General Question

ragingloli's avatar

Do you think that being on the receiving end of discrimination and oppression makes you less likely to oppress others?

Asked by ragingloli (41616points) July 21st, 2014

Or does it increase your willingness to oppress others, either because your own victim hood blinds you to your own prejudices, or makes you feel entitled to oppress others?

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9 Answers

Dan_Lyons's avatar

That’s a tough question. It goes both ways. Some people are more likely to become oppressive of others (especially their oppressors), while others are equally likely to forgive their oppressors and live a joyful life with the creator.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s a great question. But thinking it over, I doubt if it actually makes that much difference. Empathy is a peculiar trait that seems very unevenly distributed among us. I remember reading a commentary on the fact that immigrant impoverished Irish men fresh off the boat from English persecution were the preferred candidates when it came to overseers of slaves. It seems they could be counted on for particularly harsh brutality. Then there are the timeless examples of those on the receiving end of discrimination and oppression eagerly venting their frustrations by returning home to beat their wives. No, a person shouldn’t require personal suffering to place himself in another’s shoes. There are a few who do learn and take being the object of persecution to heart, resulting in revised attitudes. But I think it’s far more common for those so oppressed, to miss the point when it comes to their treatment of others.

cazzie's avatar

OMG… This is SUCH a good question!!! I just saw a a wonderful test about compassion and it is more complex than you think. We are complex creatures. If we are shown just the smallest amount of humanity and courtesy after experiencing an episode of being slighted we can show an amazing amount of empathy for the person who slighted us. Have a watch:

cazzie's avatar

If you can’t access the study, the jist of it is, that if you face the person who was horrible to you, say , bumped into you in the lobby and was rude about it…. you would be quite happy to make that person suffer by making them eat hot chili (anonymously). But if the person guiding the study who was explaining the idea of the level of hotness exposure, was nice to you, showed some humanity toward you simply by being jovial, convivial or complimentary, the test subjects did not subject their abuser to as horrible a dose than if the man in the lab coat explaining things was simply cold and removed and clinical. Our revenge attitude depends on if we are reminded of human kindness between opportunity to take that revenge. It was brilliant.

Lucinda's avatar

There is no simple rule, but I’d say the victim would be far less likely to discriminate and oppress without even thinking about it, the way some born with privilege and power do, simply maintaining a cycle that served them well. The victim has endured it, sees it, and should have empathy with sufferers. This seems the most common pattern.

In some cases, however, people who overcome oppression and succeed or who feel their experience was far worse than what they see others endure can become true advocates of oppression. They tell the victims to rise above it because “if I can do it, anyone can.” They enjoy feeling superior to others born into their group. If they suffered discrimination based on race or physical appearance, some may separate their experience, which they consider injustice, from that of someone oppressed because of a non-biological trait, feeling that the victim deserves bad treatment..

marinelife's avatar

Unfortunately, history shows us that it doesn’t make you less likely to oppress others.

snowberry's avatar

It’s all up to the individual. And their conscience. Lots of people mistreat others because THEY were mistreated. But I have known many people who chose to be kind and loving in spite of terrible roll models and horrible abuse growing up. So the point is, nobody has an excuse (regardless of what social scientists and the courts might say).

Strauss's avatar

I always considered myself a reasonably “enlightened” white guy when it came to discrimination. I would probably have been on the “Freedom Bus” if I had been a couple years older. I thought I knew what discrimination was…until I met and married the beautiful woman who is now my wife. This lady happened to be black. I now realize that in spite of all my good intentions, I really had no idea until we were a inter-racial married couple in the Deep South in the 1990’s.

Haleth's avatar

Great question- that’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

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