A Morsel on Injustice: The Role of the Oppressed

As we think about transforming historical injustices, we see first that we have to let the genius and experience of those who have experienced the brunt of the injustice lead the way.  Vincent Harding says it well:

“In the land of our captivity, subject to a host of attempts at dehumanization and humiliation, how and why did we [Black Americans] become the nation’s foremost champions of human freedom and social justice, creators of many of its most native rhythms of life? And what now is our future, and this nation’s destiny, if those costly, creative black visions of hope, long nurtured in the fires of persecution, should be broken and bastardized– or meanly forgotten– in a ruthless and unprincipled process of Americanization”?[1]

And not only should we enter into a new relationship with one another forged with the wisdom from the oppressed, we need to take down the dividing wall of hostility by braiding together and transforming the histories we tell.  As another way of admitting our own powerlessness to solve any of these historical issues, we listen carefully to how our narratives perpetuate the dividing line.  In her study on Native American history and how the history is told in the Canadian elementary, Susan D. Dion quotes Georges Erasmus, “The roots of injustice lie in history and it is there where the key to regeneration of Aboriginal society and a new and better relationship with the rest of Canada can be found.”[2] Noting the propensity to romanticize the mythical other, Dion sets forth a vision for an equal future. Ultimately, she concludes that the telling of history reflects deeply the motivations and assumptions buried deep within the human heart, and that by (re)telling stories from a creative lens that will bring honor to both parties, they can restore harmony between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. How can we continue to bring down the dividing wall of hostility by transforming historical injustices?  How can we let the voices of the oppressed past speak to us and help us remember the burden of oppression?  How can we narrate the past in ways transformative for our futures?  In the end, I wonder: how can we let the genius of the marginalized lead the way to saving many people through what was meant for evil?


[1] Vincent Harding, There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1981), pp. 32.

[2] Susan D. Dion, Braiding Histories (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2009), pp. 3.

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