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Working on Oppressor Material


Our caring connections matter hugely. We need to hold on to our relationships with the people we treasure (and that can be everyone!). We need to do this in order to face huge struggles, one of which is the pull to act out our oppressor material [distress].


Each of us acted out our hurts and oppressed someone early in our lives. Perhaps we harmed a younger sibling, or perhaps it was a pet or other innocent creature. Doing this damaged us. It left us confused and alone—and feeling mean, bad about ourselves, and guilty. We hid and went silent. We may have been punished for acting out, but we didn’t get the attention and sessions we needed.


We all have undischarged oppressor material. If we’re lucky, we remember to work on it. But our patterns make us forget, and we tend not to work on it routinely (unless we are caught acting it out). More likely, we work on it at workshops that are deliberately set up for that. 


Recently at the U.S. Capitol, a primarily white mob acted out their hurt and oppression. Enraged white people, who felt victimized, targeted anyone who was in their way—Congress officials, police, random people.


If we are white, they are our people. We cannot abandon or distance ourselves from them. They didn’t need a lecture on class oppression. They needed to be stopped from acting out. I don’t know how to do that en masse. But I know that it’s the work that we white people need to do.


This means reaching for our family members, our neighbors, and the people we work with, including those who might frighten us. To move society forward, we must not turn away from, disregard, belittle, or forget about these people. Rather we must understand how they have been mistreated, oppressed, and exploited; oppose and stop that treatment; and provide the resources they need to recover from the distresses.


I encourage us all to work consistently and perhaps exclusively for a period of time on oppressor material. We can go back to the first time we oppressed someone. We can decide to never again act out oppressor material.


If we work consistently and early on this material, we will discover that we never wanted to hurt others and that no one else wishes to do so. We can become able to face angry individuals, even an angry group, with thought and slack [free attention]. 


What is your first memory of oppressing someone?

Joanne Bray



International Liberation 
Reference Person for Catholics


Stamford, Connecticut, USA



Reprinted from RC e-mail discussion lists for leaders of Catholics and for International Liberation and Commonality Reference Persons

(Present Time 204, July 2021)


Last modified: 2021-10-20 11:49:39+00