Censored…Oppressed…Hurt.

Let’s be real; it’s 2023, and there are many words, phrases, and expressions that need to be expelled from our vernacular. There are words that within one syllable carry more oppressive meaning than entire volumes of literature, or song lyrics. Eradicate their usage, but don’t obliterate them from our dictionaries.

People need to be aware of the pain that these jumbled letters have caused. By erasing them, the history that surrounded them becomes brushed over, and faded. Obviously, the people who have survived, and continue to push through oppression do not need their pain on display. That’s not my point at all.

I’m going to take a moment to walk over coals in order to find my words, and express myself with the care that I wish to display…

Sadly, there is no way out of oppression. It’s always going to exist, the cycle only changes regarding who is being held underwater, and who doing the holding. So long as greed, and egos exist, there will never be equality of any sort.

Women may eventually earn equal pay to their male counterparts, but will they ever truly been treated equally? Will they continue to be sexually harassed? Will they continue to be objectified by what they wear, and how they carry themselves? Will women ever stop being blamed for negative behaviours towards them? Will we be able to walk down the street with confidence at any time of day, or night? Will we continue to live with the constant guilt of doing too much, or not enough with our lives in order to balance what’s socially acceptable for our home/life existence? Will we ever stop oppressing each other with our own selfishness? The questions are infinite, and the answer to them all is “Probably not.”

What about men? Will they ever be able to show emotions without being subjected to homophobic tirades? Will men be allowed to explore their entire personalities without being ridiculed, or insulted? Will they ever be allowed to stop subscribing to the jock ethic, or attitude? Will they ever be able to balance life/work without guilt? Will they ever be able to live without the fear of being torn down by a potential date’s family simply for existing? (Consider reading my post about “Dads Against Daughters Dating Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”) Again, there is an infinite list of “What ifs,” all with the probable answer of “Most likely not.”

Think about our LGBTQ2A+ community. Will they ever be able to thrive and not be forced to face stereotypes being thrown against them? Will they ever be able to simply be themselves, and live their best lives without the fear of someone harming them simply because they exist? We can discuss their woes forever, but sadly, the answer to all of these questions is once again, “Doubtful.”

Consider our Black and “POC,” as well as Indigenous communities. When will they ever face a day without oppression? Probably NEVER, no matter how much progress we make in society.

Why? Why can’t things change? Well, for one thing, we’re censoring the entire universe. In many ways, by trying to make everything “politically correct” we often push people into deeper oppression.

How many times have you heard “I don’t see colour!” when people are trying to prove that they aren’t racist? Okay, so what do you see? What do the rainbow of individuals on this planet look like? A world without colour is…white. The effect of “not seeing colour” is basically erasing all of our beautiful differences and only seeing people by one standard: the same. The same as WHAT though?!

Would it not be better to acknowledge all of our differences, and similarities and have respect for them rather than pretend that they don’t exist? Think about how dangerous it is to “not see colour!” Imagine a person with considerable amounts of melanin, and I both walk into a dermatologist’s office. If the doctor “doesn’t see colour,” then what appears as skin cancer on my body won’t be seen on the other person since skin issues present themselves differently on darker skin. (This is NOT an extreme example! It wasn’t until fairly recently that doctors were actually trained on how to recognize common skin issues on various skin tones. This level of medical oppression has existed for the longest time, and continues to present issues many areas of medical care.)

My career presents me the opportunity to learn hundreds of beautiful names. Some of them are harder than Dr. Seuss tongue twisters for me to pronounce, but I refuse to give up trying! I’ve settled on having my students teach my how to pronounce their names slowly, and if by the third day of class, I’m still turning their names into alphabet soup, then I owe them five jumping jacks. I’ve done my fair share of jumping jacks, but I never give up!

I often tell my students the origin of my names, and how many people have mispronounced, and misspelled them over the years. We talk about the meaning of our names, which truly fascinates me. I’ve noticed that since I’ve tried connecting with my students on such a basic level, they feel more seen, heard, and appreciated. They would rather I do jumping jacks while trying to learn their names, than anglicize them, or give them nicknames.

We also focus on how most of them are already doing my job for me since many of them speak more than one language at home: they already know how to learn a new language, and how to apply their own personal learning styles towards learning what I’m teaching them. I teach them my subjects, and they teach me how to politely greet their family members. The world becomes so much smaller when we are all able to communicate, and respect each other!

By now, you’re questioning what this tangent has to do with censorship. Okay, you caught me, I lost my path, but don’t stress, I may have strayed, but I’ve found my way back!

Back to names for a moment: When we refuse to learn a person’s name because it’s “too difficult to pronounce,” we are censoring their culture, their heritage, and a piece of who they are. When we try to give people nicknames instead of using their proper names, we are condensing them into something that we can manage, rather than accepting them for who they are. It’s a very strong, oppressive form of censorship.

When we “don’t see colour,” we are censoring the beautiful parts of us that make us who we are. We need appreciate our differences, and our similarities, rather than erasing everything that opens our senses to the world.

The minute we expect people to conform into what’s easier for us, we are creating an oppressive environment.

Reflecting on a conversation that I shared with a trans friend a few years ago; they were quite open to educating me on proper respectful vocabulary, and communication. I learned a lot that afternoon! The biggest lesson that I walked away with was that I have to be fluid in my growth; always willing to learn, and to never make assumptions. They also brought up a very interesting perspective: when you make a mistake, and accidentally misgender someone, be sure not make it seem like the other person’s fault.

For example, saying “I’m so sorry, it’s hard for me to remember,” or “Sorry, this is so confusing for me,” basically invalidates the person that was misgendered. When a person feels obligated to say “Oh, it’s okay,” when really, it’s NOT okay.

Instead, try something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I need to try harder. I know this is important to you,” or any other combination of words that validates the person you are communicating with, while you take accountability for your slip up.

In many ways, the same practice applies to learning people’s names.

I also learned that assuming people’s genders is not only a form of oppression, but also a form of censorship because it forces people to hide, thus censor who they truly are. People should not be censored, or oppressed in living their authentic lives.

Okay, but what happens when free speech works against people, and actually oppresses, rather than builds people up?

This is a huge issue amongst many religious, and political groups. Hate-spewing, anger fuelled monstrous people appear to be pushing their agendas even stronger than ever.

Which questions how censorship should work. I’ve literally heard people arguing that the hate-spewers are just as right vomiting their nastiness all over the world, as those who stand in solidarity with oppressed groups! Their logic? “Well, if you stop the people you disagree with from speaking their minds, then aren’t you oppressing THEM?”

When someone’s voice is being used to oppress, harm, or destroy a person, or group’s existence, it needs to be stopped. That’s the main difference in ending hate-speech, but still supporting oppressed groups to rise above the shit that’s been forced onto them for hundreds of years.

Demanding the end of someone’s oppression is not imposing oppression on a hate-spewer. Hopefully, there is education involved to help reform the oppressor in order to prevent relapses of horrible behaviours. Reality, however has proven that this RARELY happens, which is why there will sadly never truly be an end to oppression, and sadly why censorship results in even more oppression because people’s cultures, and histories get erased when people focus on creating a cultural “melting pot,” rather than celebrating differences, and similarities between human beings.

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