Honest Work on Oppressor Material

For a while I have been working on what I call my “justified material.”1 I took a big whack at it last weekend at an eliminating-white-racism workshop with a small group of white leaders I’d been working with for several years. 

I find it reassuring to do this work straight out—not mix it with working on ways I’ve been oppressed (though in my head I remind myself to not be hard on or blame myself). Starting with my earliest memory of mistreating someone else (my younger sister) has been useful. I can discharge hard about how justified I felt in abusing her, and how confusing that was, since I also knew that what I was doing was wrong.  

I took a big look at this a couple of years ago when another person and I got into a snag and for several weeks I was so restimulated I wanted nothing to do with her.2 I had huge sessions on how furious I was with her. The sessions were good, but they also kept me disconnected. Finally one of my Co-Counselors said, in a kind but firm way, “Yes, but you feel justified to act this way toward her.” I said several times, “Yes, I do!” until it finally sunk in that I felt justified in treating her badly. That opened my eyes.  

This past weekend I worked on racism with the same theme. Focusing on my earliest memory let me discharge hard again and put in sharp focus my feeling victimized while I’m victimizing someone else. Intertwined is how I was set up3 to lie, and lie to myself. I also got a picture of how being Jewish and feeling “justified” intersect. I was able to do such straightforward, honest work because for years this group and I had worked with each other to have each other, and to clean up anything in our way of showing each other everything. 

I think about the justifications surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin (a young African-heritage man) and the innocent verdict handed down on the man, George Zimmerman, who shot him. People are beginning to organize against not only the verdict but also the racist justifications that have been used to target African-heritage men with disrespect, profiling, abuse, prison, and murder.  

Dvora Slavin
Seattle, Washington, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of wide world change 


1 “Material” means distress.
2 “Nothing to do with her” means no contact with her.
3 “Set up” means hurt into being predisposed.


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07