In critical theory and postcolonialism, subaltern refers to the populations that are socially, politically and geographically outside of the hegemonic power structure of the colony and of the colonial homeland. In describing “history told from below”, the term subaltern is derived from Antonio Gramsci’s work on cultural hegemony, which identified the groups that are excluded from a society’s established structures for political representation and therefore denied the means by which people have a voice in their society.
The greatest way they keep us in chains is subtle. It is not the police violence, or overt racism, that is just the leaves on a tree with much deeper roots. The great oppression is by having us integrate into their worldview at the expense of our own. We look to their institutions of education, morality, religion for the benchmark. We measure ourselves by someone else’s standards of beauty of greatness of self-worth. We are in orbit of the gravity of someone else’s planet. And as long as we need verification/accreditation from “The Other” (an oppressive “Other”) than failure is the only output possible. And we need to understand “failure”, because some of us get praised by them, get rich via them, get CNN coverage from them– but we are still failed. Because we are neither their stepchildren or cultural orphans so why do we need them to tell us this person is important, or this is the direction we should take? If we are fully human we must 100% determine that for self.