I live in a country that has long history of being oppressed (DRC). I come from a country that has a long history of being an oppressor. But within the U.S., I’ve always defined myself as one who has experienced oppression. I never had enough power to oppress anyone.
Sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society. Its an essential element for taking people out victimization and into a place of liberation and eventually activism.
When my Congolese friends practice social imagination, it comes with grief and anger—both essential for a person's healing and liberation. It comes with recognizing the pain of their missed opportunities, their subhuman existence that the world forces them to live in and the unfairly stacked odds against them. You see, its easier to live a life not knowing what you missed, living ignorant enough to the world around you to never consider what your passport, skin color or religious denomination has cost you. And that’s how many people live. But the contemporary leader cannot live that way. In order for the Congolese to transform the world, they need to reconcile what the world is and the reality of where they are in it, no matter how painful it is.
The agonizing part is with that recognition comes a clear understanding that I, Amethyst Roth, their friend, their daughter, their co-worker: I represent one of the two parts of the society—and its not the part they represent.
I represent the oppressor. I am the oppressor.
I’ve never represented the oppressor before. I used to be the girl in school that got paper balls thrown at me for praying in the courtyard. I used to be the girl with the not-so-ideal body image. I used to be the one with no family connections that could promise me a better future. I used to be the girl that got ‘lesbian’ written about her all over the bathroom wall (back before being a lesbian was cool).
I thought I was Puerto Rican.
I thought I was on the ‘oppressed’ side of social imagination.
But I’m not. I’m the oppressor. I’m the white privilege. I’m the one who they are fighting for justice against.
Everyday, I walk the shaky tightrope of my own insecurity of being left alone, abandoned or isolated and their insecurity of being controlled, being taken for less than what they are, being colonized.
Both insecurities equally valid according to our histories and personal experiences, but both equally destructive to wholesome trusting relationships. Maybe there is something that is wrong with me and I have a deeply oppressive and dominating nature, which stems from my own past oppression. Paulo Friere said that “...the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.” Maybe I’m not without guilt.
I constantly feel accused of being something that I’m aware I represent and I try so hard not to be.
Another hypocritical missionary that says she cares about justice but is really the antithesis of it.
But if I defend myself, I run the risk of being a colonizer. If I don’t, I run the risk of facing my own greatest insecurity—isolation. Its a deep, deep battle that I face everyday. A battle that I can’t win with my words. I don’t even know if I can win it with my actions. Will I always be the person that the people I love most must protect themselves from?
I’ve heard it said that the best way to love someone is to serve their best interests, even at your own expense. What do I have to lose? Being alone? Being abandoned? Being accused and misunderstood? Or even being guilty? Its nothing that I haven’t been through before and God vindicated me then. I have to believe that even if I hate it; even if I don’t want that to happen, God is the one who will be there to hold me even if I get the bad end of the stick. They've certainly felt the sting of vulnerability. Why not me?
I have to believe that. And I have to accept it. Nonetheless, some cups are never easy to drink—even if they are given to us by our fathers.