I had hoped to expand a little book I had written but I feel that time is flying faster than I need to finish so I decided to complete the outline of the book instead. That outline presents the elements of chronic oppression, how to identify it and ultimately how to end it. I intend to offer it publicly free of charge but more about that later.
Here is an excerpt from this outline and an example of how oppression continues.
“In a system of chronic oppression, dehumanization is maintained through images, practices and symbols that enforce and preserve domination.”
Generally, certain body language is recognized to convey specific messages of disrespect or aggression when someone says:
“Uncross your arms “
“Take your hands off your hips”
“Take your hands out of your pockets”
“Stop rolling your eyes when I speak to you”
More specifically with regard to American oppression, dehumanization and contempt are conveyed through certain repeated images, practices and symbols. The overall message is to uphold domination through messages that convey dehumanization, invasion, and captivity. Presented here is an example of a recent event that has dropped from the headlines - a photo of recaptured convicted murderer, Danelo Calvacante.
In 2019 a photo of 2 Texas police officers on horseback walked a handcuffed African American man, Donald Neely by a rope tied to him went viral. In response to protests of the photo, the police chief was reported to have apologized to Mr. Neely on the police departments social media page while also noting that police on horseback walking a suspect tied to a rope was “a trained technique” but the the officers in this instance ‘used poor judgment” and did not have any malicious intent at the time of the arrest.
By now folks have largely finished talking about the arrest of escaped convict, Cavalcante from the Chester County Prison and a photo when taken into custody by tactical law enforcement officers in camouflage gear who positioned themselves to pose for a photo displaying a cuffed and bloodied Calvalcante.
In response various authorities, politicians expressed some discomfort by saying they wish the photo hadn’t happened, it was unfortunate, and not a good look for the police especially at a time when the police have lost the confidence of several communities but then punctuated that comment by stating that in spite of any discomfort there was nothing illegal about it. The law enforcement success after such a hard search should be understandable. The mixed feelings of discomfort and a deserved moment of accomplishment concluded that “It’s complicated.”
It is NOT complicated.
“Why were you so late coming home?”
When the answer is, “It’s complicated”, that brings more questions in need of more answers.
Things only get complicated when there is confusion, or an act to cover up hypocrisy or protect a perversion. In the statement ‘its complicated’ there is an implied expectation to accept the disturbing image because it was a victory for a proud body of law enforcement who worked hard to find the escapee. The image, however, was clearly a display of domination - the great white hunter standing over or holding a bound captured carcass trophy. Whether or not someone had conscious intent is irrelevant to what it really means and points to the pervasive nature of the normalized behavior. To put it simply, the nature of ongoing assault transcends rebranding, legal definitions (especially in a system of lawlessness), or dismissals, denials by matriculated potentates or designated officials of any type, kind or genre.
There could have been a congratulatory photo done another way - maybe with the dog if there just had to be a photo at all. I was very relieved that the convicted-murderer-on-the-run was finally caught but I was horrified to see live as it was happening the police position themselves around a bound and bloodied Cavalcante for the photo op. For whatever diligent bravery and professionalism on the part of law enforcement officers there might have been, that gratuitous photograph at the very least compromised that professionalism. What that posturing ultimately means is the morality and esteem of American law enforcement is affirmed to be the dehumanizing aggression on which it was founded and continues to be defined from the earliest overseer.
Perversions don’t go away because they are denied. What does happen is that the toxic consequences continue, morph and complicate.
Get the glass cleaner, the mirror must be clear. All the senses must be opened to see, hear and feel in order to face what the reflection reveals.
On my commute to work one morning back in 1979 driving on the Northern State Parkway or maybe it was the Grand Central Parkway - it was on my route commuting from Nassau County to Queens where along the way one becomes the other but I noticed a billboard showing a woman in a green bikini, a matching headband around her blond hair and a string of what looked like white shells and laying on her side advertising Tropical Blend tanning oil captioned by, “THE SAVAGE TAN.”
Savage tan? As in brown skin that other people wish they had by tanning in the sun? What’s up with 'savage'? To have brown skin is savage?
After passing that billboard for several mornings to follow, I photographed it. At the time I only wanted to document what I could not believe I saw. My initial reaction of insult on my brown skin would morph into a curiosity, the kind that looks behind the curtain to find that there was more to this image, its marketability, and its public format to explore past that insult. I had no idea what I was going to do with it then but that one photograph would be the start of a collection of excerpts, images, objects, words, ideas, video clips, books, commercials, sound bites and media. I did not need a fancy grant to do research in any exclusive archive - that stuff was all over the place in plain site. Amazed at my surprise, I started searching there. Why was I surprised?
The fabric of this country is woven by truths of criminal acts against humanity. Inconvenient to society’s cosmetic mask but true. Just because an inconvenient truth is redefined (your eye ran into my fist ) does not mean the realities nor the consequences have been or can be.
Redefining or covering up truth (lying) perverts reality, which has consequences. A criminal event is one thing. But if a criminal event is to continue, there must exist a rationale to justify and enforce it. It is this enforcement (physical, mental, intellectual and emotional) that has brought the American society to its current state. This society has collectively been conditioned to think and behave by a perverse rationale of entitlement supported by invented notions of race, gender, and all that perpetuates criminal entitlement of the mythical superiority of what is known as a white male.
One result is a depraved obsession of coveting what is condemned. How does the successful browning of one’s skin deemed to be savage line up with the stringent rules of so-called superiority of whiteness? How can the successful sale of tanning oil be marketed on the appeal of looking as brown as a savage if savages were justified in being slaughtered? This kind of morbid contradiction is what I refer to as the mental toxic vacuum where the truth of all that is denied is stored.
In recognizing that contradiction it became clear to me that the projection of savagery onto my brown skin had nothing to do with me, it was born out of the whacked out obsession of the accuser. It all rang familiar to me as a survivor of childhood abuse and trauma. The guilt of the criminal is projected onto the victim who then absorbs the accusation of the criminal against themselves. Like Nazi interrogators, corrupt agents of law enforcement, cult sociopaths who pound accusations into victims to break them down, the victim is helpless, nullified and if not dead, subject to control. The standing accusation keeps victims in line who then react accordingly. Through this observation, I would realize that it was my job not to absorb the perverted accusation of degenerates while being able to realistically recognize the danger of their protected behavior, I would not internalize their madness against myself.
So of course a tanning product can be marketed to a mind set that would indulge in tanning to look like a savage by those who see themselves through falsehoods of whiteness. Like the continuous obsession with blackface, while blackness is reviled and condemned, there seems to be more behind masking oneself by those who perceive themselves as white. It reminds me of serial killers who were known to wear the skins of their victims as a ritualistic part of their criminal perversion, torture and murder. This is one of the areas that will be explored and expanded in my updated presentation.
In the meantime, suffice it to say this whole thing is not just about a billboard marketing a racist theme. It is not about being reminded again that this land was stolen through the holocaust of its indigenous peoples. It is about the chronic rationale, the distorted logic behind the thinking that brings on specific behaviors attached to this rationale that are normalized, protected, celebrated, romanticized, permitted, institutionalized, bureaucratized, disguised and mandated that continues to this day. And just like other systems of oppression, all participants are powerless to stop the chronic perversions and its consequences in spite of being masked by promotions of justice for all.
Although hyped as a nation of laws, this has never been a nation of laws. Maybe tools, idyllic notions and ivy covered institutions make it appear that way but anytime crimes against humanity through barbaric rituals that included torture and mutilation at the hands of raging mobs are maintained by a thought process of an entity of any kind, that is an entity of lawlessness. That entity, be it a family, club, community, congregation, union, governmental agency, society or country is lawless.
When the American behavior switch flips on automatic - like the victim of a routine black eye - the victim (the eye) is punished and blamed instead of holding the criminal (the fist) accountable. That flipped switch cranks up to protect the behavior with useless, ridiculous or confusing solutions (a bouquet of roses, dopey apologies, trophies, trinkets, a song, a dance, honors and oaths…) thereby preserving the esteem of the abuser (the fist). When we fail to understand the truthful nature of abusive incidences like racialized brutalization, choices will be made that will bring on more subsets of oppression by poor and toxic choices that spread more of the same.
Who are ‘we’ as a country? Exactly who 'we' were from the very beginning through a thought process that continues to:
Punish, humiliate, criminalize and /or destroy
Protect, preserve and uphold
Existing in perverted realities requires self detachment. If someone is cut off from believing and validating what they feel, see, hear and experience, their indigenous humanity is erased. There is loss of personhood whether that someone is believed to be privileged or not. Detachment results in a co-dependent need for an outside entity to define the self. There are predators ready to fill the void with easy solutions, comfort, relief and emotional acceptance while expecting total compliance with their madness.
If oppression is going to end, all components and contradictions must be first confronted and sorted out. The valve to the mental toxic vacuum must be released and the behavior unlearned, It all starts very local. It starts with a self who can admit that existing as an object of oppression, they are powerless against its degeneracy.
The warning signs of scams, stranger danger, bad relationships, following the madness of self-proclaimed geniuses, second comings, kings, pimps, mob bosses have some common red flags. The degree of self sovereignty will determine the ability to see those red flags and establish boundaries to act as guardrails that protect the presence of the sovereign self. Believing and validating ones own experience is empowering and provides the courage to see things as they are and act on what needs to be changed or stopped.
Imagine a society of sovereign selves, human beings interdependent on each other’s humanity existing in balance and an intelligent awareness of our presence on this Earth our Mother. Reflect, reconsider, reaffirm and rebuild.
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