oppressive systems condition us out of certain emotions

preface: this insight has come through across several dimensions of my paid an unpaid work lately.

among people who hold oppressed identities, one of the ways oppression works is to condition us out of certain emotions. the two critical emotions this seems to be true for are anger and sadness. the mechanisms of conditioning appear to be withdrawal of resources and shame. if you are too angry, the system (aka a boss or holder of resources) will prevent you from maintaining your access to those resources. or if you are too sad, the system will make you feel like it’s a problem with you and absolve itself of all responsibiilty for creation the conditions about which you are sad.

now, all emotions are teachers. my buddhist practice has taught me that well, but lots of other people/places teach that, too. and what’s interesting to me about anger and sadness is that they are some of the emotions that inform us that something needs to change. but systemic oppression conditions us to believe, via the aforementioned mechanisms, that some emotions are bad.

this is interesting because it’s an important nuance that i think more of us need to grapple with. in workplaces and our movements, everyone’s experience of the same emotions doesn’t lead us to the same place.

what do we need to do about that? probably dismantle the oppressive systems that make that so. but in the meantime, part of moving strategically is awareness of context and the fact that so many people i work with internalize particular “negative” emotions to their detriment feels pretty significant.

note: this insight does not necessarily apply for people with priveleged identities. if you are an angry white person or wealthy person or man, you are often awarded for standing up for yourself, expressing your ideas boldly, etc. if you are an angry black person or person of color or poor person or woman or non-binary person, your anger is deemed unsafe, dangerous, and sometimes grounds for destruction.

words / writing / post-processing
343w / 12min / 5min