When someone else offers to help, or wants to tell our story, even for the most noble of reasons, we have to wake up to the cunning oppression of benevolence. People can literally kill us with their kindness. Its not about good intentions. The road to hell is paved with them. Its about the oppressed empowering themselves and refusing to let anyone else lead their fight to be free.
Man can support women, and whites can be allies of blacks and straights can empower gays, but if men and whites and straights save women, blacks and gays, who remain the saviors of the story? it is the familiar story of neo-colonialism. We liberate you so we can exploit you even more.
Or as often seems to happen in Israel Palestine, we will attack you within an inch of your life, and then evacuate you to one of our world class hospitals to save you. Your story will honor our mercy, but deep down, all it witnesses to is the power we have over whether you live or die.
Even when the oppression becomes extreme and stirs all consciences, inspires flotillas, creates boycott campaigns, people don’t realize their help can be as lethal as the malice they are opposing. Helping or hindering, their power is still a “power over.” As Fanon and others have said, if the slaves do not free themselves, their freedom is owed to someone else. Freedom to be real is the product of an agent acting in his own story.
As Barbara Myerhoff said, the first act of liberation for any oppressed peoples is to grab back their story. If the source of the dominant tellings that inflict the harm and offer the help are the same, it is a sign that the oppressed have even outsourced their liberation. Paulo Freire insists that the oppressor can never save the oppressed. The oppressed must save themselves, and it is only they who can save the oppressor.
Thanks for not helping. We are here to take our story back.
Thanks for shutting up and allowing us to speak.
Thanks for stepping back- Thanks for making us step forward.