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Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to discuss oppression and its different forms and variations for a greater understanding of its short term and long-term effects on vulnerable populations but focusing more on the vulnerable population of immigrants and children of immigrants. The meaning and application of discrimination will also be discussed. Laws that protect immigrants will be analyzed along with the developmental effects that discrimination has on immigrants and their children specifically immigrants of Latino or Hispanic descent. This essay will also include social work theory connections.
Oppression is the control over a group of people by a dominant group of people. The control is over power and resources which has long-lasting effects on the less dominant group. For example, African Americans are still, to this day, suffering from the effects of oppression by slavery, segregation and mass incarceration which happened centuries ago. Oppression is like an onion; it has many layers to the injustices that come along with it. Such as Distribution Injustice, Procedural injustice, Retributive Injustice, Moral Exclusion and Cultural Imperialism.
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Distribution capital is the most comprehensive of the types. Under Distribution injustice falls four subtypes of oppression. One is Consumption Captial which is often thought of as standard living. Morton Deutsch stated that “In industrial societies, this is very much related to income. It includes the amounts and types of food and water, housing, clothing, health care, education, physical mobility (such as travel), recreation, and services that are available to members of a group. Clearly, there are gross differences in income and standard living among the different nations, among the different ethnic groups within nations, among the different classes, and between the sexes.” (2005). Investment Capital is what people use to create more wealth for themselves and their families. It is known that wealth is dispersed very unequally, even more so than income. Skill Capital is the value of education and credentials different groups receive. Its valuable work and social skills, knowledge and intelligence in different categories which is given at our nations more elite Universities. Our communities are lacking knowledge and the resources necessary to understand the important of a college degree. In reality, any type of higher education seems like too far of a reach for most inner-city citizens. Social capital is profitable network sources such as family, friends, classmates, etc. It’s the link to opportunities. Most importantly Since we live in a world of “it’s not what you know but who you know”. This can be affected by the ethnic class, gender or religious group a person may belong to. For example, if a first-generation Hispanic female applies to a job in marketing the boss’s nephew is more likely to get the position even if the female graduate is more qualified.
Procedural Injustice is the fairness in which procedures are assed. People are more likely to be more content and at ease with negative outcomes when the process which led them there are just. People want to be treated fairly, respectfully, and equally. In order for procedures to be just and free of oppression it must be unbiased, relevant and unprejudiced. For example, Let’s say that a woman was being charged abortion as a murder crime, it would be oppressive to choose her Juries as priest, religious groups or activities against abortion.
Retributive Injustice is authority figures with certain attitudes towards immoralities. For example, I watched the movie The Hate you Give, there is a scene where the young African American girl asks her uncle who’s a police officer if he would have shot a white man holding a hair brush as her young black friend was shot and killed. He responds no, he would have demanded the white man to put his hands up. Blacks often receive the worst treatment for the same crime’s whites commit.
Moral Exclusion is the type of oppression responsible for the almost genocide of the Jews during the Hitler era. Moral Exclusion maybe the most dangerous because it could be life threatening. It’s a psychological issue when people believe that their own group is better than a less dominant group.
Cultural Imperialism is the pressure of immigrants or people with a different culture to conform to the dominants group ways. The dominant group often portray the other group in stereotyped or belittled ways as a result of this, the less dominant group will internalize the negative information received.
Discrimination is specific treatment towards a person based solely on the class or group that person belongs to. Many phobias cause discrimination such as biphobia, homophobia, also sexism. More specific to my vulnerable population of immigrants, discrimination can involve wrongful treatment or refusal of resources due to skin color, hair texture and facial features.
My vulnerable population is immigrants of Hispanic descent and their children. I remember last semester in my Sociology class our professor asked the class to think of the very first time we felt discriminated against. So many thoughts ran through my mind. I thought about times I was discriminated against because of being a pregnant teenage or a young mother, times I felt discriminated because of where I lived, specify a time when a Johnston police officer stopped the road after pulling me over and me to go back to providence, all because of suspended listen plate. However, the times that hurt the most was being discriminated against because of the way I look, where I am from or the way I speak. These things hurt the most because there’s nothing one can do about how we are born. I also realized that the first time I ever felt this way, like I was less than somebody else, was when my family and I moved to the United States. Things like this didn’t happen in our country we were all one and always felt accepted. Which is how I’m guessing, every Caucasian student in my class felt. I was friends with a few people in class who were Caucasian, and they had such a hard time thinking of just one moment when they felt discrimination. The other students as we went around the room also confessed that they couldn’t think of anything, some said examples of things they witnessed happen to their “black friend”. While hearing them say this I though how unfair things are for people who belong to any venerable population. Such as a friend of mine also in this class who is a gay black woman, she also had a million stories to tell on the subject.
I thought to myself, how happy I was for them because they never had to deal with discrimination, specially at a young age it can be extremely detrimental. As happy as I was/am for them and everyone who doesn’t have to deal with this, However, every person in this country doesn’t not enjoy that same benefit. As a mother of two Hispanic/African American boys I have already had to teach me sons the correct way to speak to a police officer, to keep their hand out of their pockets when in a store and unfortunate since my older child is light skin because he has a white father, for him to look out for his little brother who will have the appearance of a normal black man. I explain to him that even though life might be tough on him because he did not get his father’s fair skinned complexion, life will be harder on his brother and that they must always protect each other. A conversation, I’m sure, only people in vulnerable populations have with our children.
Hispanics are firm believers of the American dream. It’s the reason why we come to this country. The vision is more than just dream of a single-family house and our white picket fence with the little fluffy white dog. It’s the dream to achieve something meaningful for ourselves but most importantly for our families. Being able to give our children things that back home would’ve been impossible to achieve in three lifetimes. Dreams of college degrees and business ownership for our children and grandchildren. However, once we get there we are often greeted with discriminatory words and moral exclusion oppression. This type of oppression is internalized and creates internalized dominance. Therefore, I cannot agree with our current president’s ability to call Mexicans and immigrants murders and rapist. . It is not a label I will accept for myself or any human being. We must teach children and adults to judge people based on their own actions and merits not based on stereotypes and labels By doing this he sends it a message to the masses that it is okay to discriminate, and label people based on their immigration status, origin country or Etc.
National origin discrimination is treating people unfairly as to withholding opportunities in housing or employment due to their race or country of origin. It can also be toward a person who is married or associated with a person or a certain race or origin. Thanks to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 it has been declared illegal to discriminate against someone due to country of origin, race religion and more. in any way when it comes to employment. This includes hiring, firing, layoffs promotions pay and more. An employment rule or policy that applies to everyone yet has no use for the company itself, can be unlawful if it targets a specific group of people. For example, a policy where certain foods cannot be had in the breakroom but those food are specific to Indian people is unlawful. There are laws that protect immigrants against harassment. An employer may not create an English only rule unless it is necessary to properly perform the job duties. An employer cannot be fired or punished in anyway due to their accent. Unless the accent interferes with job responsibilities. Harassing someone based on their race, origin, religion sex orientation etc., can be defined as a hate crime which is punishable by the law. Victims of hate crimes are targeted because of their membership to a specific group. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based upon an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. The law prohibits employers from hiring only U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents unless required to do so by law, regulation or government contract.” (“National Origin Discrimination”, 2019) IRCA’s nondiscrimination requirements are enforced by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER). (“National Origin Discrimination”, 2019)
Even though we have laws that protect us we must understand that oppression has layers! It is Institutional and ideological. Just because we have these laws to protect us doesn’t mean that society immediately follows behind it.
Oppression and discrimination affect immigrants and children of immigrants in many developmental levels. Schools with mainly Hispanic and minorities children are of less quality, have less learning materials and worst quality teachers (“Stress caused by discrimination linked to mental health issues among Latino teens”, 2019). Children of immigrants often enter schools with negative labels. By not knowing and understanding the language it is difficult for them to develop their cognitive and social skills as well as they would have in a more accepting and encouraging environment. They can perceive the low tolerance and low expectations of teachers and in return, start believing they are unable to learn as well.
In education, children who are bullied at school or discriminated against due to their country of origin either by classmates or by teachers are prone to develop a negative view on school and the school system in general. This leads to high dropout rates within immigrant children (“Stress caused by discrimination linked to mental health issues among Latino teens”, 2019). I saw this happen first hand when my family migrated from Puerto Rico to The United States. My two eldest siblings came as teenagers, my sister 16 and my brother 17 with only a few years left they both dropped out because in high school at the time they did not have the right resources to transition Spanish speaking teens. Another major factor was the constant bulling (which at the time was simply swept under the rug) and ridicule by their peers. As a result my brother spent many years with a fear of even attempting to speak English. In adulthood the issues become greater. He is now 40 years old and has been forced to work low minimum wage jobs because of the language barrier. He has trouble communicating with my husband who is an English only speaker and with my nieces’ teachers. The skill capital oppression he has endured has affected many areas of his life through the years. This has an everlasting psychological and social effect on their life’s and can also lead to depression loss of self-esteem and educational delays (“Stress caused by discrimination linked to mental health issues among Latino teens”, 2019). By dropping out of school they have ever since fallen into the oppression category of distributing injustice and skill capital. Which I thoroughly explain previously. We must help children understand acceptance for others and themselves. That we are all different but that different does not mean bad and does not mean evil.
Immigrants are forced to adopt the “American way” as their new norm and abandon their culture as a form of cultural imperialism oppression. Most immigrants identify themselves as having a double personality, their original cultured one that they can display at home with family and the Americanized one that’s more acceptable in the work/school world. This is most common for school aged children specially teens who care so much what their peers think of them. According to the article Stress Caused by Discrimination Linked to Mental Health Issues Among Latino Teens, discrimination is linked with stress which leads to anxiety issues, depression and issues with sleep deprivation among Latino kids. This may be due to some’s inability to properly conform to the dominant group’s expectations (“Stress caused by discrimination linked to mental health issues among Latino teens”, 2019).
To take an Anti-Oppression approach focusing on Latino/Hispanic immigrants we can use the Conflict Theory which states that power structures and power disparities impact people’s lives. This theory is about the competition of limited resources between oppressed populations. The people who hold most of the power fight to keep the power and build on their wealth while the less dominant group struggle to get by and in return only dips themselves a deeper whole while trying to climb out. This continues for generations until we do something to break the cycle. We see this in poor neighborhood when we have one thousand people attend an open house for Walmart or McDonalds, yet the company only has 50 available positions. This is also the same situations which happen at factory jobs. As a teenager and newly mom I worked for a company called Employment 2000. This company would hire legal and sometimes illegal immigrants to do temporary factory labor. I would show up every morning along with 80 or so other people, at 5AM and wait to see if you were chosen to work that day depending on how many people each company needed. Sometimes you’d work other times you’d wait until 12pm hungry, tired and almost hopeless praying for the chance to earn some money, until you were told “sorry no work today come back tomorrow”. As an immigrant who spoke English the manager often chose me over the other immigrants who did not speak the language.
The Contingency Theory also explain that oppression happens when advancement and progress is withheld from certain groups. Our welfare system will provide a family with food stamps and cash assistance however learning English for adult’s head of households has not been made a requirement or even offered. Hispanic immigrants and immigrants in general do not know where to go for English classes or where the resource is to get the classes for free or for a better rate. Learning he language would give many of them the opportunity to get a better paying job. This reminds me of the interview I watched with Wes Moore, In the interview he states how different the other Wes Moore life would have been if the opportunity for a college education would have been possible for his more! Going back a generation and giving those people opportunities can makes all the difference. This is how we fight oppression! By empowering the oppressed and creating opportunities where before there where none. The empowerment theory is about creating interventions and developing social change. As a social worker I might be able to change our welfare system however I believe that by working ne on one with the public I can educate, empower, enlighten, uplift, advise and guide our community to fight towards ending oppression and discrimination for all vulnerable populations.
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