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Sunday, October 09, 2005

More About Oppression

Oppression seems to be a term misunderstood not only by politicians, but also by writers. Here’s an excerpt from another HUM 399 assigned reading: Redneck Liberation by David Fillingin

Baptist writer, preacher, and native redneck Will D. Campbell provides a better starting point for elaborating redneck identity. Campbell uses the word redneck to refer to “the underprivileged white of mill town and rural South.” The sharecropper system, through which the rednecks eked out a bare existence from the soil, was a “more sneaky kind of slavery, so the redneck never had to acknowledge it.” In other words, the redneck has been oppressed without ever realizing it. The interests of the white Southern oligarchy, historically the oppressors of both poor white and poor black, obviously lay in keeping the fear and anger of the two groups of poor Southerners directed at one another rather that at the ruling elite. Throughout the nineteenth century, the life of the poor white rural Southerner was a transient, migratory, and contingent one. Rednecks moved often, seeking a place where they could farm with some measure of success and security. The best lands were consumed by large-scale planters in the plantation economy, so small farmers were forced into ever more remote locations, leaving them in a marginal position socially and economically.

The way oppression is used is this passage seems wrong to me. If the farmers willingly entered into a sharecropping program that would fail to provide economic well being, then that’s an example of bad decision making, not oppression. The farmers would have been oppressed had they been forced to enter into a sharecropping program and prevented from pursuing any other occupation.

Perhaps what I found to be the worst part of this reading was the “oppression” experienced by the poor white Southerner was equated to the oppression experienced by black slaves. The two situations seem very different to me.

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