Internalized Oppression

Internalized Oppression

Internalized oppression refers to internalizing and acting out (often unintentionally) the constant messages that you and your group are inferior to the dominant group and thus deserving of your lower position.

Examples include:

Believing that dominant group members are more qualified for and deserving of their positions Seeking the approval of and spending most of your time with members of the dominant group Behaving in ways that please the dominant group and do not challenge the legitimacy of its position Silently enduring microaggressions from the dominant group in order to avoid penalty Having low expectations for yourself and others associated with your group Believing that your struggles with social institutions (such as education, employment, health care) are the result of your (or your group’s) inadequacy, rather than the result of unequally distributed resources between dominant and minoritized groups Harshly criticizing members of your group who do not assimilate to dominant norms (“Pull up your pants!” “Speak English!”)

Internalized dominance and oppression create observable social group patterns in members of dominant and minoritized groups. While there will always be exceptions, these patterns are well documented, recognizable, and predictable (Adair & Howell, 2007). Figure 5.3 illustrates common characteristics of members of each group as a result of their group’s


overall position in society. It illustrates the common patterns for each side of the social hierarchy, as well as how they fit perfectly together to hold each group in place.

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