Oppression: Psychological Abuse and Nonviolent Resistance

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Oppression is the mistreatment of an individual or group in society by another individual or group in society. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “oppression” as physical or mental distress. Oppression is the physical or mental abuse of a person or peoples by an individual or group who considers themselves to be superior. It is often socially condoned by the majority or “elite” within society. It restricts the oppressed from having control over their own lives. Oppressed people are usually considered weak or inferior to a dominant group in society. Anyone can be a victim of oppression in one way or another, whether it is a person who is discriminated against because of his race, a woman who is treated as if she is inferior to men, or even the “geek” in school who is teased by his peers. Oppression can be experienced in all walks of life.

The oppressed often feel degraded or ashamed. While speaking about an experience she had as a young girl when a classmate called her a derogatory name Naylor writes, “But I didn’t “hear” it until it was said by a small pair of lips that had already learned it could be a way to humiliate me.”(106). Naylor realized the pain and hatefulness that a word she knew well could bring when used in a hurtful context. Hate must have already been instilled in her classmate even at such a young age. Adults and society had already begun manipulating this child into an oppressor role. The hate and pain of oppression can be passed down through generations. The use of and context of the hurtful word used by that young child was a product of oppression and its purpose to persecute.

Oppression creates a feeling of powerlessness in the oppressed. Oppressors try to diminish their dignity and make them submissive. In Gates essay “What’s in a name?” he writes about an experience he had as a young boy when a white man would not give his father enough respect to even call him by his name, because he was colored. Gates...
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