White conservatives: You’re not oppressed

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With the advent of the current wave of populism sweeping the West has come the “freedom” to express views that much of society has perceived with disdain for decades. These include homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, xenophobia and all variants of bigotry that, until recently, were not considered socially acceptable. Many, including myself, deluded themselves into thinking that bigotry was decreasing as society progressed into a more equitable, compassionate place where all people could have basic human rights. We refused to accept the possibility of someone who embodies all of these traits ascending to the most powerful position on the planet because we assumed that America was, finally, better than baseless hatred.

Obviously, we were wrong. In its first week, this administration has become such a caricature of fascist regimes straight out of “1984,” “Star Wars” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” that I still find myself asking how this can possibly be reality. Because, as an American citizen, a white-passing, Latinx, cisgender woman and a member of the middle class, I have incredible privileges many others do not. Forgetting, for a moment, the billions of people who have no part in American politics but will be harmed by them nonetheless, let’s consider just the people in our own society that will be intentionally harmed by this administration: the Muslims who are already being persecuted and will now be banned from entering their own country; the refugees who have faced unspeakable horrors only to arrive at a place that refuses them despite their impeccable credentials; the women who will have no access to desperately needed and rightfully deserved health care (particularly women of color); the transgender people who will not be considered actual human beings based off of false and archaic assumptions; the other members of the queer community who will not be able to participate in one of the most important rituals in our society; the undocumented immigrants, who are the backbone of this economy, who will continue to suffer abuse just to keep their families together; the victims of environmental racism in Standing Rock, Flint, and elsewhere; the black men continually being murdered by the state with impunity; the poor always ignored by the state and trapped in a cycle of poverty; the people with disabilities who are still not considered autonomous human beings.

I could go on, obviously. Most people don’t exist as just one of these identities, and I’m leaving out dozens in the pursuit of brevity. But my point—this is oppression: the systemic and institutionalized barring of marginalized peoples from resources, opportunities and rights they should be granted, if not by virtue of their humanness, then by their citizenship or residency. Being oppressed isn’t having your feelings hurt or having someone disagree with you or having someone protest your bigotry. It’s living in fear of your own home, knowing that people who look like you have been denied personhood, understanding that you matter less because of where your ancestors were born. Oppression is bearing the lifelong burden of understanding that to some people, you’re subhuman and don’t deserve life. So to those who say they are oppressed because they feel alienated due to their bigoted, hateful beliefs: grow up. Recognize your privilege, and if you’re serious about bettering our country, learn how to stand up for all Americans, not just the cisgender, heterosexual, Christian, middle-class ones. Do better because the rest of us are just trying to stay alive.