“Forgiving” Men and Other Oppressors, Part II

Dim light peaking through gray clouds, photo by Eprom
Nicole Headshot

Nicole Hurt

For a few months now, I have been thinking about a conversation with Nicole Hurt- a gifted artist, community organizer, and social justice trainer here in Colorado.  In that conversation, Nicole described to me the consequences of dubbing another person as “monster.”  She explained that the problem is that regarding someone as a monster puts them into an absolute, inflexible role.  And, as a consequence, if the other person is fixed as a monster, then that leaves you in an equally fixed opposing role.  Typically, as the victim.  After all, if the other person has only one dimension, what choices does this leave?  The victim of the monster?  A monster countering another monster?  The slayer of a monster?  Whatever the choice, the monster is left in the psychological position of power because they are at the center of it all.  Every action revolves around them, and the only thing left to do is respond to them- whether preemptively or after the fact.  And that position of constant response, of reactivity even when one is on the offense, leaves you fixed, yourself.  Always defending yourself, always attacking back, always doing something that is caught in an endless, predictable cycle.

The truth of Nicole’s words, the meaning of them, strike me, and I am exhausted.  Exhausted by my grief over the experiences of other women, grief over my own experiences.  I hear about what is happening all around the world, all around me.  The mass mutilations.  The extreme, intense violence.  Everywhere.  All the time.  And it is so difficult to feel powerful.  How does one feel powerful in the face of constant victimization?  How does one feel powerful when hardly a single female identified and/or female bodied friend of mine has not experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of men?  How is one to feel powerful when most people- social justice advocates most absolutely included- don’t have even a basic working framework of what sexism is, and have little investment in undoing it?  How does one feel powerful under the constant, seizing pressure to conform to gendered standards, and excuse the mass brutality against women by folding it over into a disembodied blandness of distant, soundless occurrences?  How is one to feel powerful when it feels like at the end of the day it is men who win most of the battles?

And yet, I must figure out how to answer these questions.  Not out of some sense of “fairness” for “good men,” or even for my beloved one.  I do not owe this.  I do not owe.

I must figure out how to answer my questions for the benefit of my own life.  Because I do not want to continue to see myself, nor other women, in the perpetual role of the loser.  Because if I place men in the fixed role of “dangerous predators,” then what role does that leave me in?  What role does it leave us in as women?  And how can I think well and be flexible in the face of that kind of fear?  How can I live my life with more internal peace than turmoil?

Cam, I sympathize with you.  I understand well where you are coming from.  I understand that for you, white people are an oppressor group you cannot forgive.

And perhaps forgive is not the best word for it.  Perhaps it is simply coming to resolution- being able to recognize those who have caused you the greatest harm as humans rather than monsters.  And holding this recognition in such a way that you do not have to erase yourself to do it, do not have to erase your knowing and experiences, and do not have to make everything into some shade of gray that validates everything as a difference of opinion or perspective.  No, Cam, I think you and I can do it in such a way that it honors ourselves and our communities.  Something other than men and white people being merely predatory.  So that we can think more effectively around those who are.  So that we can maintain ourselves, and not feel like we have perpetually lost even before we have begun.  So that we can recognize the possibilities amidst what we have declared to be impossible, and what has been declared impossible for us.

Beyond resiliency.  Beyond surviving.

To read part one, please click here.

3 Comments on ““Forgiving” Men and Other Oppressors, Part II

  1. It’s hard to fully comprehend the feelings you describe here on part two of this entry having never experienced oppression in such an intense and perpetual way. I appreciate you sharing this though because it does give me an idea of how the healing process and maintaining one’s own power is like from another perspective. Ultimately, resentment does hurt the people on the receiving end as well as the person who fosters it–it’s an old cliche, but this piece helps us see another side of that. Anyway, I don’t have anything very thoughtful to say, but I do hope you and others who share these feelings (which at times does include me in some level) are able to draw strength from this and your other work. I appreciate your work.

    • Salvador, thank you for reflecting on this piece of the post, as well. I find myself wondering if we really have had such vastly different experiences with oppression. The experiences would have been related to different identities, but I think that parallel experiences of oppression would have been hard for you to avoid… Perhaps you negotiate and store these things in your body differently than I do. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I appreciate you taking the time to comment. And that I appreciate you in the world. I have always experienced you to be a thoughtful person with a warm heart. Sending you and your partner my best.

  2. Dara, Dara, Dara after reading your piece and giving it some thought. I hope that I have found the words that will travel beyond time and space, limitation and what exist. I hope the tone will capture the past, present, future and any other period my mind cannot comprehend. I hope this message speaks to your heart.. Please forgive the grammatical errors I must say that I am not much of a writer. I will first start with an echo, then express a concern, and finally end with a challenge. Dara your critique of oppression and its transgressors is without a doubt one of the most inti grit and well communicated pieces I have ever heard or seen. From the story of your friend and their partner to how passionately you express the suffering of the world in which we live. I appreciate your truth, from that with the story of your “beloved” to never fully understanding the type of forgiving that seems to turn a “blind eye” to the transgressions and the trauma of the past. To all of that I say I hear you, and I feel you (more than you may realize). There can be no effectively deny the statements and the truth that you’ve spoken here. This is “on point” and I can truly see how you are speaking “truth to power”.
    With all of that said my concern is this. As I continued to read your article it seems as through the darkness that your were/are/have been experience is completely overwhelming you. If that is the case, I am saddened….not just because I care for you or that I believe you to be a person and women with power beyond measure. But more so that the pain has taken root so much that it is being allowed to distort and overshadow the light that is YOURS! A Light that no man, no being, no group, no Lord, not even god, or Gods can take. The LIGHT IS YOURS and with it ALL OF THE STRENGTH AND POWER THAT COMES WITH IT. IT YOURS! NO ONE ELSE’S!
    My challenge simply is this….I have heard it said, “It is better to light a single candle than to continue to curse the darkness.” Light the candle!Please ….and I say this knowing that by you “speaking truth to power” you are already providing light to darkness in the world that we live. My honest opinion is even though you are “shedding light” on the world of abuse, an oppression, you have one more candle to light. For in sharing/adding a story of someone conquering the pain and displacing the darkness. There will still be the analytical critique and condemnation, there will still be the raw emotion of anger and unacceptable resolve that violence perpetrated by the world is wrong and will not be tolerated. By you sharing just one message, one story of anyone’s triumph over the perpetual oppressors the darkness does not overshadow the light, it does not take away from the piece one bit….AND YOU ….HAVE THE MOST POWERFUL STORY OF THEM ALL. Within you! LIGHT THE CANDLE!!!….PLEASE!
    Brotha Tafiti, Friend Forever!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *