By Josh Kelety
Originally published in the December 2014 issue.
Though often blatant, oppression in all forms can also be incredibly elusive and hard to point out. It hides in plain sight, often perpetuated by the most well intending and progressive and liberal of people. We live in a ‘post-racial’ society, where we ‘don’t see color’. Yet whites routinely ask non-whites “no, where are you really from.” We don’t discriminate based on gender identity, but fail to think outside of the simplistic and constricting gender binary of male and female when building restroom facilities, leaving out those transitioning from one gender to the other or not identifying with any.
Such racialized and constrictive gender binary thinking is ingrained and institutionalized in our society, be it through racial categories on application forms or the ‘male’ and ‘female’ bathrooms on our college campus.
For those trapped by these frameworks and consequently marginalized, the status quo is stifling. Even those who have served in our military come out feeling ostracized, and left to suffer alone.
Seattle as a city and community likes to think of itself as being a liberal bastion, a staunch defender of and advocate for social and economic justice. And many people here fulfill that role. Over the past two weeks daily protests have occurred in Seattle in response to the grand jury rulings not to indict the officers responsible for killing black males Michael Brown and Eric Garner, as well as the recent police shooting of 12 year-old black male Tamir Rice, who was killed for holding a toy gun.
Yet beneath that facade lies the same oppressive systems that operate more openly across the nation. The response, for the most part, from mainstream Seattle has been reactionary and dismissive, with people decrying the protesters for interrupting the Westlake Center tree lighting on Black Friday, for inconveniencing holiday shoppers in their ritualistic routines of materialistic indulgence. Seattle Police Department’s Public Information Officer Sean Whitcomb told the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog that SPD has an equal obligation to ensure “everybody’s rights,” lumping in human rights together with compulsive consumption.
The status quo is to be maintained – no matter what – even at the expense of justice for black lives lost to police violence and a collective acknowledgement that racism is alive and well in America – particularly in Seattle where gentrification continues to fiercely segregate the city and income disparities between whites and blacks are quickly widening.
Such skewed priorities are incredibly alarming and disconcerting. But they also illustrate the importance of recognizing implicit oppression in places where you would least expect it.
That’s where you come in. And while instances of oppression such as casual racial stereotyping, or the existence of strict gender binary bathrooms may seem small and insignificant, it is such small social occurrences and institutional structures that all contribute to broader issues of racially fueled police killings and high suicide rates among transgender and genderqueer individuals.
Don’t stand on the sidelines.
In this issue our staff brings you coverage of the ongoing #blacklivesmatter protests (p. 6 & p. 7), a look into bringing gender neutral bathrooms to campus (p. 8), voices from student veterans (p. ), a history of political activism at SCC (p. 22), a run-down on of State tax code (p. 18), and an analysis of the push for standardized education in the U.S. (p. ).