Oppressor, Oppressed, Both?

Can we go from oppressed to oppressors? Is it strictly one or the other, or can we be both?

There’s a lot of talk lately about racism in the Latinx community, which has been ignited by the Roma breakout star Yalitza Aparicio. For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about or even know who or what Romais. I need you to stop, bookmark this page, open up your Netflix account and look up Roma. You can thank me later.

Now for those of you that know the movie, but are not aware of the current discussions happening throughout several Latinx entertainment boards. I my friend will fill you in, as always I got you boo.

Yalitza is making heads turn and making audiences realize just how racist their favorite actors and actresses are. In case you didn’t know, the Mexican film industry has been known to be a racist and classist industry. In the majority of the movies and telenovelas we will see the same recycled characteristics: light skin, colored eyes, tall, and thin. Echoes Hollywood, right?

Which is why many Mexican actors are having a hard time with Yalitza, especially with all the attention she is getting throughout the globe for a role that resembles the role the Mexican society has given her, a maid. You see they are having a hard time with the fact that a woman that they would hire to do exactly what she did in her movie role, is traveling the globe, posing for elite fashion magazines, and is now nominated for an Oscar.

The elite of the Mexican entertainment industry have gone as so far to try to boycott the AMACC (Academia Mexican de Artes y Ciencias y Cinematográficas) award show. They were threatening to boycott the event if Yalitza was nominated for an Ariel, which is the most prestigious award in Mexico.

She is not the only one feeling the burn of the racist Mexican industry, actor Jorge Antonio Guerrero who plays Fermin in the movie, was denied his Visa three times. He finally received it last week just in time to attend the Oscars this weekend. To this Daniel Bisogno, presenter of a Mexican entertainment show stated: “Just because he looks like a battery thief, doesn’t mean he is one.” The people of Mexico were not having this and blasted the host for his racist comments.

Then this week, poor Yalitza made headlines again because of another hater. This time actor Sergio Goyri, who is known for his tough cowboy portrayals in many telenovelas and movies. He was recorded as calling her a “pinche india” which loosely translates to “fucken Indian”. Oh I know that’s some heavy stuff. He did go on Instagram to apologize for his comments; however, not many (including myself) buy it. He is an actor, he gets paid to act, so who’s to say he’s not acting now? He claims he is not racist and congratulated Yalitza on her nominations. Which is f’n ridiculous because this is what sparked his outrage to begin with.

But here’s the thing, we don’t believe it. I definitely, don’t believe it. The way I see it, his apology is not sincere and is only doing it because he was caught. He might be sorry, but in my opinion he’s sorry he got caught. I strongly believe that our mouths only say what our heart feels; thus, I strongly believe he feels and thinks this way.

Alfonso Cuáron, Yalitza, Marina de Tavira

You see in Latinx communities, indigenous is something you hide, mock and in some cases exterminate. But now they (the world) are celebrating it. They are celebrating an indigenous woman who played an indigenous maid. YES and Mother-F’n yes!!

My mother and little brown me.

Many are surprised, how can latinx hate on latinx?
Unfortunately, this is something that happens often. Especially if you don’t resemble those that you see in the telenovelas. This is something we carry, my mother felt this firsthand, she was light skinned and was reprimanded for having a dark skinned baby. That baby was me. The exact words said to my mother were: “We come to this country to better our race…” Insane, right? Why would people of the same group say this to one another?Especially when both are from the same group that are looked down upon by the Gringo’s?

Immigrants saying it to immigrants, it’s surreal. But this is something that is faced in our community on a daily. Especially those that are Afrolatinx, I still have arguments about this with my family that believe there are no Afrosalvadorians. For the record, there are. Slaves were brought in by the colonizers that settled in the country.

Consequently, in the Latinx community, at least in my hometown it’s common knowledge that getting stopped by a brown cop is a lot worse than getting stopped by a white or black cop.

This all serves as proof that we can all be both, oppressors and oppressed.

It doesn’t only happen in the Latinx community, it happens amongst groups of people you believe would never act as an oppressor because they have historically been victims of oppression themselves. However, as we or to be more exact as Angela Davis learned, this is so far from the truth.

In case you missed it Angela Davis made headlines too. This time around, she wasn’t leading a public outcry against a corporate or social oppressor, she was actually a victim of it.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) announced in January it was going to rescind its “Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award”, after announcing Davis as the winner in October. The award was going to be handed out at an award ceremony and gala on February 16th. The gala was cancelled, and the award rescinded.

It was announced that this decision was made because “Davis didn’t meet all criteria”; however, many believe this is far from the truth. Many believe including the Mayor of Birmingham, that many influential leaders of the Jewish community opposed this award because of Davis’ extremely public support of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest and Sanction), which seeks to hold Israel accountable for their actions against Palestine. Apparently, there was also a profile written on Davis in the Southern Jewish Life magazine, which highlighted her views on the human rights violations suffered by Palestinians by Israel policies and military. It is believed that after this profile was published the elite members of the Jewish community started to make their objections heard.

Many couldn’t believe this was happening, it’s a human rights award. Who rescinds a human rights award? Many in the Jewish community were appalled that this was even happening in their own community. Many were upset that the Institute listened to those voices, I strongly believe that it was not the voices that they were afraid of, but the loss of dollars that they were the most afraid of.

There was a public outcry and the Institute has reversed its decision and would like to proceed in honoring Davis with the award, Davis herself has yet to say if she will accept it or not.

I’m highlighting this because anyone would assume that the Jewish community would not tolerate such behavior, because…well, we all know their history, right?

But this just goes to show that We, humans are fickle. We are all caught up by our own interests. Whether it be our ego, our pockets, our skin tone, or our straight up racism. We must not assume that those that are or have been oppressed will not themselves oppress.

Power is a mighty drug, but fear is even mightier.
In many cases it is fear that makes us act a fool, I believe those that were once oppressed fear that they can easily go back to being oppressed if they do not show strength. This is a valid sentiment in most cases; however, it’s also valid to believe that the people of Israel should not oppress the people from Palestine because of their history of persecution. As it is to believe that all Latinx communities should support each other, because at the end of the day in the US, we are all seen as Mexican (ja!) and we will all be put in the same bus back to Mexico.

For the record, I personally do not perceive it this way I know we are different beautiful shades of brown. However, I know that many out there perceive the brown community this way. So, take it up with them.

I strongly believe that the elite actors in Mexico fear that they will be pushed out, by actors that resemble the true state of the country. By actors that look more like Yalitza and less like Sofia Vergara or William Levy (calm down gente, I know neither of them are Mexican but using them as a reference point).

The classism and racism that taints Mexico has me dumbfounded, I mean, one of the greatest and most important figures of Mexican history was indigenous. Benito Juárez, from a poor indigenous family in Oaxaca, was President of the country. Your country, was raped by colonizers and yet here we are in 2019 talking smack about an actress simply because she is indigenous.

I do not understand.

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

-Malcolm X

In the US, we have seen how those in power have managed to enrage and feed the poor white class so much hate and fear that they have turned on anything that is not white. Those in power, have made these poor folks believe that we, people of color, are the reasons why they are in their current state. We, are the reason why they lack healthcare, an education, homes, etc.

The system has done such a great job at covering their tracks, by pushing the blame on others they can continue to not take care of these individuals themselves. They do not have to answer to anyone, they just continue to blame it on people of color, foreigners, anyone that is not white. We are stealing their jobs, preventing them from acquiring an education, purchasing a home, or getting the healthcare they need. We are to blame, not the people they voted into office, not the people running these programs or systems.

Let’s face it, it’s easier to fight those you deem weak or different, than a system which you do not understand or see.

“People seem good while they are oppressed, but they only wish to become oppressors in their turn: life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim”

-Bertrand Russell

It’s no secret that the poor in this country have been ignored, the poor of all colors. The poor whites, have simply been lead to believe that immigrants and people of color are responsible for their current situation. Which is why they have jumped in and joined 45’s circus. In no way am I saying that they weren’t racist before, but one cannot deny that it has caught steam these past couple of years.

Unfortunately, our realities are tainted by fear. We fear that we will be erased, stripped of the little possessions and power we have; thus, we must convert ourselves into the oppressors. We fear what we do not understand or agree with, thus we must oppress. We fear co-existing with others, we fear the lights will dim and the spotlight will no longer be on those of us that “deserve” to be here, so we belittle and sabotage.

In short, we must understand that we, one way or another, can go from oppressed to oppressor, and those we oppressed can just as easily become the oppressors. What is hard, is taking action when we see individuals becoming victims of this, or catching ourselves when we fall into the oppressor mindset.

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