The Universality of Oppressor Recordings

From a talk by Tim Jackins at the Black Liberation and Community Development Workshop, July

In our societies we all have recordings from oppression. Because everything that was going on when we were hurt became part of these recordings, all of us end up with both oppressed and oppressor patterns. This is why we do things to our children that we hated when they were done to us, that we swore we would never pass on to anyone. The op-pressor role was recorded at the same time we were targeted.

Oppressive societies manipulate us by means of these recordings to keep us at odds with[1] each other. This is part of our struggle.

It’s clear that racism against African-heritage people is the key issue. Fighting this racism will unlock all of our oppressor/oppressed distresses and move all of our work on oppression ahead. It’s also clear that we can’t make this happen without all groups learning to be allies to each other, without facing and taking on[2] the oppressor edge of  our distresses.

We all get to notice who we feel we don’t like, who we are un-comfortable with, who we feel we hate, who we are scared of, who we blame, who we don’t want to live near, who we don’t want to sit next to on the bus. We don’t usually talk about these things.

It’s harder to work on oppressor material[3] than it is to work on being targeted. It’s hard, first of all, because it can make us feel very bad about ourselves. This is why it’s important to not feel bad about ourselves on any front, to understand that every piece of our oppressor material is just dis-tress—to not believe any of it.

The other reason it can be hard to work on oppressor distresses is—who are you going to tell? Your loving Co-Counselor who thinks the world of you[4]? Can you tell him or her that you hate some people, that you fear and despise them simply because they belong to a particular group? You may trust your Co-Counselor with your life, but you don’t trust him or her with that material. You don’t feel that you can trust him or her to keep track of you.[5]

It feels hard to expose the places where we got corrupted by distress in relation to other people, but we did get corrupted. We all did. Probably each of us has oppressive material about sizeable fractions of the world’s population. Who isn’t among your group of friends? You know who doesn’t show up,[6] and you know why. We all have this material, and we haven’t yet figured out how to get through it so that we can reach for the relationships that would make our lives as full as we’d like them to be. So it’s important that we do this work.

Let me say it again: I know you have this material, and I know you have acted on it. I’m sorry you have it. I’m sorry it escaped your control. However, these considerations are secondary to who you are and how good you are. Any way you’ve confused these distresses with yourself is mistaken.

Of course, freeing ourselves from these distresses is what we all want. We want big, significant lives. We want to be able to go after[7] every single human being in the world and treat that person like he or she was our twin, because, in every way that counts, every person is just like us. We can’t do that with this material still sticking to us.


[1] At odds with means in conflict with.

[2] Taking on means confronting and dealing with.

[3] Material means distress.

[4] Thinks the world of you means thinks you’re wonderful.

[5] In this context, keep track of you means re-member who you are under your distresses.

[6] Show up means participate.

[7] Go after means pursue.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00