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Learn & Unlearn: Anti-racism Resource Guide

Lesson 11: Oppression

Original post on @saic.maffairs posted 10/9/2020.

Foundation: Oppression

What is Oppression?

Oppression is the systematic subjugation of one social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of another group with power (see Lesson 8: Power
Oppression = power + prejudice1

Oppression operates as a cycle and it links stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, and internalized oppression2
Misinformation is generated through omission & distortions
We are socialized, we learn what is socially acceptable based on misinformation from social interactions
We internalize misinformation about our own group and other groups
We polarize and separate us/them. We form in-groups and act superior to others or out-groups
The social world, our institutions, and trusted people reinforce our stereotypes and cultivates prejudices 
Remaining unquestioned, we contribute to institutions and systems that cultivate misinformation
Institutions systematize and unfairly favor certain social groups, oppress other groups, and justify the mistreatment of other groups
We perpetuate and the cycle continues3

Understanding oppression helps to recognize, question and prevent long standing patterns of injustice from repeating. Understanding oppression centers the realities of the very people we join in the fight for social justice. By analyzing oppression, we can understand what collective liberation demands of us. 


Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise..” - Angelou, Maya4

To Read

To Research

To Listen

To Watch

To Reflect

Complete this checklist for White Allies Against Racism. How did you score? What will you increase today? What will you add next week? And the week after? 

To Act

All forms of oppression are connected - you cannot fight one form of injustice and not fight others. 
Use this guide to learn how to challenge homophobia, and racism within the moment.


Works Cited

  1. "Oppression," Racial Equity Tools Glossary, October 2019.
  2. Sheri Schmidt, “Cycle of Oppression,” 1994.
  3. "Racism Defined," Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks), Last modified June 2020.
  4. Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise,” Poetry Foundation, accessed October 2020.