Inverse oppression is not liberation.

Calling to commit genocide against a dominant ethnic group is still wrong. It still implies that there are groups of people who don’t deserve to live, not because of what they have individually done, but because of the cruel actions of their government. Targeting your own citizens because they speak the “oppressor’s language” isn’t going to free you from domination; it’s merely going to tear your country apart because your blinkered nationalism has caused you to forget who is also on your side.

I don’t mean this to be a saccharine “why can’t we just get along” plea. I don’t mean that we have to suck up to people who don’t value our lives. Fuck them. But I won’t endorse essentialist claims about how, for example, Russians exist solely to oppress Ukrainians and must be destroyed. This is toxic garbage. Nobody exists solely to oppress anyone else. When you claim that someone’s very existence is oppressive, you sound like a fucking fascist.

Most social justice activists aren’t like this. Most want to find a place for themselves within a pluralist society. But they are drowned out by a loud minority that calls for blood at the earliest opportunity.

Turning misogyny around and claiming that men are all domineering brutes who want to subjugate women doesn’t lead to women’s liberation—it just causes misogynists to double down and act worse because “women hate us anyway.” And “reverse misogynists” are often the ones who end up becoming TERFs, since they believe in sexual determinism. If you’re born with this bodily configuration, you’re virtuous; if you’ve got the other kind, you’re damned.

Certain “woke” academics and students think that antiracism means dehumanising white people, straight people, or cis people—and those white, straight, and cis people will turn around and escalate their racist, homophobic, and transphobic claims because they think that non-white and LGBTQ+ people are out to get them. They think they’re going to be oppressed, too. When they talk about being “decolonial,” they want to become the new colonisers instead, wiping out history and rewriting it to fit a new “liberated” agenda. (And some are perfectly fine with some colonisers like the Chinese.) They conflate cultural exchange—a near-universal in all human societies—with crude cultural appropriation, like white people wearing stupid fake Native American headdresses at Coachella.

Real liberation occurs when societies can reckon with historical inequities and find ways to live alongside each other. We must not tolerate racism, sexism or any other prejudice. But this demand must be separated from retributive, eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth “morality.” There is a difference between fighting for one’s rights—even with violence—and wanting to eliminate the other side. For example, I don’t want white Americans to be wiped out. I want them to start seeing their non-white counterparts as full members of society.

I am tired of hearing that calling for reconciliation and kindness, rather than calling for blood, means “siding with the oppressor.” Unfortunately, a lot of oppressed people think that liberation means doing what the other guys did to them. The oppressed can become oppressors. One cursory look at a history book will show this to be true. The Russians were oppressed by the Mongols. Later, they turned around and oppressed Mongolic groups like the Buryats. Jews were and are oppressed in Western societies and the Arab world. But now the Israeli state (not Jews as a whole, just the Israeli state) is oppressing Palestinian Arabs, and those Arabs, as well as their Iranian allies, are now calling for the oppression of Jews as a whole. Both Jews and Muslims are marginalised religious and ethnic minorities in the West, and this complicates politics among Israel’s allies. Anti-Zionism is shot through with antisemitism, and Zionism is shot through with Islamophobia. And there are people who are both oppressor and oppressed—for example, non-white Americans may serve in the army and still struggle with racism at home. I side-eye anyone who talks about “The Oppressor” as though this is a permanent category, an indelible mark of evil.

I do not believe in tit-for-tat morality and I will never endorse it, even if it is masked as “liberation.” I’m not against the use of violence to send a message (though it should occur only after non-violent options have been exhausted), but it has to be targeted—and it should not be directed at civilians or private citizens. I’m sick of this Manichaean bullshit, and I hate that social justice movements have been infected with it.

If you are obsessed with eliminating groups of people, you aren’t freeing anyone from literal or figurative bondage. You just want to be the new master.