Minority groups frequently experience institutionalized marginalization and systemic violence, which are deliberate, intentional acts of oppression. Systemic oppression typically results from the ongoing rivalry between various groups, sometimes due to political and power struggles over limited resources under the dominant group’s authority. Additionally, oppression could be due to race, gender, class, and age variations, all of which can have severe and negative implications.
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The rights of the oppressed group are frequently violated, and they are made to accept the will of the dominant group, regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Many rights advocates, including authors, have been inspired to speak out in one way or another to combat systematic oppression’s grasp on human inequities. However, their arguments and facts are always made stronger with adequate evidence. Therefore, this essay discusses the role that personal narratives, statistics, and testimonies, as forms of evidence, play in the arguments made by Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, Jia Tolentino’s Always Be Optimizing and Karen Ho’s Biographies of Hegemony.
Personal Narratives or Anecdotal Evidence
Valeria Luiselli’s critique of the immigration system in Tell Me How It Ends relies heavily on personal narratives or anecdotal evidence, enabling both the author and the reader to form an opinion on systemic oppression beyond a few limited statistical data points. Through the book, Luiselli shapes and reinforces or challenges readers’ perceptions of the immigration system using her narrative and the stories of numerous other youngsters. As an interpreter at the New York immigration court, Luiselli interweaves her tale with refugee families and children to shed light on the country’s current immigration dilemma. Using her experience as a translator, she humanizes the continued suffering of Latin American child migrants in the United States, providing a scathing first-person description of the complicated legal procedures and inevitable bureaucratic apathy that undocumented adolescents must deal with. She tells her daughter, for instance, of a grandmother who saves just enough money to send her two grandchildren to the United States with nothing more than their mother’s phone number stitched in their gowns because they did not speak English (Luiselli 57). The author utilizes this personal account to describe the communication difficulties that most immigrants encounter at the border and that they frequently need to hire legal interpreters, like Luiselli, to assist them there. In addition, her conversation with Manu Perez, a 16-year-old refugee, illustrates the horrifying hardships that immigrant children go through in their quest to become citizens of the United States. For instance, Manu claims he frequently fled to avoid being recruited by gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18 (Luiselli 74). Her conversation with Manu sheds light on the dire circumstances immigrant children face, including gang violence mainly brought on by economic hardships. She discusses the journey, the children’s rights (or lack thereof), and how the deck is stacked against them.
Additionally, based on her voluntary work as an admissions interviewer, Luiselli contends that given that the immigrant children are escaping from their native countries, they are comparable to war refugees. She reiterates that child immigrants often run from the M-13 and Barrio 18 gangs, as well as poverty, rape, and murder, which are frequent. They do this without assistance from their governments or police agencies. As a result, she employs personal narratives to give readers a chance to empathize with and learn from the victims of the unjust immigration system. People are more likely to pay attention to and become engaged by personal stories, which forces them to empathize with the victims’ suffering. Naturally, Luiselli uses these first-person accounts to dispel many of the public’s myths about the migrant crisis occurring on the southern borders, particularly between the United States and Mexico. She dispels the abhorrent misconception that kids come to the country as listless vagabonds who blend in and take advantage of the country’s resources. It turns out that youngsters voluntarily hand themselves over to border patrol authorities and actively engage in legally navigating the murky world of immigration, which predominantly works against them. This is where Luiselli and her interpreting services come in. Therefore, Luiselli makes her points by giving readers a glimpse of a reality that many have not yet experienced and may never do so by sharing the intimate tales of children who suffer because of the restrictive immigration system in the United States.
Statistical evidence concerning various types of systemic oppression is crucial in bolstering the central claims made in Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends, Jia Tolentino’s Always Be Optimizing, and Karen Ho’s Biographies of Hegemony. The three authors back their main points with statistical data based on quantitative evidence, allowing readers to assess and distinguish between credible and doubtful conclusions. For instance, Luiselli states that due to the execution of anti-immigrant measures between the two nations during the Obama Administration, the Mexican government deported nearly 150,000 more Central Americans than the United States in 2015 (Luiselli 80). Using the statistics data, she emphasizes the significance of the government’s participation in criminalizing immigrants from Central America. The statistical data supports the author’s affable condemnation of how the United States has repeatedly criticized its role in toppling governments in Mexico and the northern triangle, which exacerbated the migrant situation in the first place. She criticizes the opposition with such clarity and intelligence that it rarely comes across as though she is expressing contempt for the parties that publicly shame helpless youngsters caught in the crosshairs of abuse and violence.
Additionally, Tolentino thoroughly supports her cultural criticism arguments againstgender discrimination with statistical proof, putting women on a path toward self-improvement. According to her, women have been locked in patriarchy for a long time, which hinders their ability to succeed as individuals. As a result, many frequently have to compromise their morals to become ideal athleisure models. For instance, she claims that by 2016, the athleisure market was worth $97 billion and that premium women’s clothing was preferred to men’s (Tolentino 82). Her use of statistics demonstrates how significant a business women’s athleisure is and how much more expensive it is than men’s clothing. As a result, the statistical backing for her statements is that women are frequently pressured to compromise their moral principles in favor of athleisure since it is more expensive for women to maximize their lives than for males.
Similarly, Ho supports her assertions that various academic and financial institutions, like Wall Street, indoctrinate people with dubious views of how to get money using statistical evidence in her book Biographies of Hegemony. She thinks that Wall Street and Ivy League schools spread skewed views of money that have, over time, encouraged financial inequality by endorsing dubious business practices. For instance, she notes that during the 2006 Princeton Career Fair, 60 of the 104 represented companies were in the financial industry and that in the 2003 Harvard Career Forum, about 50% of the represented companies worked in investment banking, general finance, and consulting (Ho 166). These numbers demonstrate how recruits are frequently persuaded by the promise of higher pay to work in the financial sector, which explains why financial sector employers dominated career fairs at Ivy League universities. Her statistics show that schools and financial institutions indoctrinate young people with dubious concepts of making money, which results in financial inequality. Therefore, the three authors substantiate their assertions regarding institutionalized discrimination related to immigration, gender, and financial disparities with statistical evidence.
Thirdly, with testimonial evidence, the writers support their claims on the many types of systemic oppression experienced by immigrants, women, and different participants in the financial sector. For instance, Luiselli highlights the difficulties that immigrant children have while dealing with law enforcement by using testimonies from her interactions with several immigration lawyers. She claims that correspondence with attorneys like Rebecca Sosa and Careen Shannon via email reveals that court appearances frequently shift depending on variables like attorney availability (Luiselli 116). Her descriptions of the several conversations she had with immigration lawyers shed light on the difficulties children of immigrants face in obtaining citizenship and permanent residence. This testimony is essential in supporting her assertions that the American court system obstructs the immigration process and results in pointless deportations. Tolentino also supports her arguments that women might frequently find themselves caught up in customs they deem absurd with testimony evidence, such as the economist John Galbraith’s notes. For instance, the economist contends that it is incorrect to presume that well-being is preferable to human needs (Tolentino 68). She bases her claim that women have long been the targets of institutional oppression on expert evidence. Similar to how employees endure employer abuse, women have long been compelled to adhere to views they disagreed with. Lastly, Ho cites examples, such as Alice Easton of the Daily Princetonian, who claims that job seekers frequently try to impress potential employers with their appearance and social abilities because they think they can succeed too (Ho 170). She draws attention to the reality that ongoing brainwashing by elite universities and financial institutions frequently pushes people to want to fit in because of the possibility of earning more money, thus driving many others into obscurity. Therefore, Luiselli, Tolentino, and Ho employ testimony evidence to counter structural oppression.
In a nutshell, this essay argues that personal stories are significant to Luiselli’s critique of the immigration system because they give the readers a glimpse of the horrific experiences that child immigrants face at the hands of gangs and the United States’ legal system. Additionally, the essay argues that other types of evidence, such as statistical and testimonial, help the authors to substantiate their claims using authentic facts and figures from credible sources. Therefore, these three authors present valuable points on the plight of various minority groups at the hands of oppressive societal systems that prevent them from thriving.
Ho, Karen. Biographies of Hegemony.
Luiselli, Valeria. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions. Coffee House Press, 2017.
Tolentino, Jia. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion. Random House, 2019.