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What Does Oppression Look Like?

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Adam Van Hart

on 18 September 2014

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Transcript of What Does Oppression Look Like?

What Does Oppression Look Like?
Systematic Oppression
Oppression as rooted in our society
Systematic Oppression in its Forms
Young names what she terms as the "five faces of oppression."
Cycle of Socialization
A society is not only a collection of people, but of beliefs, and expectations. "We are all born into a set of social identities," according to Bobbie Harro. Along with that placement at birth, we all experience a "cycle of socialization" from the moment we are born. This cycle shapes how we see the world, and is largely influenced by how are families, and social group around us, sees the world.
Is this oppression, bias, or legitimate?
Recently, in another class, I was asked by the professor to write several three-page papers to prove that I had done readings for class meetings that I will miss for religious holidays. Is this a form of bias based on religion identification? Or is this a legitimate request?
When it comes to discussing Oppression as a system of injustice, Young does not focus on individual events of oppression, but instead examines it as a symptom of a systemic societal traits. Within American society, it can be said that several groups live with certain types of oppression, to which Young eventually points out five different forms.
"Oppression in this sense is structural, rather than the result of a few people choices or policies. Its causes are embedded unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols, in the assumptions underlying institutional rules and the collective consequences of following those rules..."
Also to be clear, this oppression harms social groups. Young defines social groups as a collection of people who are connected to each other by a similar identity. That identity informs people's "sense of history, affinity, and separateness."
In a systematic oppression exploitation often consists of labor and the product being transferred from one to group to the other. For women, this process often involves culture norms that encourage women to be more responsible for care giving than men. For racial and ethnic minorities, this process often encourages societal members to reserve "menial work." This work is meant to be used by the majority, who often take credit for auxiliary work done by oppressed people.
This form of oppression is one that Young refers to as possibly the most dangerous form. Here, whole groups of people are pushed out of the societal mainstream, and play little role in the shaping of societal decisions. Those who often live on the margins of society, have found their way through because of financial exploitation, and the reinforcement of the financial rules, and societal expectations through the welfare state.
Young again examines this form of oppression from an economic standpoint. It would be simplistic to say that in our society it is the haves v. the have-nots. However, that sets the framework for the idea of this category. Professionals often carry a sense of legitimacy that people in non-professional positions do not share. That leads many in the professional world not only with more money, but prestige and a likelihood that they will pass along their position within society to their children.
Cultural Imperialism
While the law does not set one culture above the other in the U.S., it is not too unfair that a specific "white male" culture prevails within the country. This culture is often a projection of the majority of what it views is the quintessential human experience. Any group that makes up a different perspective or experience can easily be labeled as the "Other." In the past, ethnic, racial, religious minorities have been saddled with this label for their difference with the dominate culture.
It would not be an unfair statement to say that white men do not have fear being attacked, on the whole, for being white men. On the other hand, African-Americans, women, Arabs, Jews, Muslims, etc., often have to live with the concern of being physically assaulted because of their cultural identities. The use of systematic violence as a form of oppression has a long history, and often is directed at minorities.
Structural Injustice
What is structural injustice? It is the idea that embedded in our society is a system that can unintentionally force people into difficult positions that harm their well-being. Young writes about a single mother, who is attempting to find new housing for her and her children. Not because of any one decision by any actor in her situation, the woman is being forced out of her apartment, and is unable to find adequate housing. Although many people would find the outcome to be immensely negative, there doesn't seem to be much that can be done to remedy the situation.
Questions for your consideration
A major part of identity is separateness of members of a specific cultural group. As educators, how can we foster a sense of connectedness among diverse populations?
Is it possible to teach students who may be oppressed because of their cultural or financial standing, without allowing them to become lost in bitterness?
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