Over the past couple of years as I’ve started looking more closely at systemic oppression and injustice, I have noticed that there is a tendency among those who want to deny the severity of the problem to point to members of the oppressed group who also deny the severity of the problem. For example, when talking about the way in which the justice system seems to be stacked against people of color, someone will point to some person of color who says that racial injustice really isn’t that big of a problem or who has escaped that system and emerged successful. “See, so-and-so is black, and he doesn’t think racism is as big a problem as you do,” or, “See, so-and-so was born in poverty and grew up in the inner city and he was still able to become a successful brain surgeon.” Or, when talking about the way women still don’t have full equality with men, someone will point to a woman who says that oppression of women isn’t real, or to some woman who has achieved some level of success.

This is fallacious and inappropriate logic. Exceptions to the rule do not disprove the rule. Furthermore, we know that there are will be people who will act against the best interest of their own group, sometimes sincerely, sometimes out of a selfish attempt to ingratiate themselves to the people in power. For example, we know that there African American slaveholders in the early history of the United States. We know that there were African American’s who supported segregation and other oppressive systems in the civil rights era. We know that there were women who opposed women’s right to vote.

Bottom line: Someone in an oppressed group denying the oppression does not mean that the oppression does not exist, and it is inappropriate for people outside of that group to use such as an excuse to deny real problems.


  1. I really appreciate the work you’ve done to learn and the stance you’ve taken Thomas. Speaking truth to power is important to do when we have the chance. Bravo!


  2. Excellent points! The exception to any rule is a good starting point for discussions about how to counter oppression, but it should NEVER be taken as evidence that oppression doesn’t exist. e.g. Racism disappeared when we elected Barack Obama.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s