Oppression’s Essential Guide to Nowhere: Poking Holes in the Roadmap to Success, Part 2

A weathered wooden ladder extending into the sky, but connecting to nothing, photo by Yury Shirokov
Dara Burwell, Coffee Shop

Dara Burwell

Models promoting the guarantee of middle class success (including the middle class’ guide to upper class status) typically work as follows:  You are in a boat with 100 other people trying to reach the same island.  They are your enemies.  Or, at the very least, they are your human, but not as human as you, competitors who may or may not serve as stepping-stones during this process. Remember: if you must work with others, do so during the beginning of the journey, not the end, and at the lowest possible rate.  The island is so far away and such a treacherous and under-resourced journey that only one or two of you will probably get there.  In the case of especially staunch work ethics and rule following, perhaps up to five will arrive.  But- don’t worry- there is something about you, something about YOU in particular, that is exceptional.  So even as you watch people by the dozens fall and be pulled over the edge of the boat by systemic and preventable snares, people who will subsequently flail and drown in the water, you have to keep your eye on the ball!  Your determination must be intact, and you have to concentrate on getting to that island.  Nothing else matters.  Resources are scarce, so it doesn’t make sense to share, and it can’t be helped if other people are knocked out of the game.  Negotiate friends, partners, children, love, spirituality, self-care, and health so that they do not interfere with your objective.  And don’t worry.  When it’s all said and done, this is for them, too, even if it doesn’t appear that way.  Once you get to the island, you will have the chance to become your best self (maybe), and will be in a much better position to help others (so long as it doesn’t threaten what you perceive to be your own interests).  No matter your circumstances, if you work hard enough and follow the rules, you will arrive.  Work, work, work.  And, then worked harder.  Make sure you don’t deviate from the course.  You’ll get there!  Perhaps alone.  But, you will get there!

Fine print: This boat is operated by Privilege Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Invisiblized Privilege and Dominance Holdings.  First and business class seating are available at an extra cost.  Insurance option booklets are available.  If you are aware of our specialty menu, you already know how to proceed.  All participants are required to sign the Hold Harmless and Indemnification Agreement (known as the “Agreement”), which protects our company even in instances of extreme negligence or assault.  Privilege Inc. may refuse anyone service at any time, and is not responsible for disillusionment or displacement experienced by participants who arrive on our island (which, incidentally, is undergoing massive erosion due to military testing). Read More

Oppression’s Essential Guide to Nowhere: Poking Holes in the Roadmap to Success, Part 1

White business man giving a thumbs up in a classic depiction of dominant culture, photo by Sandra Dragojlovic
Dara Burwell, Coffee Shop

Dara Burwell

I am lectured by my internalized oppression: “A writer?  Fool. Do you honestly believe that what you have to say matters or carries any importance in the world?  That anyone will want to hear it?  You speck.  You nothing. The Universe doesn’t want you, arrogant Black girl.  Play with your writing circle- they will be kind to you.  Don’t even consider something so absurd as publishing.  It’s folly.”

I sit and listen.  The tapes play again and again in different forms.  They are ultimately shared tapes- echoed in the minds of millions of people around the world at this very moment.  Mass produced with the appearance of specificity- slight tweaks and variations to better capture each individual listener.  The most popular song in the world could never get half as many hits.  And the tapes block connection to myself.

I sit down and open The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, anyway.  It is one of my conscious efforts to poke at the internalized oppression, to try and unseat it.  Checking this book out, along with eight more like it, was another conscious effort.  A slow moving one because they have been sitting in my apartment, untouched, for the past four or five months as I have checked them out, been cut off from more renewals, put them on hold, checked them out again, and cycled on through.  Until today. Read More

Reflections of a Biracial Sellout.

Stamp mark reading "Sold Out", photo by Oxlock
Dara Burwell, Coffee Shop

Dara Burwell

I look into the eyes of my friend whose crisp gaze synthesizes many ways of knowing- beyond the limits of the physical world, reading into me soul-to-soul.  Does she know that this is a power she carries?  This woman seated within herself, sharpness coupled with deep gentleness and a voice softly spoken.  She tells me that she struggles with feelings of being a sellout.

A sellout?  I tilt my head to look at my magnificent friend.  The idea is so out of alignment that I don’t think it could have occurred to me.  If I hold my head this way, will some previously unknown aspects of her appear?  This intelligent, thoughtful, human, committed, knowing woman thinks of herself, in part, as a sellout?  Perhaps I would have understood better if she had declared herself to be made of marbles.

But I can certainly relate.  How many have held the same experience?

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