Discover more from Ijeoma Oluo: Behind the Book
Picking your Battles
Beyond the Book: How To Keep Fighting The Forever Battles
These last few years have been a lot, right? I mean, it’s been a lot for a lot of us for…hundreds of years. But also these last few years especially right???
From about 2016 onward it has felt like oppressive forces have really leveled up. It’s like the floodgates have opened and every possible type of hatred and bigotry has become fashionable gain. For those of us with multiple marginalized identities, it can feel like our entire existence has made us targets for violent oppression. And even if you have a fair amount of privilege and aren’t the primary target of white supremacist patriarchal hyper-capitalism, I think it’s pretty clear that nobody is actually safe.
Oh, and you know, we’re still in a global pandemic, half of Canada is on fire every summer and this week we learned a fun new word: Hurriquake?
It is really easy to feel - um - doomed.
Are we doomed? Fuck if I know. I do know that there are so many things that can do us in that at least whatever it is will be somewhat of a surprise. But I also know that this isn’t the first time shit has been dire.
For many of us who are targeted right now, this is nothing new. We’ve been targeted. People have tried to destroy us for generations.
Shit is pretty much always dire.
But I’m here. I’m a fat, Black queer woman and I’m here today in 2023.
It seems like a fucking miracle.
But it’s not. I’m here, and you’re here against all odds - with some of the world’s most powerful forces aligned against us for literal centuries - because of the ways in which every day our people, our ancestors and our communities, have found victory every day in this endless battle.
We have shared knowledge when they didn’t want us to know, we have shared food when they wanted us to starve, we opened our doors to our neighbors when they wanted us in the streets, we created industries when they shut us out of jobs, we cooperated when they wanted us to compete, we insisted on being beautiful when they told us we were ugly.
And this fucked up system still existed every day of it. Every day it still did it’s best. And sometimes - a lot of times - it won. It stole from us. It stole our time, it stole our joy, it stole our freedom, it stole our lives. But we have also won - so many times.
As I’ve been working on my upcoming book, and talking with dozens of movement workers across the US, I’ve seen clearly that there are so many amazing ways in which people are able to fight for freedom and justice.
The fucked up silver-lining about all of our systems being oppressive nightmares is that there’s plenty of opportunities every day to fight it.
And none of these are going to be the opportunity that wins the war on systemic oppression, and at the same time all of them will be.
Because at the core of oppression is the idea that our value as human beings can be decided by others, and that some of us are worth more than others. And every day that we decide to take an opportunity to fight - even if it only benefits one or two people - we are chipping away at that idea. We are saying that every person in this one workplace has value, that every child in this one classroom has value, that everyone in your neighborhood has value. And that value is not tied to money, productivity, ability, appearance- it is immense and immutable simply because they exist.
So in the midst of these incredibly ghastly times I ask you: what opportunities for victory are you going to grab for today?
Leave your plans for victory in the comments so others can be inspired to action as well.
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