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What Does Oppression Look Like?

By       Message Lenore Daniels     Permalink
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Oh, no cannonballs did fly, no rifles cut us down
No bombs fell from the sky, no blood soaked the ground
No powder flash blinded the eye, no deathly thunder sound
But just as sure as the hand of God, they brought death to my hometown
They brought death to my hometown, boys

No shells ripped the evening sky, no cities burning down
No armies stormed the shores for which we'd die
No dictators were crowned
I awoke from a quiet night, I never heard a sound
Marauders raided in the dark and brought death to my hometown, boys
Death to my hometown

They destroyed our families' factories and they took our homes
They left our bodies on the plains, the vultures picked our bones

Bruce Springsteen, "Death to My Hometown," Wrecking Ball (album)  

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Recently, while waiting for the manager to open the door of a local grocery store, I heard a conversation between two young men who walked up from the parking lot and stood behind me. The conversation was already in progress:

Yeah, my family in the Islands. When I was young, they spoke that Spanish at home.

Man, then you can speak Spanish?

No, I don't speak that mess, man.

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I don't know what they are saying.   That Spanish mess, (expletive) Spanish, man. So you got Spanish blood?

Yeah, my great grandfather was white, too. Irish!

Yeah! You got some Irish too? (Expletive).  


(Expletive), you don't have that much Black in you.

No, (expletive), I got some of everything.

But anything"

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In the store's glass window, a tall, dark brown-skinned man stands next to a white man, shorter in statue. Both are young, workers or possibly out of work. The one pleased to learn that the other did not place much value on the Black blood running through his veins, is smiling. The not-so-Black, Black man, is not.

This is what harmony looks like in a capitalist society like ours here in the U.S.

If the same two young men should decide to exercise their rights to free speech and protest in front of this store, if the two, identifying themselves, let us say, as Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters, enter this same store and, without guns or sticks, demand its closure and proceed to replace it by building a community-owned market, if, even, they enter the store to demanded the rights of its workers to unionize and receive living wage, if these men remain "non-violent," their actions would still be considered subversive--violent.    

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Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, Black Commentator, Editorial Board and Columnist, Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory

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