On Societal Oppressions

Dated Sep 18, 2022; last modified on Sun, 19 Nov 2023

Looking for parallels should be done cautiously. For example, the advantaging associated with race may be different from the one associated with heterosexism. It’s also hard to disentangle [dis]advantaging where social class, economic class, race, religion, sexuality, ethnic identity, and other factors interact.

Isn’t this the crux of intersectionality studies?

Intersectionality identifies multiple factors of advantage and disadvantage. Factors include gender, caste, sex, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, religion, disability, weight, and physical appearance. These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing. Criticisms of the framework: tendency to reduce individuals to specific demographic factors; its use as an ideological tool against other feminist theories; ambiguous/undefined goals; reliance on subjective experiences (standpoint theory) leading to contradictions and inability to generalize.

Black Racial Identity Development

cites Cross for this model. Read Cross’s work instead?

The stages are presented linearly, but often individuals revisit an earlier stage as a result of new encounter experiences. However, the subsequent experience of the stage may be different from the original experience.


The African American has absorbed many beliefs and values of the dominant White culture, and seeks to be accepted by Whites, and distances themselves from other Blacks. The de-emphasis on one’s racial-group may contribute to a belief in a US meritocracy.

Similar: De-emphasizing white privilege allows a white person to hold onto the belief of a US meritocracy.


Precipitated by an event(s) that forces the individual to acknowledge the impact of racism in one’s life, and the fact that they cannot truly be White.


Characterized by the simultaneous desire to surround oneself with visible symbols of one’s racial identity and an active avoidance of symbols of Whiteness. Tendency to denigrate White people, and glorify Black people.

With the Encounter and Immersion/Emersion lens, special interest groups, e.g., Black Student Union, are not “separatist”, but an important outlet.


Secure in one’s own sense of racial identity, with less need to assert the “Blacker than thou” attitude. Establishing meaningful relationships with Whites who acknowledge and are respectful of the individual’s self-definition.


Translates their personal sense of Blackness to concerns of Blacks as a group, which is sustained over time. Blackness becomes “the point of departure for discovering the universe of ideas, cultures, and experiences beyond blackness in place of mistaking blackness as the universe itself.”

White Racial Identity Development

cites Helm’s 1990 work. Read that instead?


A lack of awareness of cultural and institutional racism, and of one’s own White privilege. Naïve curiosity about or fear of PoC, based on stereotypes.


Precipitated by experiences that cultural and institutional racism exist, often leading to discomfort, e.g., guilt, shame, and anger. Coping mechanisms: denying/questioning evidence, victim-blaming, withdrawal from PoC and racial conversations, naïvely trying (and failing) to change attitudes of friends and family.


A desire to be accepted by one’s own racial group, even at the cost of reshaping one’s belief system to be more congruent with an acceptance of racism. Blaming PoC as the source of discomfort. If avoidance of PoC is possible, most Whites become stuck here.


Precipitated by information-seeking, and abandoning beliefs in White superiority. Experiences alienation from other Whites, yet may be rejected by PoC who are suspicious of the individual’s motives. Trying to positively redefine what it means to be White; literature on White antiracist allies to PoC is empowering.


Antiracist behavior and attitudes are more consistently expressed, allowing easier forging of alliances with PoC.

White Privilege

“My [white] skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways, and of making social systems work for me."

lists 26 instances of white privilege in her life, e.g. if pulled over by a traffic cop, not being worried that she’s been singled out because of her race.

Not all privileges are inevitably damaging; some are unearned advantage, e.g. expecting that race won’t count against you in court. These should be the norm in a just society.

Other privileges, e.g. being able to ignore the hostilities against PoC which exhaust and anger PoC, confer dominance.

The thinking about equality and equity is incomplete if unearned advantage and conferred dominance are kept taboo. We shouldn’t just try to get folks into a position of dominance, while denying that systems of dominance exist.

Google Trends for “white privilege” in the US from 2004.

The spike in June 2020 coincide with the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the search term over the given region and time.

Implications for Reducing Resistance When Teaching about Race

Raise awareness about the model of racial identity development. This allows the individuals to be less frightened when collisions of developmental processes occur, e.g., a White person not personalizing or feeling threatened by an African-American’s anger during Immersion/Emersion.

Create a safe climate, e.g. confidentiality, mutual respect, no comic-relief during anxious conversations, and speaking from one’s own experience instead of generalizing.

Create opportunities for self-generated knowledge as that tends to be less prone to denial, e.g., having a White person go apartment hunting with an African-American person.

Empower learners with the possibility of change, e.g. developing action plans for interrupting racism, taping an initial interview and replaying it at some later point to let them see how they’ve progressed since.

Implications of Teaching About Race for Institutions

In a White-majority environment, educating even a fraction has ripple effects, e.g. they share literature, involve peers in projects, are better allies in settings like meetings.

PoC are able to give a voice to their own experience, and to validate it rather than be demoralized by it. They may be able to move beyond victimization to empowerment.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

What was the main purpose of the Letter from Birmingham Jail? To encourage civil rights activists to keep advocating despite King’s arrest.

Direct-action movements are never “well-timed” because that is on the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from segregation. The word “wait” has almost always meant “never”. The white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice is the greater stumbling block toward freedom than the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner.

Didn’t expect the white moderates to be the subject of MLK’s letter. A naïve take would have been, “They’re somewhat helping; Aim for the KKK instead.” But maybe it’s a matter on how change is effected - the white moderates were the majority of the group needed to accelerate the civil rights movement. Getting a 10% boost from them is more

All too many white religious leaders have been more cautious than courageous, e.g., calling upon worshippers to comply with desegregation, not because it is morally right, but because it is the law.

What are the steps of non-violent campaign? The cause must be clear enough to not need prose to make apparent. Must identify non-nuanced injustices, such that the campaign is almost a parody of society.

There are four basic steps in a non-violent campaign. First, collect the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. Birmingham was highly segregated, had an ugly record of police brutality, and more unsolved racial bombings than any other city. Second, negotiating with the powers that be on how to end the injustices. Promises on reform were not honored. Third, self-purification. Workshops on non-violence and restraint against retaliating. Fourth, direct action.

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.

One force comprises of Negroes who have adjusted to segregation and those who, having risen to the middle class and at times profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred that comes close to advocating violence. Nonviolent direct action is a creative outlet for the normal and healthy discontent.

What is the difference between just and unjust laws? If a certain law were reverted, would society be better overall? If so, then that law is unjust.

Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. A law can be just on its face and unjust in its application, e.g., requiring a permit for a parade, and then denying civil rights activists said permits.


  1. Talking about Race, Learning about Racism: The Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom. Beverly Daniel Tatum. Harvard Education Review, Vol. 62. Mount Holyoke College. equity.ucla.edu . scholar.google.com . www.connectedpapers.com . 1992. Cited 2083 times as of Sep 18, 2022.
  2. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Peggy McIntosh. Wellesley College. files.eric.ed.gov . scholar.google.com . 1990. Cited 6595 times as of Sep 18, 2022.
  3. Intersectionality. en.wikipedia.org . Accessed Sep 18, 2022.
  4. Letter from Birmingham Jail. Martin Luther King, Jr. www.csuchico.edu . 1963. Accessed Nov 19, 2023.