Dominant groups have the most narrow or limited view of society

Dominant groups have the most narrow or limited view of society


because they do not have to understand the experiences of the minoritized group in order to survive; because they control the institutions, they have the means to legitimize their view (“I worked hard for what I have, why can’t they?”). Minoritized groups often have the widest view of society, in that they must understand both their own and the dominant group’s perspective—develop a double-consciousness—to succeed. But because they are in the margins, the view of minoritized groups is seen as the least legitimate in society, dismissed via phrases such as “they just have a chip on their shoulder, … complain too much, or … want special rights.” In order to understand the power of these phrases we must understand language as political.

Language is not a neutral transmitter of a universal, objective, or fixed reality. Rather, language is the way we construct reality, the framework we use to give meaning to our experiences and perceptions within a given society. Language is also cultural, making it dependent on the historical and social moment in which it is used (e.g., colorblindness as a means to end racism is a discourse that would not have made sense before the civil rights movement). Furthermore, language is not just words; it includes all of the ways we communicate with others. Discourses include not only what we say, but also what we don’t say (how we learn what lies under the surface of the iceberg). The scholarly term for language in all of its dimensions is discourse.

Take the word “tree,” a seemingly neutral term. Yet notice that how we see the tree is connected to our frame of reference. A tree that looks big to someone who grew up on the East Coast might not look big to someone who grew up on the West Coast. A logger might see employment, an environmentalist might see a limited resource, and a member of the Coast Salish nation might see a sacred symbol of life. Each of these “ways of seeing” is a discourse and connects to other discourses (consider the politics between the logger and the environmentalist, and the environmentalist and the Coast Salish member). These politics are rooted in the meaning the tree has for each group, and the investments that result from those meanings.

Discourses, because they shape how we think about and relate to one another, shape relations of power. For example, the discourses of the dominant group about the minoritized group will always represent the dominant group’s interests and thereby reinforce their meaning-making framework. Dominant discourses socialize us into seeing our positions in the hierarchy as natural. Scholars use the terms internalized dominance and internalized oppression to refer to this acceptance of our socialization (Adams, Bell, Goodman, & Joshi, 2016; Freire, 1970; Nieto, Boyer,


Goodwin, Johnson, Collier Smith, & Hopkins, 2010; Tappan, 2006).

Discourse: The academic term for meaning that is communicated through language, in all of its forms. Discourses include myths, narratives, explanations, words, concepts, and ideology. Discourses are not universally shared among humans; they represent a particular cultural worldview and are shared among members of a given culture. Discourse is different from ideology because it refers to all of the ways in which we communicate ideology, including verbal and nonverbal aspects of communication, symbols, and representations.

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Dominant groups have the most narrow or limited view of society
Dominant groups have the most narrow or limited view of society

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