Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oppression Review : What is Oppression?

The Social Work Dictionary, ed. Robert L. Barker defines oppression as: "The social act of
placing severe restrictions on an individual, group or institution. Typically, a government or
political organization that is in power places these restrictions formally or covertly on oppressed
groups so that they may be exploited and less able to compete with other social groups. The
oppressed individual or group is devalued, exploited and deprived of privileges by the individual
or group which has more power." (Barker, 2003)

The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology has an excellent definition of social oppression: "Social
oppression is a concept that describes a relationship between groups or categories of between
groups or categories of people in which a dominant group benefits from the systematic abuse,
exploitation, and injustice directed toward a subordinate group. The relationship between whites
and blacks in the United States and South Africa, between social classes in many industrial
societies, between men and women in most societies, between Protestants and Catholics in
Northern Ireland - all have elements of social oppression in that the organization of social life
enables those who dominate to oppress others. Relationships between groups and relationships
between groups and social categories, it should not be confused with the oppressive behavior of
individuals. A white man may not himself actively participate in oppressive behavior directed at
blacks or women, for example, but he nonetheless benefits from the general oppression of blacks
and women simply because he is a white man. In this sense, all members of dominant and
subordinate categories participate in social oppression regardless of their individual attitudes or
behavior. Social oppression becomes institutionalized when its enforcement is so of social life
that it is not easily identified as oppression and does not require conscious prejudice or overt acts
of discrimination." One of the purposes of the exercise we'll do is to help use better identify the
feelings that oppression produces in us and in our clients. (Johnson, 2000b)

Diversity and Oppression readings (syllabus) @
Ground Rules. (Adapted from those by Margaret Andersen, University of Delaware).
1. Acknowledge that racial and ethnic oppression exists in our society.
2. Acknowledge that one of the key elements of oppression is that we are all systematically
taught misinformation about race and ethnicity. This is true for both majority and
minority group members.
3. While we cannot be blamed for the misinformation that we have learned, we can and will
be held responsible for repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.
4. We will actively pursue information about racial and ethnic groups. However, the basis
for this information will not be on societal learned myths or stereotypes about these
5. We will share information and ideas with members of the class and we will never
demean, devalue, or “put down” people for their experiences.
6. We each have an obligation to combat actively the myths and stereotypes about race and
ethnicity so that we can break down the barriers which impede group cooperation.
7. We will assume that all of us, regardless of our racial identity, nationality, sex,
class or cultural background, have been influenced by the racism of our society
and that individuals can actively change.
8. We will create a safe atmosphere for open discussion. At times, members of the
class may wish to make comments that they do not want repeated outside of the
classroom. If so, the student will preface his or her remarks with a request and the
class will agree not to repeat the remarks.
9. We will try to see the world through the experiences of people who have different
perspectives than our own. This will mean not assuming that one’s own
perspective is the only or the best way to see and think.

Feminism (@Wikipedia)

Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women.[1][2][3] Its concepts overlap with those of women's rights. Feminism is mainly focused on women's issues, but because feminism seeks gender equality, some feminists argue that men's liberation is therefore a necessary part of feminism, and that men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles.Feminists are "person[s] whose beliefs and behavior[s] are based on feminism."[4]Feminist theory exists in a variety of disciplines, emerging from these feminist movements[5][6] and including general theories[specify] and theories about the origins of inequality, and, in some cases, about the social construction of sex and gender. Feminist activists have campaigned for women's rights—such as in contract, property, and voting — while also promoting women's rights to bodily integrity and autonomy and reproductive rights. They have opposeddomestic violencesexual harassment, and sexual assault. In economics, they have advocated for workplace rights, including equal pay and opportunities for careers and to start businesses.
Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for being geared towards white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically-specific or multiculturalist forms of feminism.

Feminist Perspectives on Power (

Although any general definition of feminism would no doubt be controversial, it seems undeniable that much work in feminist theory is devoted to the tasks of critiquing women's subordination, analyzing the intersections between sexism and other forms of subordination such as racism, heterosexism, and class oppression, and envisioning the possibilities for both individual and collective resistance to such subordination. Insofar as the concept of power is central to each of these theoretical tasks, power is clearly a central concept for feminist theory as well.

Institutionalized Oppression Definition (

Institutional Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of people within a social
identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on
the person’s membership in the social identity group.
 Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups. If oppressive consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs, or practices, the institution is oppressive whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have oppressive intentions.
Institutional Oppression creates a system of invisible barriers limiting people based on their
membership in unfavored social identity groups. The barriers are only invisible to those
“seemingly” unaffected by it. 
The practice of institutionalized oppression is based on the belief in inherent superiority or
inferiority. Institutionalized oppression is a matter of result regardless of intent.

Defining White Privilege (
white privilege, a social relation
 1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.
 b. A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.
 2. A privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non–white persons.
 3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to white persons as a social relation; prerogative.
 b. display of white privilege, a social expression of a white person or persons demanding to be treated as a member or members of the socially privileged class.
 4. a. To invest white persons with a privilege or privileges; to grant to white persons a particular right or immunity; to benefit or favor specially white persons; to invest white persons with special honorable distinctions.
 b. To avail oneself of a privilege owing to one as a white person.
 5. To authorize or license of white person or persons what is forbidden or wrong for non–whites; to justify, excuse.
 6. To give to white persons special freedom or immunityfrom some liability or burden to which non–white persons are subject; to exempt.

All of us have heard and probably even used that statement whose gist is that being a silent witness to a crime is comparable to being the actual criminal, but how many of us actually apply this to our lives? If we take a moment to seriously ponder this thought, it becomes blazingly obvious that we are a society composed mostly of educated criminals. I say educated in order to include those that do take the time to inform themselves, for what good is knowledge or awareness if it is merely passive? It only allows you to proclaim, "I was fully aware that this heinous act occurred". What is necessary is for this to evolve into, "I was aware and took the time to care". has been designed as a means of directing desperately needed attention to a variety of stories. Our goal is to raise awareness on issues that are often times ignored because they concern a people and place that, to some, seem so foreign. This is necessary because to limit sympathy to only those who share a common language or culture only breathes life into the cycle of oppression. With this thought in mind, gives voice to people across the world that must fear daily for both their lives and those of their families. For the sake of humanity, we have a duty to make their suffering known.
Intersectionality (

Intersectionality is a feminist sociological theory first highlighted by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989). Intersectionality is a methodology of studying "the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations" (McCall 2005). The theory suggests—and seeks to examine how—various socially and culturally constructed categories such as gender, race,class, disability, and other axes of identity interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels, contributing to systematic social inequality. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the "intersection" of multiple forms ofdiscrimination.[1]'

Matrix of Domination (

The Matrix of Domination is a sociological theory that explains issues of oppression that deal withrace, class, and gender, which, though recognized as different social classifications, are all interconnected. Other forms of classification, such as sexual orientation, religion, or age, apply to this theory as well. Patricia Hill Collins is credited with introducing the theory in her work entitledBlack Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment.

As the term implies, there are many different ways one might experience domination, facing many different challenges in which one obstacle, such as race, may overlap with other sociological features. Such things as race, age, and sex, may affect an individual in extremely different ways, in such simple cases as varying geography, socioeconomic status, or simply throughout time. Manyfeminist authors have contributed a great deal of research toward the understanding and application of domination models in many realms of society.

Oppressors–oppressed distinction  (@Wikipedia)

Oppressors-oppressed distinction or dominant-dominated opposition, is an influentialpolitical argument. One of its first uses was by Hegel in his 1802 The German Constitution, in which he said that "The Catholics had been in the position of oppressors, and the Protestants of the oppressed."[1] Its use by Karl Marx made it very influential, and it is often considered a fundamental element of Marxist analysis.[2][3] The applications of it to some contexts, have led some to consider their simplicity suspicious or dubious.[3] Many authors have reprised it and readapted it to other contexts, including EngelsMarxLeninGramsciSimone WeilPaulo Freire and others. It has been used in a variety of contexts, including bourgeoisie versus proletariatimperialism versus self-determination, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,[4][5] and others. 
  • Hegel  (1802) The German Constitution, chapter II, section 1 The Armed Forces. Original titleDie Verfassung Deutschlands, included Werke volume 1 Early Writings (Frühe Schriften). English translation collected in Political writings

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris). The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It consists of 30 articles which have been elaborated in subsequent international treaties, regional human rights instruments, national constitutions and laws. The International Bill of Human Rightsconsists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols. In 1966 the General Assembly adopted the two detailed Covenants, which complete the International Bill of Human Rights; and in 1976, after the Covenants had been ratified by a sufficient number of individual nations, the Bill took on the force of international law.[1]

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