Oppression.

To be marginalized is to be oppressed. For a group to be oppressed, there must be an oppressor and a hierarchy of powers.

Privilege.

Our construct of society has created a hierarchical class structure based on identity. Essential to progress is to take the many identities one possesses and to love them and to fight for them.

Empowerment.

To overcome a lack of privilege, it is imperative to deconstruct the systematic and institutional oppression that a group faces.

Intersectionality.

It takes all people of all marginalized identities and their allies to work collaboratively to ensure the empowerment of a population. A fairer society can be reached if people work collectively toward common goals. In this case the goal is simple: Equity.

Movement.

Recent movements have come under fire for seemingly ostracizing other communities. As it is Black History Month, it’s appropriate to discuss the Black liberation movements and clarify some points regarding them.

To love oneself doesn’t mean to hate others. To empower one’s identity doesn’t require the bringing down of other identities. To be Black is to be marginalized in this world. Institutionally this nation has criminalized Blackness and stereotyped Black persons as criminals. It has separated Black persons from the greater population through decades of institutional policies (see slavery, redlining and racist housing discrimination, Jim Crow laws, etc.), and no reparations were ever given.

Systematically, culture has taught Black children they are inferior in intellect, looks and behavior (see doll test). Worldwide, darker skin has been empirically equated with lesser notions of beauty through multiple studies. Natural hair and Afros are seen as unprofessional, and “black-sounding names” are seen as less desirable in a workplace.

The world has taught us that to be Black is to be inferior – perhaps even primitive. Ultimately, these biases have resulted in the unwarranted deaths of thousands of individuals since the creation of this nation.

To empower oneself is to reclaim this identity. To tell society that no identity should be marginalized or compromised to a notion of hierarchy. Every identity is important, including mine. I love my Blackness. I love your identity, too. I love myself. I love you, too.

The Northeastern community is a beautiful amalgamation of people from all different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, classes, ability statuses, immigration statuses and many other potential identities.

Understand the complex identities that go into the making of an individual. Recognize the inherent privileges one possesses and the identities for which one is marginalized. Empower and love your identity for at the end of the day you are unique, you are loved and you have every right to love yourself.

*****

The notions of individual and identity are ones I have attempted to explore. I have come to understanding my place and recognize how I can empathize with others by seeking other perspectives and placing the uniqueness of myself within the greater context of community.

We are all individuals who live in a world that is uniquely ours.

The universe is a creation of our own mind. The operations within our brain, the things we see, the interpretations we make, the lessons we learn and the ways we grow are all manifestations of our own being. That being is shaped by our experiences. These experiences are, in part, a result of the identities. So the identities we are born with, the cultures we adhere to and the communities we come from all literally shape our brain and in turn how we think and react in situations.

As simple an understanding as this may be for many, it was transformative for me. The fact that I could be speaking with someone who goes to the same institution as me, takes the same classes as me, likes the same music as me, watches the same sports as me, belongs to similar identities and shares my love for chunky, not smooth, peanut butter who has a completely different worldview than mine was rattling, to say the least. My experiences are uniquely mine. Their experiences are uniquely theirs.

Diversity and inclusion aren’t limited to making space for more people of different identities. We also all need to address how we can make our situations and our spaces more inclusive. This requires the realization that we must deconstruct how we may view an individual and a situation and work to understand how the individual sees themselves and the situation. In short, it’s not imperative to treat others how you want to be treated but rather how they want, and in turn deserve, to be treated.

Ultimately, I am me and you are you. Persons shaped by the many experiences and identities we possess. I will respect you for it while asking you to grow with me.

Henoss Taddesse is a sophomore political science major and a Northeastern Black Student Association representative.