OPINION: Freedom from oppression, Americans’ unspoken right must become a deafening demand

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When America’s founding fathers broke away from England and wrote their own Constitution, they wrote in a Bill of Rights. This spelled out certain freedoms, including freedoms of speech, press and religion, along such rights as bearing arms, assembly, petition, and due process. These were noteworthy, as far as they went. Then in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt expressed what he considered to be the four freedoms that needed reiterating – freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These, too, were timely and noteworthy.

The great unspoken freedom which was not specifically included in either of the listings above, however, is FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION. Perhaps it could be subsumed under freedom from want and freedom from fear. Yet, that was not as clear nor as specific considering what has been experienced by African people in America, and to some extent by others, including Native Americans, Jews and Arabs, and Asians and Pacific Islanders.

The oppression of which we speak of here is the treatment imposed upon marginal and minority group members which touches them as individuals and families, as nations in a state of many nations, and as victimized people on planet earth. It is oppression which requires the consistent attention of people who are victimized as well as other people who have the intelligence and moral compass to understand what it means to be an advocate of democracy and of human rights. 

Nobody is free to take time off in the struggle of freedom against oppression because nobody is exempt from the consequences of human oppression. The problem of oppression reaches from the lowest level of human interaction to the highest – family groupings to global survival. It is tragically unfortunate that from time to time there have been people who were willing to oppress others.

At the family level, one can witness, if not personally experience the way that some policy makers and employers make it difficult for many working-class families to have sufficient food, shelter, and medical care. The children of the poor are educated in the least equipped schools. Libraries, parks, and playgrounds are often in disrepair, meagerly financed or even non-existent. Often sick and elderly family members have to choose between expensive medicines, food, and other necessities. All of these are reasons for family members to be up in arms because this country can do better. 

Parents and other relatives must show enough care and concern to learn what to do for the relief of the oppression of their family members. It may mean standing-up on the job or in the streets. It may often mean joining with others who have similar problems and conditions. It surely means monitoring and turning out of office those who have helped create the oppressive conditions, replacing those who have not mounted all-out efforts to change the conditions, and supporting those who show a willingness to change the oppressive conditions that have for so long plagued working-class families.

These kinds of things ought to be not just discernible to the families, but talked about broadly and acted upon when there are elections. Every family needs to become a campaign committee that moves on these obstacles of oppression – the laws and the officials, especially for their affected family members. 

Oppression, however, is not just heaped upon working-class families. It is and has long been heaped upon groups that are not a part of the “white Christian nation.” In America’s earlier development, active racial hatred and racism were very open and prominent. Then there were actions to curb them to some extent following the Civil War and as a result of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and 70s, resulting in many people today having little or no experience of such. With the election of Barack Obama as president and the racist overtures of Donald Trump, however, we are back to Jim Crow practices by many white or European Americans.

Today, in places as widely separated as Texas, Florida, Montana, Arizona, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Idaho, and Missouri, there are laws on the books and policies in place that deliberately make it difficult for Black people to vote. These laws gerrymander Black communities in such ways as to minimize Black voting strength. They enable white hate groups and individuals to purchase military-style weapons and prey upon people of color, police officers to target, brutalize, and even murder people of color with impunity, and the development of environmental hazards in non-white neighborhoods. These laws provide opportunities for the racial isolation of non-white people in schools and housing developments, and they are not very different from the openly practiced Jim Crow practices and policies of the pre-1960s. All of these are examples of oppression at the ethnic and cultural group levels in what should be one, united state. 

These things escalate because when one looks back at world history it is easy to see that different ethnic groups often lived in separate nation-states. That is, countries were more ethnically homogenous. In a contrasting manner, America, based upon its desire for “free land” and “free labor,” fashioned a state composed of many nations – Africans, Europeans, and Indians. It was not intended to be the multicultural democracy that is being advocated today. Africans and Indians were not considered citizens. The followers of Trump, the Make America Great Again crowd, realize this. Consequently, they are bent on America being a “white Christian nation,” complete with racial oppression at every level.

Like the families being oppressed, African people as a nation must use every means available to bring about change. Every Black person, including Black leaders, must be able to identify the obstacles, individuals, and groups that are responsible for the oppressive conditions and organize to change them. The organizing must be community by community, state by state, and industry by industry. Their leaders and political parties must be identified and driven from power. Meanwhile, among the oppressed people, every effort must be made to avoid the myopic conditions of class, sexism, ageism, and other limiting factors that weaken group efforts. 

In closing, we reiterate the fact that the problem of oppression at each level has the same results. It is, thus, applicable to the global level as well. The same oppressive conditions experienced in working-class neighborhoods and in Black rural and urban communities are being faced by many people in Haiti and most of the Caribbean; in Sudan and much of the rest of Africa; in Venezuela and much of the rest of Latin America; and in pockets of Asia and Europe. It, therefore, behooves oppressed people globally to identify the sources of the problem, to loudly and broadly publicize the nature of the struggle, and to join with others who are similarly situated to rid the world of human oppression. 

Oppression can no longer be permitted to remain an unidentified or hidden culprit just because it is not in the Bill of Rights. All who are victimized as well as others who have the courage, intelligence, and moral compass to be real democrats and genuinely human must make FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION a deafening demand in their families and neighborhoods, across the country, and around the world. 

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OPINION: Freedom from oppression, Americans’ unspoken right must become a deafening demand

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
June 5, 2023