When the Pot Gets It Wrong About the Kettle

“Both sides get it wrong” is a deflection.

stephen matlock
3 min readSep 23, 2023
Bing-AI generated photo of black kettles and a black tea pot

This post is based on the article posted by Jemar Tisby — “Justice Takes Sides”. I recommend that you read that article first, and more strongly recommend that you follow and read Dr. Tisby’s Substack.

Let’s suppose you have one side that is oppressing, and another side that is oppressed.

The oppressing side in its acts of oppression is doing wrong by nature. There is no “just” oppression. Whether it is cruel or superficially “kind,” oppression is wrong and cannot be redeemed either by language or a reduction in cruelty. As Malcolm X put it, whether the knife is 9 inches deep or 3 inches deep-it is still a knife stuck in one’s back.

The oppressed side in its acts of resistance and liberation will do all that it can by nature to become free. That might be through the law, that might be through non-violent action, and even through actions that destroy property that is often elevated above the value of people. There are times, I suppose, that when seeking for your own liberation you might “do it wrong.” You might lose your temper. You might say harsh words. You might hold people accountable for their words beyond the degree that those people find comfortable, and you might even transgress in ways that are either seen as wrong, or are indeed just wrong.

Do both sides act in ways that can be seen as troublesome? Sure. But there is simply a categorical difference between the oppressors acting in ways to continue the oppression, whether it is through whips or words, and the oppressed who start at a loss with fewer tools and much less support for their struggles.

The way for the oppressors to stop being accused of doing wrong is very simple: stop oppressing. Learn from those whom you are oppressing to see what you are doing (and saying) that are acts of oppression, whether it is individual acts of domination and discrimination and exclusion and erasure, or they are social, communal actions expressed through the actions of the state you support through laws, policy, and the criminal justice system that targets the oppressed for cruelty because (a) it’s the design of a majoritarian society to oppress the minorities, and (b) it is a pleasurable thing for oppressors to see the state commit actions in their name without getting their own hands dirty.

If you want to stop having accusations of wrong being assigned to you as an oppressor, there is nothing the oppressed should be doing to change that. The entire onus of change is on you as the oppressors.

I know this might seem unrealistic, that we are in a social milieu where nothing can be fully defined and power is hidden through words and policies, but if you want to see justice done and you don’t like how the oppressed are acting in their demands for justice-the concomitant action is only on you.

Photo: Bing-AI generated image of black kettles and a black teapot

Originally published at https://stephenmatlock.com on September 23, 2023.



stephen matlock

Writer; observer; sometimes doer. Fiat justitia ruat cælum. More at stephenmatlock.com Mostly off Medium now & writing elsewhere