Jasir Qiydaar, ’18, Media & Communication Studies, was a member of UMBC’s 19-member delegation to Imagining America’s 2016 national conference.
Too often when marginalized communities resist oppressive systems, people criticize the act of resistance without addressing the issues these groups are speaking out against. In fact, the victims of injustice are often more heavily scrutinized than the sources of their oppression are.
Some accuse members of these groups of perpetuating or even creating the problems they’re fighting against. Others may claim their protests are being carried out in the wrong way or at the wrong time.
Recently, this ideology was present in the backlash against NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police brutality against African-Americans. Kaepernick’s protest consisted of him kneeling during the national anthem before each football games, and many Americans were upset by the gesture. Some completely disregarded the existence of police brutality in America, and instead criticized him for the timing and method of his protest.
These critiques are flawed since there should be no incorrect time or manner to stand up for human rights. Those who are being oppressed are under no obligation to minimize their protests to the most convenient and palatable form. The people who make these arguments are essentially privileging their comfortability over the well-being of others.
As an artist from Milwaukee’s TRUE Skool collective said at this year’s Imagining America conference, “Injustice breeds imbalance.” Behind any sociopolitical expression is a social problem that infringes on the rights of a certain population. Many tend to overlook that social movements are responses to issues that cause individuals great amounts of suffering.
These problems, like institutional racism and sexism, are systemic. They exist on a large scale, and they harm countless individuals from a variety of backgrounds.
The effects of these issues are validated by both lived experiences and empirical data. Therefore, it is counterproductive to dismiss them.
Additionally, at their core, social issues are the result of an abnormal lack of regard for human rights. It stands to reason that responses would be unconventional as well.
We should criticize systems of oppression as strongly as we criticize those who speak out against them. At all times, we should empathize with individuals whose human rights are infringed upon, not with the agents of their oppression.
Contact the author, Jasir Qiydaar, at firstname.lastname@example.org.