Teju Cole

From a phenomenal Atlantic commentary today from author Teju Cole (@tejucole) touches on a variety of topics, including Cole’s ┬ámost pertinent focus on what he calls the “White Savior Complex.”

But, it was his point-on observation of the marginalization of of already-oppressed voices that caught my attention, as well (emphasis added):

But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.

The marginalization against those minority leaders or community members — racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, what-have-you — who dare to speak out plainly and directly about their experiences in an oppressive system designed to exploit and harm them isn’t just something that comes from the oppressors. Unfortunately, the oppressed are doing it to themselves; Cole’s observed “pressure to be well-behaved” is often self-imposed. And, it’s a shame.

I’m becoming increasingly more convinced that some of the more mainstreamed leaders among various minorities — who consistently stand up to defend their “friends” in high places instead of the rights of those people in their own communities — suffer less from the blindness of privilege and more from Stockholm syndrome.