As we begin our discussion of various types of isms, it is important to understand the Action Continuum. This chart will help you better understand what you are and are not doing to fight against oppression. Both internal and external barriers discourage or encourage taking action against discrimination: Internal barriers are our own attitudes and beliefs; and external barriers are institutional policy, norms, laws, and attitudes and beliefs of others. As you learn about the different isms, think about where you are situated on Action Continuum in terms of supporting/confronting this form of discrimination. What might you do differently to engender more positive change?
Supporting Oppression <-----------------------------------------------------------------> Confronting Oppression
Actively Denying, Recognizing, Recognizing, Educating Educating Supporting, Initiating,
Participating Ignoring No Action Action Self Others Encouraging Preventing
Actively Participating: Telling oppressive jokes, putting down people from target groups, intentionally avoiding target group members, discriminating against target group members, verbally or physically harassing target group members.
Denying, Ignoring: Enabling oppression by denying that target group members are oppressed. Does not actively oppress, but by denying that oppression exists, colludes with oppression.
Recognizing, No Action: Is aware of oppressive actions by self or others and their harmful effects, but takes no action to stop this behavior. This inaction is the result of fear, lack of information, confusion about what to do. Experiences discomfort at the contradiction between awareness and action.
Recognizing, Action: Is aware of oppression, recognizes oppressive action of others, and takes action to stop it.
Educating Self: Taking actions to learn more about oppression and the experiences and heritage of target group members by reading, attending workshops, seminars, cultural events, participating in discussions, joining organization or groups that oppose oppression, attending social action and change events.
Educating Others: Moving beyond only educating self to question and dialogue with others too. Rather than only stopping oppressive comments or behaviors, also engaging people in discussion to share why you object to a comment or action.
Supporting, Encouraging: Supporting others who speak out against oppression or who are working to be more inclusive of target group members by backing up others who speak out, forming an allies group, joining a coalition group.
Initiating, Preventing: Working to change individual and institutional actions and policies that discriminate against target group members, planning educational programs or other events, working for passage of legislation that protects target group members from discrimination, being explicit about making sure target group members are full participants in organizations and groups.
Written by Pat Griffin and Bobbie Harro