Oppression Olympics in its simplest definition is when marginalized groups or individuals try to one up another person or group who is also marginalized.
It can sound something like the following:
“I always vote. My grandparents were denied voting rights because they were Asian American; I don’t take the right to vote for granted.”
“Well my great grand parents had to live through the holocaust.”
“You think that’s bad, I’m Native American and we had our land stolen from us.”
“At least you’re a male, I’m female and we only represent…”
I was recently in a course on with a woman who was incredibly competitive with others in the classroom. Part of our assignment was to tell OUR OWN story. We were each assigned 20 minutes to share the story of our journey of faith and spiritual growth. We each respected the lived experience of our classmates except for one person who used the course to engage in oppression Olympics. Unfortunately for her, none of us were interested in competing. We all gladly gave her the Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
As Christians it’s important to remember that suffering, oppression, selfishness, and harm against people is a part of the sinful world in which we live. God is not a judge holding up the score cards with 1 -10, rating us on a scale of least to most oppressed. If we care about more than ourselves we will listen to the narratives of others. It is not possible to listen and compete at the same time. If you are listening you won’t be able to keep score, you will be too busy being present.
It can be draining when so many people and groups are all claiming to be the most oppressed and when there are so many people demanding this and that, some of which can be accommodated while others cannot. We easily become overwhelmed with those who are shouting the loudest trying to be heard by law makers; afraid by all the angry protesters who are letting the world know they won’t back down, or dizzy and cross eyed from reading all the handmade signs with witty phrases about various causes.
I wish that no one was marginalized or oppressed, but that is not possible. I am a woman who is both marginalized and oppressed in a variety of ways by the dominant culture where I live; but I am not the only one who has a story to tell and demands justice. I’m not interested in trying out for the oppression Olympics. I am only interested in ensuring that institutional laws and policies do not continue to discriminate and oppress people.
If people are willing to stop competing and instead listen to what others are sharing, we will be able to recognize the needs of other groups. Competition among humans is what leads to division. When we listen to others wholeheartedly we will replace competition with compassion.
God didn’t call us to compete, he called us to care.