Ignoring Unjust Behaviors Keeps Oppression Alive

Brett Sayles (Pexels)

We’ve all been there before, you’ve witnessed an unjust act like racism and you want to interject with that powerful statement to change the status quo yet you find yourself silent, nodding, or laughing in complicity with the very action that you wanted to disrupt.

After the moment passes, you may find yourself immersed in feelings of shame and guilt and thinking “I cannot believe I did it again. Why didn’t I speak up?”

Recently, I’ve seen this type of behavior keep well-meaning individuals and organizations in a recursive loop of Conscious Collusion.

Unless we break our daily habits of remaining silent in the midst of oppression, we will continue to consciously smother progress towards creating a more socially just world.

What is Conscious Collusion?

Conscious Collusion is the process of knowingly participating in practices that sustain inequity and harm against marginalized identities. It happens when:

you know that a policy, practice, or action is inequitable or oppressive yet you choose to use your power and choice to remain silent.

you resist changing your personal behaviors to adhere to policies and practices that seek to advance equity across identity groups such as race, class, gender, etc.

Examples of conscious collusion include:

Actively taking a stance against adding diversity and inclusion standards to staff job descriptions, evaluations, and promotion guidelines.

Remaining silent when a colleague of color experiences dehumanizing behavior in a team meeting.

Being unwilling to adjust your behaviors when someone informs you about your bias.

Ignoring other people’s accounts of inequity and racial harm by changing the subject or offering perfectly logical explanations (PLEs).

Each incident of unchecked collusion keeps us stuck in recursive loops of harm that inflicts pain on survivors of oppressive violence, sustains our self-deception, and oxygenates oppression’s fire.

How Conscious Collusion Smothers Progress

Collusion creates roadblocks to a fair and just world and stunts people from rising to a higher version of self. Let’s be honest in order to become an anti-racist, anti-sexist, or any other resistor of oppression requires rising into a higher level of self. It requires non-conformity to the world standards of minding your own business. It requires a complete transformation of your mindset, emotions, and behaviors. It requires speaking up in a room full of people that may outcast you. It requires refusing to participate in systems that perpetuate inequity and the status quo. While it may seem daunting to live and lead from this perspective, it must become our norm if we plan to advance social justice.

Progress hinges upon YOU

To stop smothering yourself and others, you must deal with the fear and doubt that drives your conscious collusion. Oftentimes, people collude due to fear of losing privileges or fear of rejection. Since most don’t want to feel either, we choose to operate out of fear. We ignore the signals to trust ourself to take difficult yet brave actions towards social justice. It takes an act of love and trust, to resist the temptation to collude with unjust behaviors. Trusting your voice and your ability to speak out against oppression is one of the greatest acts of love.

Progress hinges upon living this truth, you always have the power and choice to resist collusion. It’s up to you to decide to use it.

Step 1: Reflect on Why do I collude?

Pick a recent incident where you consciously colluded with inequity. Without judging yourself, take time to journal your responses to these questions:

What fear and doubt drove me to collude with inequity?

What do I feel like I’m losing by speaking up?

How can those losses benefit a greater cause?

How can I make peace with the losses?

What tools or resources can I use to build my confidence to speak up?

Step 2: Heal & Reconcile

Acknowledge what happened and accept that you had a lapse in judgement.

Identify the shame and guilt felt from not speaking up.

Forgive yourself for falling short — this doesn’t have to be how the story ends.

Identify what you learned from Step 1 that can bolster your trust in self.

Make Amends with yourself and others.

Firmly commit to speaking up next time.

Ask a trusted friend or family member to hold you accountable to your commitment.

Step 3: Raising Your Consciousness

Use the 4-step consciousness-raising ™ process to be more thoughtful about the equity impact (fairness and justice) of your daily interactions with others.

In the moment, ask: how do I want to use my power, to treat people fair and just or to harm them with consciously collusive actions?

Pause and notice: how am I currently using my power?

Go deeper to understand: are my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors advancing or stifling equity?

Decide how you want to act: how can I use this interaction to contribute to our global goal of creating a more socially just world?

Now, love yourself enough, to trust your decision to disrupt unjust behaviors.

What’s Your Choice?

Brent Sayles (Pexels)

There is no turning back. The world is at a pivotal moment in history. You are at a pivotal moment in your history. Are you going to continue consciously colluding with oppression or will you use your power and choice to disrupt it?

Annice is the CEO of The BEE FREE Woman & Developing Capacity Coaching. Her writing is a freedom tool for people ready to use their power and choice for change.