We need to recognize that overcoming oppression is not a matter of find someone else to take our place at the bottom of the pile. That’s the history of the human response to oppression, and it’s an ineffective response that not only damages others but ultimately damages ourselves.
Throughout the history of immigration to North America, each newly arrived ethnic group assumed its position at the bottom of the pile and in doing so displaced – and elevated – the group that had previously been on the bottom. In the Milwaukee are where I grew up, German immigrants didn’t get along with Italian immigrants and the Polish were the butt of the same jokes told in New England about the Irish. People of color initially didn’t even occupy the same “pile” in the eyes of European Americans, but eventually our definition of the “piles” changed, and in perhaps the ultimate left-handed complement, people of color were added to the bottom of the same pile that European Americans occupied.
The pattern didn’t change, however. Each time a segment of the population left the bottom rung of the ladder it was replaced by another group. That hasn’t changed. People of the an ethnic group who live on one side of town don’t like the people of the same ethnicity who live on another. People of the same ethnicity but of different education levels don’t like one another. Blue collar workers don’t like white collar workers who don’t like no collar workers. Gay and lesbian people have the audacity to disparage transgendered people.
The point we are missing is that we are all inseparably interconnected. That means that when any one of us is diminished, all of us are diminished. Whomever we decide to push to the bottom of the pile pushes all of us to the bottom of the pile. In case you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you can fix your own car, grow and prepare you own food, build your own home with your own hands, drill and refine your own oil to make gasoline for your car – or else catch and break your own horse and build your own wagon. I think by now all of us can see that none of us are an island onto themselves. That being the case, can we come to see that none of us can afford to oppress anyone else?
Taking the next step in the evolution of humanity absolutely requires that we awaken to this truth. Make no mistake about it, the inequality, the poverty, the violence, and every other problem in our society is directly linked to the false, evil belief that there are disposable human beings. Make no mistake about this, either – every one of us are diminished by the suffering of any other human being.
It’s time to grow up.