Sunday, January 1, 2017

Oppression Envy

Driving home from Wegman's today, Olivia and I were talking about a phenomenon she's seeing more and more on campus, especially post-November 8: Acquaintances who are identifying as oppressed minorities. Not content just to be sympathizers with or in solidarity with fellow students of color or minority sexual orientation, some students are "coming out" as POCs on their FB pages and reidentifying as queer without any notable previous history of queerness. She titled it "oppression envy."

O wonders whether her scoliosis allows her to identify as a person with disabilities, probably more because she wants a better parking space than that she wants to join the parade of oppressed people under the Trump regime. We agreed that this was probably not a good plan; neither of us feels comfortable borrowing her grandmother's handicap placard, so the fakery wouldn't be appealing.

I see two ways to think about this new tendency. On the one hand, if we are all oppressed, how can any of us be singled out for persecution? On the other hand, doesn't the usurpation of someone's authentic identity devalue honest-to-god oppression of the oppressed class?

I know plenty of white middle-class folks in Ithaca who identify with people of color in ways that are helpful and sincere. But I don't know any of those adults who claims to be the minority he or she is trying to assist. If this is a thing, it's a new thing, and it remains to be seen whether it's a good thing or just a meaningless or even destructive thing.

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