actually i’ve been meaning to post about this for a long time– like i said it’s bothering me more and more how people still defend the equalists to this day, you would think that in the FIVE YEARS since book 1 we’d be politically wiser
the avatar world has historically and pervasively been divided into four elements, for obvious reasons. important note: NOT benders vs nonbenders, as nonbenders always still belonged ethnically and culturally to one of the four elemental nations, and they form a majority of the population of the world, including many upper class people.
republic city as a major meeting place of these four nations in a constructive rather than destructive way for the first time would naturally have representatives of those four nations as its government, and nonbenders would not have their own representative because they already belonged to one of the four nations at that time. this is important, because we have no evidence that the council members were at any point a “benders” establishment. i mean, sokka’s symbol is literally on the council desk.
then decades go by and by korra’s time the united republic has developed its own distinct culture in which the industrial revolution has gone full steam ahead and nonbenders and their technological advancements have left bending obsolete. at this point we see bending and benders as the following things:
- entertainment as sport, which doesn’t pay a living wage despite the probenders being celebrities
- hard manual labor like mako’s job at the generation plant
- gang activity (the explicitly bending triads) which is a well-known indicator of a group being oppressed, BY. THE. WAY.
- the out-of-date council and metalbending police
benders are a minority in republic city. mako and bolin literally grew up homeless in the streets.
meanwhile nonbenders like hiroshi and his kind make up an upper class that believes they should have power rather than the outdated old four nations benders, who have now been reduced to the lower class like i explained in those bullet points. they think it’s unfair that benders are below them yet still legally rule the country. literally if you look at the equalists in the show and the nonbenders who seem interested in equalism, they are all well-dressed and middle-to-upper class, from hiroshi to the rallies to the people listening to the protestor. the only time we see poor nonbenders as a group, in episode 8, they make it clear they’re against the equalists. that’s literally the only time we ever see nonbenders being systematically oppressed, and it was manufactured by the equalists in the first place. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH, there is zero evidence for benders oppressing nonbenders until the equalists intentionally guide tarrlok into doing it so that they’ll have “evidence” as justification for taking over the city. which by the way they then bombed.
the equalists’ rhetoric is literally taken straight from violent oppressor groups like, most pertinently today, white supremacists. the equalists refer to bending as an “impurity” that must be “cleansed”, they falsely blame everything wrong in the world on bender-on-bender violence, they falsely portray benders as in control and pulling the strings, they scapegoat disenfranchised “thugs” and gang members as evidence benders are violent and abusers of the ~pure and good~ nonbenders. the equalists talk about how “it’s time to take back our city” COUGH COUGH. they literally make bending illegal.
and as for “equalizing the world” aka their goal of bloodbending every bender in existence, the show makes it ABUNDANTLY clear that removing someone’s bending is a huge violation of their personhood. a violation that is the fantasy equivalent of something between cultural genocide, r*pe, and murder. and you would actually care about this if you cared about korra herself, the main hero of the damn show. not only this, but amon can’t personally bloodbend all of the millions of benders in the world. this tells us that they must have had other additional plans to “rid the world of bending”.
furthermore, the leader of the equalists is literally a self-hating bender. noatak/amon is someone without love and pride. HE is korra “gone wrong”, not kuvira (don’t even get me started on that). the show draws many obvious parallels and contrasts between korra and noatak and i think one of the big ones is that korra having self-love and pride in herself is a GOOD thing, it’s something noatak could have used when he was an abused child who hated his bending and then came to republic city and hated it even more. that’s why i will love and defend proud, confident, bold and brash book 1&2 korra to my death, her personality in those first two or three books was the single most powerful and important political statement the whole avatar franchise has ever made.
and guess what? all of this is specific to the avatar franchise! it is not a direct parallel to any real world oppression, because axes of oppression based on magical powers that let you control the elements are unique to this series! it is complex because it is an additional type of identity that we do not have in our world. but we can still analyze it all based on what we know of the human condition, and with critical thinking uncover who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed.
moving on, and then what happens when the council is disbanded and they have “open” elections? a nonbender is elected president.
all this is to say… that there is a reason the equalists were also referred to as “anti-benders”. in the show what we were actually shown is that the equalists were nonbender supremacists made up of wealthy upper-class nonbenders who were “racist” against benders, a poor and oppressed minority class. poor oppressed nonbenders exist too, and they are shown to be in solidarity with benders, for obvious reasons. i have been thinking about this for five years, there is nothing to refute it.
so anyway i have literally spelled it out for you and there is no reason for anyone to defend the equalists anymore or act like there was bender-over-nonbender oppression. thanks
in conclusion, in episode ONE when korra told the equalists “you’re oppressing yourselves”, she was RIGHT