Oppression: How and What Are The Social Issues That Need Change In Our Society
I feel foolish admitting this but I never really knew what oppression was until taking a course in college. I knew the word. But the true understanding was less than clear. Now I am fully aware of what it is and how it affects all of us within society.
By definition, Oppression is:"The systematic, institutionalized, and socially condoned mistreatment of a group in society by another group or by people acting as agents of the society as a whole."
In my own words, it is the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.
As one of the “privileged” I realize that I have advantages that others do not. Before taking this course I never realized how much I take advantage of what I am entitled to. I closed my eyes to the disadvantages of others. I have often thought, “poor me, poor me.” “I don’t have this or I don’t have that.” Now I see, with eyes wide open, that I have far more advantages than many of the “targeted” groups. Blacks, disabled, women, and homosexuals, just to name a few, are in a constant defense mode due to the privileged. As a woman, I see and feel the effects of sexism and discrimination. I have always bit my tongue and held in my anger due to the fear of retaliation and false-judgments. I realize now that if things are going to change, I need to step up and start changing them. I now realize what blacks, disabled and homosexuals go through daily. Most from the day they were born. They are groomed or “trained” to be on the defense. Some are made to feel ashamed of who and what they stand for just because of what the privileged have instilled in them and what class they have been labeled as. Because some are in a different social category, the agent group or the privileged feel they can degrade and discriminate. Some agent groups are “trained” to discriminate or stereo-type others based on their social class. Often by outside influences or at home from their upbringing. Overall, I have been greatly impacted .
First and foremost, as a society we need to recognize and acknowledge that there is a problem. Language used such as sexism, racism, classism and privilege, often seen as taboo, needs to be acknowledged, analyzed and eventually talked about. Although many take immediate offense or sensitivity to these words and what they stand for, it is necessary to realize what those words really mean and reclaim them to solve the problem. We need to understand privilege and oppression. We cannot assume that we know without putting in the effort to learn the history and present problems. I feel that as a society we need to see it in order to change it.
As individuals we need to take a good look at ourselves and how our actions contribute to oppression. We need to realize and acknowledge that as the “privileged” we are part of the problem. We cannot think we are above it or it does not pertain to us. Then, and only then, we, as a whole, can take the steps needed to change.
Dominant groups need to see that they contribute greatly to the problem. They need to willingly make an effort to see and do.
The freedom existing in a society as a whole depends on the overall distribution of social power. Social Power is possessed by all individuals and social groups and arises out of their connections to each other. The greatest inequalities between individuals are not in their inherited characteristics, but in the characteristics they acquire from their social environment as they grow up and take their place in society Such as: personality, education, experience, wealth, contacts, etc. These things give people most of the social power they have.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom. Freedom is a function of social power. A free society will not be achieved if we try to conquer it individually. We need a balance of social power among all individuals, as a whole. The only way to do that is to work together to resolve the issues.
Social systems involve many participants and are always changing. We may not always see or feel the change, but maybe with more communication, the participants’ attitudes and classes will. Then and only then will change for the better happen.
One thing that stands out to me and that will remain most important is the realization that I am part of the problem. However, I desire and will be part of the solution. Silence is ignorance, and I refuse to be ignorant to the obvious any longer.
As For Myself?
I realize that I am part of the problem and I have become angry…However, through my anger I have become motivated. With that said, I will continue to educate myself of discrimination, sexism, racism, and the gender roles that are existent and expected. I will teach myself of oppression and the “privileged.” I will recognize agent groups and target groups. I will speak up when I see or hear demeaning or degrading statements/ actions towards others.
I wish to start a ripple effect. Starting with me, and then educating others so they may acknowledge the same, eventually rippling over the community as a whole. Together we may make a dent in the problems in our society. I realize that I must be part of the solution, not the proble
As a person desiring change, I need to observe and listen to others and engage in positive, life-altering conversations and actions that will cause the change of attitudes of others. Because privilege is unearned, I will and must continue to be aware of the class and power that I have, as well as others, and the roles we play. By knowing this I can fully understand the consequences of my words and actions on others.