friends, government and any human-made hierarchy. To understand the functionality of material relevance in history, history needs to be evaluated by the easiest recognizable totem, money and the power it has.
According to “History in Focus,” the logic used by Europeans was, “Africans did not have guns … so why not enslave and transport them?” Because they did not have the material power to protect themselves, it made sense to take people from their homes and displace them to hard working conditions. Of course not, but they did not care; Europeans did it anyway because they could. Also according to “History Focus,” Europeans could not send armies to get slaves from Africa because the slaves died, due to disease; they had to buy slaves from the local leader.
What justification did the kings use that allowed them to sell their people? Again “History Focus” hit the nail on the head with, “The enticement of European goods ‘ especially guns and ammunition ‘ also eventually resulted in kidnapping gangs raiding neighboring peoples”.
History of wealth vs. everything is a material one, putting wealth before life. According to “Feeding America”, “Poverty rates for African Americans in 2015 were more than twice that of white, non-Hispanic individuals.” Because of systematic racism people of color are put at a continuous disadvantage, with an anomaly ever so rare.
With racism being a material construct, is it not then possible that anyone can use “Categorical Imperative”, defined by Immanuel Kant “Act so as to treat people always as ends in themselves, never as mere means”, to evaluate racist action and work against it? There are man processes of evaluation that can determine racism is bad. From experience, cosmopolitanism, defined by Google,” is the ideology that all human beings belong to a single community based on a shared morality”, is a pretty effective method as long as it is understood that social-political identifiers are not the definition of human being.
Even as a white male I can never understand how racial slurs feel as a person of color does not mean I cannot evaluate racism. I only need to use a method of analysis that disconnects my judgment from the historical value put on people of my ethnicity.