Internalized Dominance

Internalized Dominance

Internalized dominance refers to internalizing and acting out (often unintentionally) the constant messages circulating in the culture that you and your group are superior to the minoritized group and thus entitled to your higher position.

Examples include:

Rationalizing privilege as natural (“It’s just human nature—someone has to be on top.”) Rationalizing privilege as earned (“I worked hard to get where I am.”) Perceiving you and your group as the most qualified for and entitled to the best jobs (“She only got the position over me because she’s Black.”) Living one’s life segregated from the minoritized group yet feeling no loss or desire for connections with them (e.g., patterns of White flight rationalized as “I want my kids to grow up in a good neighborhood where they can play outside with their friends.”) Lacking an interest in the perspectives of the minoritized group except in limited and controlled doses (e.g., during ethnic authors week, or holidays such as Chinese New Year) or when it appears to benefit the dominant group (“I want my child to experience diversity.”) Feeling qualified to debate or explain away the experiences of minoritized groups (“I think you are taking this too personally, I don’t think that’s what he meant.”)

Microaggressions: The everyday slights and insults that


minoritized people endure and dominant people don’t notice or concern themselves with.

Internalized dominance manifests in our daily actions through what psychologist Derald Wing Sue (2010) termed microaggressions. By definition, microaggressions are everyday slights, insults, and insensitivities from dominant group members to minoritized members. These messages are expressed through statements and actions that remind the minoritized person of their lesser status. Examples of microaggressions are asking a multiracial person, “What are you?”, telling an older woman, “I bet you were beautiful when you were young,” and telling a person of Color, “I don’t see you as Black.”

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Internalized Dominance
Internalized Dominance

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