Are we blind to the oppressed among us?
In part one, we examined why we are blind to the oppressed among us. Today we will address the second part of the question, “Who are the oppressed among us?”
It seems like everyone is trying to define oppression and its impact. But defining what oppression is and who the oppressed are, are two very different tasks.
The Oxford Dictionary defines oppression as the prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority. Some synonyms are maltreatment, tyranny, subjugation, enslavement, exploitation, brutality, abuse, ruthlessness, suffering, and injustice.
Oppression uses wealth, power, and influence to maintain one’s position at someone else’s expense.
You would think with that description that maltreatment would be easy to identify. But oppression is very much in the eye of the beholder.
The exploited individual knows what it is, but the person in power rarely considers the issue and seldom recognizes the oppressor.
Who are the oppressed among us?
If you read or watch the news, you have had a steady diet of stories concerning people of color’s senseless slaughter by law enforcement.
These events have collectively broken most of our hearts. But most of us have experienced this vicariously through the experiences of others.
Some have grown tired of the subject of racism.
But our brothers and sisters of color are tired as well. They are tired of waiting for change to happen, of being told to move on and get over a lifetime of abuse, suffering, and cruelty.
I am personally tired of making excuses for not speaking up on their behalf.
Ask a person of color what oppression is, and they have no difficulty defining it because they have experienced it.
In America, the Oppressed are people of color.
My ignorance or lack of experience with injustice and cruelty does not negate its existence or impact on people of color.
What does the Bible say about the Oppressed among us?
God has a lot to say about the oppressed and oppressors of any generation. His instructions concerning oppression apply to us today.
If you read the Bible carefully, you might come away with the impression that God is obsessed with the oppressed. God hates oppression.
God knows our hearts and our natural inclination to selfishness. He knows that our sinfulness may lead us to oppress others.
The Old Testament books of the Law warned the Israelites against the oppression of others.
It recorded the Egyptian’s systemic oppression of the Israelites in the Exodus account, their treatment of the Israelites as property, a disposable resource, and inferior to the Egyptians in every way.
You would think that a nation that had suffered such cruelty would violently oppose oppressing anyone else. But sadly, this was not the case.
In Amos chapter five, there are two specific ways that the Israelites oppressed their fellow citizens. The first was excessive taxation. In verse 11, the author notes that the poor are taxed so that the rich and powerful can build stone mansions. The second was the perversion of justice. In verses 7-12, the author describes a corrupt court system that favored the rich, powerful, and influential over the poor.
As a white American, I cringe as I read these passages because they feel like they were written to me and my generation.
I may not have instituted the system of slavery, but I have indirectly benefited from it.
My silence in response to the inherent racism around me is deafening. I can no longer claim ignorance, or that law enforcement’s death of another person of color is the exception.
I can no longer ignore the disparity people of color experience in the court system through the length of a sentence or bail availability.
The Oppressed are not some nameless person on a distant shore. People of color are our neighbors, friends, and extended family who are the Oppressed.
So, what do we do now?
We have two choices concerning the oppressed.
We can continue to ignore the oppressed. We can stick our heads in the sand and pretend we do not see the brutality around us.
We can make excuses for why the person is suffering. We can convince ourselves that they are solely responsible for their condition.
We can determine that someone else’s job is to address the issue.
Or we can acknowledge the advantages that we have as white Americans and the obstacles people of color face.
We can pray for God’s wisdom as we seek racial reconciliation.
We can begin a face-to-face conversation with others as we seek to understand what they are going through.
We can be an advocate for them when others seek to oppress them.
Oppression uses wealth, power, and influence to maintain one’s position at someone else’s expense. The oppressed matter to God, and they should also matter to us. What steps will you take this week to support the systematically oppressed?
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