The Dynamic System of Power, Privilege, and Oppression Cultural

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Date Submitted: 09/17/2012 06:32 AM

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Cultural (US)


Personal Institutional

Adapted by OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc. from varied sources.


Diversity = The collection of differences and similarities of a group (Roosevelt Thomas). Diversity is not a person; it is a culture we all create. Prejudice = An attitude based on limited information, often stereotypes. Usually, but not always, negative. Positive and negative prejudices alike, especially when directed toward oppressed people, are damaging because they deny the individuality of the person. No one is free of prejudice. Examples of prejudice: women are emotional; Asians are good at math. Power = Access to resources and to decision makers to get what you want done, the ability to influence others, the ability to define reality for yourself and potentially for others. Power can be visible, hidden, or invisible. Power can show up as power over others, power with others, and/or power within. Oppression = Prejudice + Power. The systematic targeting or marginalization of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Oppression can manifest through racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other isms. Only the dominant group can be oppressive (i.e., racist, classist, etc.) because only the dominant group has the power. Oppression is the losing end of privilege (Allen Johnson). Privilege = Unearned benefits conferred upon members of mainstream or dominant groups (in the US, these include male, white, heterosexual, affluent, young, able-bodied, and/or Christian) at the expenses of others. Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do (Peggy McIntosh). Privilege can manifest through visible advantages...