Oppression and Power
Describe the role that individualism plays in oppression and privilege. What are the limitations of the individualistic perspective for understanding and eradicating oppression? Give specific examples from Johnson and any other sources you may use.
The problems of oppression and privilege are interconnected and deep-rooted in our society. They play a role in who we are, how we behave, and the consequences that follow. So, what is privilege? Unlike meritocracy, privilege is not earned; it is merely given to the people in the dominant group. Privilege refers to the advantages one enjoys in comparison to another group due to group membership. Privilege is largely invisible to those people who have it. It is important to note, that while privilege helps some, it impedes others, and since it is multi-faceted, one could be privileged in one area (being white) and be disadvantaged in another (being a woman). Yet, those people who enjoy privilege believe it is accessible to anyone if they work hard for it (Johnson, pg. 4).
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Oppression has many faces. Targets of oppression are groups that have been exploited and disenfranchised by the system. The problem is not that we are just different from one another; it is that people use this “difference” to elevate or oppress people. As Johnson mentioned (pg. 10), we cannot talk about the problem, if we cannot use the words. When you name something, you are bringing much-needed attention to it.
However, for the dominant group, when those words are too difficult to digest and deal with, for example, privilege, because that would mean their accomplishments were not earned. Of course, just because someone is privileged, it does not mean they did not work towards it. It does, however, mean, that because of their group membership, they are getting something extra others are routinely denied. So when white people are faced with the reality of their “privileged” status, they get angry and resentful. They chose to retaliate by discrediting those words, so they are rendered invisible.
For these systems of privilege and oppression to be eradicated, they must first be acknowledged. Moreover, these problems cannot be solved, unless those people in the privileged position feel the obligation and the necessity to do so. We can begin by acknowledging racism, but there are other forms of exclusion and oppression as well. It also issues such as sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, disability, and many more.
These oppressed groups have had very few chances to make it in life, just because of the social group they belong to, which is something they had no control over. Therefore, there is a higher chance of men getting a higher salary than a woman and that blacks have a higher chance of getting arrested than white where white people are automatically considered law-abiding citizens unless proven otherwise and people of color are considered guilty until they prove their innocence (Johnson pg. 10).
It is human nature to put a higher value in those who look more like you, than in those who do not. However, from an individualistic point of view, we want to believe that if we do not show overt signs of racism or prejudice, then we are good people and not a part of the problem, and if we are not part of the problem then this does not concern us, and nothing needs to be done. However, it is not that simple.
Accepting the fact that prejudice exists in our society may be hard for the people in the dominant group to accept due to their individualistic thinking. When people talk about sexism that exists in society, it is believed by the dominant group that they are talking about the individual men who make sexist comments or the men who commit violence against women. However, that is not who is being referred to here. When people talk about gender issues, they are referring to the problems that arise due to gender issues that exist in society as a whole, not in one particular person (Johnson p. 68).
We like to pretend we are not a part of that social system that discriminates or that having a higher social status does not seem that important to us, but when we choose the path of least resistance and act like everything is normal, we are encouraging even more people to walk on this path. (Johnson, p. 69). It is very much like a game of monopoly, where one person wins, and everyone else loses. It does not make the person playing a bad person; its just the way the game is set up to be played.
So if we want everyone to win and be treated equally, you not only have to change the way you play the game but also change the rules and terms of the game itself. Even if you are not ruthless and play the game in the gentlest of ways, does not change the fact that the game produces oppression consequences. The fact that you are okay with its terms and act like it is normal, encourages others to do the same; As time passes by, the patterns of systemic privilege and oppression, much like the game of monopoly, are perpetuated (Johnson, p. 70).
How is the language used to perpetuate privilege and oppression? Please be specific about the significance and meaning conveyed by particular words and phrases. There are many instances where the language is used to perpetuate biases. According to Maass and Ruscher (Benign Bigotry p. 52), the research into linguistic intergroup bias shows how we describe others reflect our opinion of them and how permanent or temporary we think their actions are. We tend to describe our ingroup members more positively than outgroup members.
For example, if someone from an ingroup member is volunteering their time at a soup kitchen or nursing home, they are more likely to be described as being “big-hearted” or “philanthropic,” whereas an outgroup member doing the same might be described as “chipping in” or “helping.” On the other side, negative ingroup behaviors are described in more specific ways such as “pushed or slapped someone” whereas an outgroup member’s negative behavior would be described in global terms such as “violent” or “combative.”
When you describe traits that are consistent with group stereotypes, it suggests that the behavior is a part of their personality, a part of their intrinsic nature, therefore a permanent trait, but when traits are inconsistent with group stereotypes, more concrete terms are used to denote it was a transient behavior. Modern racists do not express prejudice overtly and instead look to these stereotypes to express their biases.
They are also the ones to use language as a tool to reflect the categorization of people. When “we” or “us” is used, they are usually referring to an ingroup member or someone they feel a certain bond with, but the words “them” or “theirs,” come with negative connotations and is usually used to refer to an outgroup member (Benign Bigotry pg. 55).
For example, when we categorize important issues such as violence against women, and we call these women’s issues, in a way, we are letting the men off of the hook, to where they do not even have to pay attention since it does not concern them. Even when we talk about gender issues, it is immediately assumed that we are talking about women’s issues. Same goes for race. When we mention race, we think African American, Asian, or Latino. When we say sexual orientation, we think of gay or bisexual. In either of those cases, it is about the dominant group. If the dominant group is never mentioned, how can it be challenged? So the dominant group just slides by undetected and unchallenged, not required to reflect on their privilege (Katz video).
When people are split between good and evil, or positive and negative, it can lead to dehumanization, where people are treated less than worthy of humane treatment. When you start to look at people as if they are less than human, then you tend to be okay with the idea of them being mistreated. In the past, wars have used degrading names when describing the enemy in an effort to dehumanize and marginalize them (Anderson, pg. 56). In the Abu Ghraib prison, soldiers were told to refer to the detainees as “it” instead of “him”. You may equate “it” with animal, so therefore, it’s okay if you treat these detainees as animals. They are not real people with feelings and emotions.
When you see people as less than human, then you tend to rationalize and normalize mistreating them or torturing them. When you call them the enemy, in a way you’re saying what you’re doing is okay and it’s what they deserve. Studies show that when people see others as human, they consider them to be a part of the in-group, but when they refer to others as animals (“it”), then they tend to see them as members of the outgroup. This is a very good way to erase someone’s humanity, otherwise how would you be able to treat them this way if you were constantly evoking empathy (Anderson, pg. 58).
The Movement for Black Lives, with its slogan “Black Lives Matter,” was created after the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. As part of the reaction against this movement, the slogan “All Lives Matter,” and even “Blue Lives Matter,” emerged. Using the resources from our class, how should we understand “All Lives Matter” in relation to the Movement for Black Lives?
The Black Lives Matter Movement sparked a national conversation about the injustice and oppression faced by ethnic minorities in the criminal justice system. Research shows there is a higher chance for African American men getting arrested than white males. The punishment for people of color is also more severe. Whites also commit the same crimes but tend to get more lenient sentences (Kite & Whitley, pg. 4).
Black lives have been undervalued and oppressed for so long, that a movement was necessary to point out the injustices suffered. After a long history of injustice and inequality, a movement was created to say, “Black Lives Matter Too.” No one was saying that black lives mattered more, or that black lives were the only lives that mattered.
That would be ridiculous. No one is denying the fact that all lives are precious and that all lives matter. That’s not even an issue. However, when white people came out with the slogan “All Lives Matter” they were being dismissive of the fact that historically black people were not treated equally. That injustice and inequality exists up to today (Kite & Whitley pg.
2). Segregation in some schools is still rampant in some parts of the country. Whites are financially 20 times wealthier than blacks. Whites also have less unemployment and poverty levels than blacks and Latinos. Whites are also more likely to get approved for loans or get a house in a suburb of their choosing. Whites are also less likely to be followed around a store as if they were shoplifters.
In every which you look, whites have it easier than blacks (Johnson, pg. 29). It is hard to deny the damage caused by racism. It comes out in police brutality, having your car being pulled over and searched. It comes out in loans being denied and houses suddenly becoming unavailable. It comes out in having the worst of the stereotypes believed about people of color and the good ignored. The consequences of this injustice is almost unfathomable (Johnson, pg. 75).
The people behind “All Lives Matter” – believes it is promoting color blindness by saying all lives matter. The movement pretends to show that white people no longer see “race” or “color”, but the movement ignores the fact that there is a system of inequality that exists. It’s denying the problem of racism and injustice and the fact that not all races are treated the same.
By adding the slogan Blue Lives Matter – a counter movement to Black Lives Matter, they are portraying the police as the victim here, by suggesting that blacks are more protected than the policeman, so therefore, any person who is convicted of trying to kill a police officer should be sentenced under the guidelines of a hate crime. But Blue Lives do matter, they always have. Whether it was during the time of Rodney King or today when hearing about the police shooting an unarmed black person has become common news (Johnson, pg.
Utilizing Chapter 9 in Johnson and the strategies for change offered in the various chapters of Benign Bigotry, write an essay on prejudice reduction. Are there certain strategies from Benign Bigotry that are compatible with those found in Johnson? Are some strategies more useful for certain perpetrator or target groups? How you organize your discussion will be key for this essay.
How do we implement the strategies of prejudice reduction? Since not all situations apply to us, depending on our backgrounds, we may not be able to see situations from another person’s standpoint. However, if we can shift our position and the role we play in this system, we can be sure that the change will happen, even if we are not there to see it (Johnson, pg. 143). The change will not come overnight, but it will come. Everything comes to an end, so will the system of privilege.
We cannot end oppression by pretending it does not exist. Understanding how oppression works and acknowledging how privilege plays a role is the first step to pushing for a change. It can be overwhelming at times to go against a system that has been around for thousands of years, but it is up to each one of us to be the change we want to see in the world.
Be Alert. The first step is to understand how privilege and oppression work and our part in it. We must educate ourselves to identify these systems and how they operate in our own lives. The roles we play in this system and how to position ourselves when faced with these situations.
Listen carefully. Try to listen when confronted with a situation of privilege instead of going into defensive mode. It is up to us to take responsibility for what happens. We must realize that not everything is about us. It is about the oppressed asking to be seen and heard. To not be dismissed and invisible anymore.
Risk Doing Something. As we become more aware of what privilege and oppression look like, we can see signs of it all around us. Each sign will present an opportunity for us to do something about it. Change begins with us. Once we change ourselves, we can change the environment around us. Changing our behavior is how the change in the system happens. It begins with us (Johnson, pg. 127).
Be Humble. Don’t go around behaving like you’re better than others just because you are no longer following the path of least resistance or because you’re in the company of people who don’t understand prejudice. Don’t expect praise for doing the right thing or being a good person. Trust is not given, it is earned. So earn it.
Many other strategies that are compatible with Johnson’s regarding prejudice reduction are mentioned in Benign Bigotry. Some of the most powerful strategies include contact hypothesis, jigsaw, and inducing empathy.
Contact hypothesis is the idea that if you put two conflicting parties together, tensions and conflict with decrease as they spend time together and start to understand each other (Anderson, pg 64). The key to making this work depends on four conditions that must be met.
First, there needs to be a cooperation between both majority and minority parties. Both parties need to mingle with each other. Without this, they cannot learn about each other. They both need to be working towards a common goal without competition. A goal that benefits both parties.
Second, they need to be on equal footing. You cannot have one party having all the power and the other party having none. That is not going to be productive. If there is a distinct power difference between the two, it will influence the perceptions of power in the group.
Third, this contact needs to be for an extended period to give the two parties enough time to understand one another. As time passes, the more time they spend with each other, the higher likelihood of them accepting each other’s ideology. Lastly, a strategy as difficult as this one cannot succeed without constant institutional support, such as the support of law, authorities and customs. An authority that encourages egalitarian attitudes.
These 4 conditions of working together, having equal footing, contact over a long period of time, and support from authorities can effectively reduce prejudice and improve relations between majority and minority groups (Anderson, pg. 65).
Jigsaw This is a method which works well in target groups at schools where there is open conflict and the marginalization of the students of color. This method requires the students to depend on one another and see each other as individuals instead of members of an outgroup. The way the method works is the teacher divides the day’s lecture into parts and the classroom into groups.
Each group is given a part of the lecture to learn and master. Each person within that group must master their part of the lesson and present it to the other members of their group. So, like a jigsaw puzzle, each member must do their part for the entire lesson to be understood. This way, each member is expected to actively participate and depend on one another. This arrangement encourages cooperation and empathy (Anderson, 67).
Inducing Empathy Teaching people to develop empathy can be a powerful tool in prejudice reduction. The ability to feel someone’s pain can lead to a positive change in behavior towards a target group. It is much easier to empathize with someone you feel is like you or you have something in common with. Therefore, it is important that we seek out what we have in common with the other groups to induce empathy (Anderson, pg. 71).
All these strategies should help in reducing prejudice. Change only requires that a group of people come together to take a stand. As powerful as the system of privilege might be, eventually all systems come to an end.
Think about your own intellectual growth this term. Please write about an issue, idea study, or discovery you have encountered in this class that has made a difference in the way you understand psychology and the world around you. How did the materials in this class give you a greater appreciation of the variety and diversity of human experience (e.g., gender, race, sexuality)? What psychological concepts, terms, or theories have you learned that help you understand cultural diversity, privilege, or inequality?
That you do not have to be white to be privileged. That you can be a person of color and a woman and still be privileged. That contact hypothesis works. When you spend time with a member of a group that you consider an outgroup, you start looking at the person as an individual, instead of seeing them as a member of a group they represent. You hear about each other’s dreams and ambitions and you realize you are really not that different. That you have more things common than you have differences.
I learned that this class was not as easy as I hoped it would be. I have never shied away from taking difficult courses and instead chosen the path of least resistance. I strongly believe that in order to grow, you have to be a little uncomfortable. Having taken your previously classes, I definitely understood that this class would be anything but easy, but I hadn’t really put into consideration how hard-hitting it would be.
Granted the books was written from an American’s perspective about live in the USA, but somehow it found a way to make me, someone from another culture, uncomfortable as well. Reading through the pages, I could make stark comparisons and it was like looking in the mirror. Not only did I not like what I saw, but I was adamant that I was not racist at all. Until of course I took the IAT. I was not happy with the results. I took it again, 2 more times, with the same results. There was no way to cheat. There was no way to look like I had no biases. I didn’t have any overtly negative ideas toward any particular group and I was trying carefully to not come off as racist.
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Oppression and Power. (2019, Sep 19). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/oppression-and-power/
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