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Our generation is complicit to other people's oppression

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FEBRUARY 15, 2023

My generation advocates for robust changemaking environments. What is needed now is action, true, but its proliferation may be a disadvantage to those who do not have access to information on how to execute this action correctly. 

The more I talk with my peers, the more I realize that they view the liminal as adverse. They view gray areas as harmful. However, the liminal is essential to make the actual “changemaking” worth doing. It would give ample time to assess whether a particular thing is tangible or intangible, feasible or infeasible. 

Our generation has to consider what action could mar all the possible good coming out of current advocacies for equity. 

Oppression is often blatant, but it is also simultaneously invisible, sometimes even ignored. This concept can be difficult to understand, but it is crucial to consider, at the very least. I believe this is the complexity in our generation: we remain unbothered in the amalgamation of what we do. 

I see patterns in complicitness from various groups’ oppression, in value and action. Upon reflection of these said patterns, the best way I learned more about our need to save what is left of our world was through constant conversation. While I may never run out of opinions and viewpoints on this topic, I wanted to try asking a slightly older generation’s perspective on this persistent pattern of prejudice. 

Luckily, I was able to talk with Tara Pixley, an active contributor to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as a professor at Loyola Marymount University. Identifying as an Afro-Caribbean migrant, she co-founded Authority Collective, an organization for photographers and photojournalists who identify as queer or people of color. Today, Authority Collective has amassed a staff of over 300 people to bring light to a plethora of issues that often are overlooked or silenced in today’s political climate. 

A strong advocate for various perspectives, Pixley emphasizes diverse engagement and learning in the organization. Pixley’s first approach to combating co-oppression is through artists’ unique work, as she has done through capturing images of at-risk communities across the country. She encourages all to realize the beauty of difference when noting that “we are bringing something unique to the way we see the world. We need to have the mentality that everyone has something unique to say from their life that is unlike any other person.” 

Pixley was able to cover two individual stories that were able to defy my previous argument on how the current generation remains complicit to oppression. 

The first was her work covering Casa De Luz, an LGBTQ migrant shelter in Los Angeles, for the New York Times. A lot of defiances comes from the lack of open-minded engagement, which sometimes Pixley was hesitant to do: “Do I have the right to tell this story?” She continued anyway, as there was a strong need for it to be covered. Someone needed to tell this shelter’s story, and she chose to be that vessel since she expressed solidarity with it. This demonstrates that amplifying the voices of others is a great way to oppose complicitness. 

The second story Pixley was able to photograph was the coverage of teenage ketamine use in treatment for depression, featured recently in the Wall Street Journal. As sensitive as this was, Pixley advocated for this story and gracefully photographed the news coverage. The reliance on substances stemming from subsequent drug abuse that many privileged people are ignoring is one of the many things Pixley hopes to stand against. 

“We need a revolution; we need revolutionary acts and community building; there is no other way. We are experiencing an extinction-level event, and most believe that we aren’t,” she shared with me. 

Pixley emphasized that extinction-level events — such as our dilemma with climate change, human rights, war and equity — are difficult to see right now, since their full impact can only be seen over the course of centuries. I learned that most of human understanding only sped up because of the fact that most of us are experiencing what it is like to be on the death rows of humanity. The only thing left for people to do is to live and act in solidarity with each other to combat the oppression we are collectively experiencing. We no longer have time to wait until issues consume us in order to act against them. 

Through this conversation, I was able to gather my remaining sentiment on this topic: the hope that the youth can finally say no. There are exploitations everywhere, but the challenge is being cognizant of how we sit amid someone being complicit in someone else’s oppression, even when we are also oppressed. Driving factors like these are a prime example of what it means to move forward against this brutality. Compliance is not always a solution to growth and vitality. Life goes on, even when we sometimes say no. I invite you to do that in your work, craft and personal language.

Macy Lee is a graduate of UC Davis, with a degree in psychology and international relations. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

FEBRUARY 15, 2023