Sharing the pain

To listen to the passionate voices of all the students at the panel discussion on April 27 was to confront the fact that all forms of oppression have serious negative psychological effects on both targets and perpetrators.

The experience of being demeaned, disregarded and disrespected typically results in rage and depression. Self esteem is damaged when the experience is internalized. Women may tell themselves they can’t do math, or people of color may develop the ability to ignore their own feelings. These effects occur whether or not the perpetrator has any awareness or intention of being racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.

It is not just the victim who is hurt. Most of us belong to at least one of these privileged groups: Caucasian, male, heterosexual, middle class, able-bodied, Christian. However, such membership often requires that we ignore our own feelings. For example, men can’t cry for fear of being like a woman. We also learn to see oppressive behaviors and language as a joke, just an opinion, or morally superior. Great pain can accompany unlearning this.

As NIU struggles with the important issues raised by the African-American Latino/Latina Student Caucus, we would all do well to recognize the pain inflicted on every one of us by oppression. Comparing our individual pain leads to isolation and alienation; sharing pain often leads to effective solutions.

Anna Beth Payne

Acting director of Counseling and Student Development Center

and the staff of the center