Oppressor, Oppressed, Oppression

An oppressor is one who uses her/his power to dominate another, or who refuses to use her/his power to challenge that domination.

An oppressed is one who is dominated by an oppressor, and by those who consent with their silence.

Oppression is the power and the effects of domination. In the U.S., there are many forms of (often) interlocking oppressions: racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, anti-semitism, ablism, ageism, etc.

In a white supremacist, capitalist, male supremacist, and heterosexist system, all non-ruling class whites are in some way oppressed by that system, but we are also privileged by it. When we organize against our own oppression, but not against our privilege — that is, against the oppression of people of color, we become oppressors of people of color. Inaction is complicity. Silence is consent. To cease being oppressors, we must act against oppression. (See “The Strategy of the Slave Owners.”)