Tae Hee Koo
Frederick Douglass, Jose Yglesius, and Frankie Mae were all in positions of inferiority. Frederick Douglass was a slave who believed that he was “really well off” because he had a mistress who was “more akin to a mother” and a master who “was never cruel” to him (68). Jose Yglesias was one of the exploited cigarmakers in Tampa, Florida (82). Frankie Mae was an African-American girl who was discriminated against because of the color of her skin. It is quite clear that Yglesias was well aware of the oppression that he lived under. Indeed, he did not need the “well-intentioned leaflets of the communists to understand that [he was] hot and poor and tired… and that [his] employers [were] not” because he knew it through experience (82). Both Douglass and Mae, on the other hand, were oblivious to their reality until those in power who maintained the system of oppression helped bring them to consciousness. Douglass claimed that Mr. Hugh’s “antislavery lecture” that he gave to his wife “sunk like heavy weights deep into [his] heart and stirred up within [him] a rebellion.” He claimed that it “was a new and special revelation” (70). Mae realized that even education could not empower African Americans during her conflict with Mr. Junior who asserted that he would always be right and she would always be wrong (20).
These victims of oppression reacted differently to enlightenment. Rather than oppose the system, Frankie Mae lost hope and did not bounce “back to her old bright eyed self.” She “lost interest” in school, stopped dressing well, and eventually died during childbirth (21). However, knowledge provoked both Douglass and Yglesius to rebel against the status quo. Douglass was “filled with the determination to learn to read at any cost.” In addition, he “frequently talked about” slavery, the “delicate subject” that was often avoided (72). Yglesius and the other cigarmakers went on a “reader’s strike” against “their employers who had forbidden men to read to them” (84).
Similarly, in today’s society, many people have been utilizing the growth of social media to challenge authority and the existing systems of oppression. For instance, Russians used “Russian internet blogs and online media” to protest against the rigged, undemocratic elections. They called for “riots and a revolution” which authorities tried to suppress by attempting to shut-down their accounts (RIA; WP). Social media also “played a vital role in shaping the political agenda of the Arab Spring.” It was used by many activists to spread ideas about democracy and freedom. Much like in Russian, the authorities tried to stifle the use of social media. For example, the internet was shut down in Egypt by the officials. However, this only caused greater revolt from the Egyptians who took their activism to the streets (DEM).