Never-Ending Oppression?

My vision of what it is to be culturally proficient was affected by this book very much: Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. All the writers in the textbook wrote back and forth about how oppression and privilege are both a result of power, but I found the most helpful sections in reshaping the way I think about it were written by Young and Harro, who went into most detail about what supports oppression and why it is still an issue, regardless of it being recognized as a problem.

In Young’s section, “The Five Faces of Oppression”, the different forms of oppression are discussed (five of them): exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence. He talks about a fundamental fact that others assume but not directly say: different forms of oppression intersect. The most common face of oppression that almost (if not) all groups face is cultural imperialism, which means the dominant meanings of a society make up a perspective that makes them invisible or stereotyped. They are then labeled as “Others” in society because they have those traits.

Harro, on the other hand, in “The Cycle of Socialization”, shows the vicious cycle that someone goes through since birth that indoctrinates them into society step by step and keeps them within the cycle until they gain some form of awareness that the cycle is skewed away from the truth and social justice. It starts with the beginning, when we are born, then goes through our first socialization by the people we love and trust who shape us without our awareness. He then explains how institutional and cultural socialization comes in and uses government, medicine, law and others to further tells us who should have and who should not have power. This is, according to Harro, the step before enforcement, where we are punished for not following what the institution wants and rewarded with some rights for following their beliefs that they instill in us. Results is the step which allows us to either realize things for what they really are, or fall back into the cycle and keep it going. Results show that socialization leads to bad outcomes for both powerful and powerless parts of society through displays of bad perception, dissonance, hate, anger, etc., and if we do nothing, the cycle continues. Change can only happen once we realize that we are in a cycle of oppression where the core is, basically, our own ignorance, fear and confusion.

Adams, M. (2013). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.

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