Our diverse communities have come far in the struggle for equality and justice, but unfortunately many of the destructive concepts implemented during slavery have not disappeared but rather have changed faces, evolving into more subtle and complex levels of oppression. This oppression is not just about our skin color, but it also affects how people are treated based on their gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.

“Unlearning Oppression” is a concept describing the process we must go through in order to heal from the consequences of historical trauma we were all born into. We must be proactive in wiping out negative thinking patterns and instead develop positive lens with which to view each other. More importantly, once our eyes are open to the injustices in our world, it is our responsibility to do our part in contributing to a better place for kids to grow up in. Just imagine how much more fun our world would be if cross-cultural communities worked together to ensure that everyone had enough healthy food to eat, a sustainable roof over their head, non-sweatshop clothes on their back, and diverse art forms to explore and enjoy life with. Life would really be about living then!

Past and present oppression, as well as resistance strategies, can be understood best by breaking it down into 3 levels: institutional, interpersonal, and internalized.

 

Examples of Oppression Examples of Resistance
Institutional -Inter-racial marriage used to be illegal-gay marriage was completely illegal and still is illegal in many U.S. states as well as internationally-women getting paid less than men for the same exact work position- laws that make it easy for pollution to continue – Protesting & organizing to institutionalize mixed-race marriage as well as gay marriage- Creating support groups & raising awareness on why a certain issue is unfair- Buying from ethical businesses that do not pollute our food and/or environment- Boycotting businesses that are tied to unsafe practices and/or racist/sexist/homophobic perspectives
Interpersonal – People fighting amongst each other, such as gangs, bullying, spreading rumors, jealousy, domestic violence, unhealthy competition, etc. – Learning about the many diverse cultures that exist in our world and developing an appreciation & respect for that diversity- Learning how to identify and control your emotions and thoughts so that your actions lead to respectful interactions
Internalized – Celebrities obsessed with plastic surgery to change their appearance- Suicide rates among LGBT youth- Women staying in abusive relationships because they feel they don’t deserve better – Learn about your roots and culture- Accept and love yourself for who you are without allowing others to dictate how you feel about yourself- Remind yourself that no one is perfect- Heal from any trauma and channel that energy into something positive

 

 

I learned to analyze social justice issues on these 3 levels when I was 17 years old, as part of a youth empowerment program led by Ilalo Kalika. It was this powerful program that inspired me to become dedicated to empowering youth and our communities with an appreciation for diversity. Ilalo is an educator and facilitator with over 25 years of experience & education. Kalika has developed innovative, interactive curriculum based on her “Youth Empowerment Approach” that has been used in schools, community programs, and many other educational trainings. To contact her for more info, email: info@mixednation.com

Kaira Portillo

Kaira Portillo

Kaira Portillo-Espinoza was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. She is grateful for having grown up around such a wide spectrum of diversity, which makes the Bay Area the unique place it is. Her first published book, Poems About This Roller-Coaster Ride Called Life, is a collection of poems she wrote throughout high school and college and explores issues of injustice, resistance, sexuality, and empowerment. See more articles by this author >