Friday, January 7, 2011

Definitions Regarding Oppression and Discrimination

Useful Definitions :
Social Group: A group of people who share a range of physical, cultural, or social characteristics within one of the categories of social identity.
Social Power: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life
Privilege: Unearned access to resources (social power) only readily available to some people as a result of their social group membership
Agent: Dominant, Oppressor, Advantaged
Target: Subordinate, Oppressed, Disadvantaged
Oppression Operates on Multiple Levels:
Individual: Attitudes and action that reflect prejudice against a social group
Institutional: Policies, laws, rules, norms and customs enacted by organizations and social institutions that disadvantage some social groups and advantage other social groups. These institutions include religion, government, education, law, the media, and the health care system.
Societal/Cultural: Social norms, roles, rituals, language, music, and art that reflect and reinforce the belief that one social group is superior to another.
Discrimination: The differential allocation of goods, resources, and services, and the limitation of access to full participation in society based on individual membership in a particular social group.
Prejudice: A set of negative personal beliefs about a social group that leads individuals to prejudge people from that group or the group in general, regardless of individual differences among members of that group.
Oppression: A systemic social phenomenon based on the perceived and real differences among social groups that involve ideological domination, institutional control, and the promulgation of the oppressor’s ideology, logic system and culture to the oppressed group. The result is the exploitation of one social group by another for the benefit of the oppressor group.
Vertical Oppression: When agents enforce subordinate status upon targets, e.g.:

* White male legislators pass laws affecting women and people of color

* Heterosexual people harass or make fun of GLBT people

Agent to Agent Horizontal Oppression: When agents enforce dominant status with other members of the agent group,e.g.:

* Gentile parents discourage a daughter’s romantic interest in a Jewish man

* Boys who don’t conform to traditional “masculine” interests and behaviors are harassed by other boys
Target to Target Horizontal Oppression: When target group members enforce subordinate status among their own group or, if there is more than one target group, when one target group enforces subordinate status with another target group, e.g.:

* Lesbians and gay men oppose the participation of queer people in Pride Marches who think, act and look too stereotypical

* African Americans vandalize shops run by Koreans
Internalized Subordination/Oppression: When members of the target social group have adopted the agent group’s ideology and accept their subordinate status as deserved, natural, and inevitable, e.g.:

* A woman believes she is less qualified for a job than a man

* A disabled person believes he can’t live independently without supervision from social workers
Internalized Domination: When members of the agent group accept their group’s socially superior status as normal and deserved. e.g.:

* A heterosexual who believes only heterosexuals are good parents

* A man who considers only men qualified for the job
Collusion: When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression. e.g.:

* Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making building accessible because of the expense

* Jewish people who avoid associating with other Jews who are deemed to act too “Jewish”
Empowerment: When target group members refuse to accept the dominant ideology and their subordinate status and take actions to redistribute social power more equitably, e.g.:

* Working-class and poor mothers organize to fight cuts to welfare benefits and demand better child    care programs

* Students with disabilities sue a school to gain access to all buildings and programs
Ally: A member of the agent group who rejects the dominant ideology and takes action against oppression out of a belief that eliminating oppression will benefit agents and targets alike.

* A Man objects to sexist jokes told in the men’s locker room

* White people join an organization working on addressing racism in the workplace.

Taken from: Adams, Maurianne et. Al. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice. New York: Routledge, 1997.

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