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Diana Roberts

English 2610
WHO IS PRIVILEDGED AND WHO IS OPPRESSED?
To elect whether we see ourselves as being an individual who is
privileged or oppressed can vary on the day we ask ourselves that
particular question. Also, whom are we comparing ourselves? If we
compare our wealth or status to those in Hollywood, we will, without a
doubt, feel less privileged. There will always be someone who is
smarter, wealthier, better looking than us who is given more breaks in
life. In this paper, I will research who are the people in America that
feel privileged and who are those that see themselves as being
oppressed by American society.
In a study conducted by Chizhik & Chizhik in 2002, they asked
undergraduate students who were beginning a multicultural education
course to participate in two research studies. The first study asked
students to state whether they were privileged or oppressed, the
second asked students to rate hypothetical others based on privilege,
oppression, and other categories (Chizhik & Chizhik). The results
showed that most students, regardless of ethnicity, considered
themselves to be privileged. The reason they gave was because they
all have a home, most have cars and are able to attend college. The
analysis also revealed twelve non-white women described themselves
as being both privileged and oppressed. Their reasons tended to report

education as a factor for their perceived privilege while ethnicity and


gender served as factors for their perceived oppression (Chizhik &
Chizhik).

Thestudyshowedthatmoststudents,regardlessofethnicity,labelthemselvesas
privilege.Thefindingsofthesecondstudyrevealed,thereisaconnectionbetweenhow
studentsviewedthemselvesandhowtheviewedother.Studentswhoheldrelatively
simpleviewofthemselvesusedconceptualunderstandingofsimilarcomplexityto
describeother(Chizhik&Chizhik).
Furthersearchingbroughtmetoandarticlecalled,DearPrivilegedatPrinceton:
You.Are.Privileged.AndMeritocracyIsaMyth.Inthisarticletheauthorwritesabout
herclassmate,TaiFortgang.TaiwroteastoryforThePrincetonTorycomplainingabout
theoveruseandmisuseofthephrasecheckyourprivilege,andclaimedthatthephrase
wastoeingthelineofreverseracism.AccordingtoPayton,Fortgangprovedthisby
detailinghisfamilyshistoryofthepersecutiontheysufferedundertheHolocaust,
claimingthat,theonlyprivilegehehasisthathisancestorsmadeittoAmerica,were
hardworkingandpasseddownwonderfulvaluessuchasfaithandeducation(Payton).
TheauthorsresponsetothiswasthatFortgangsfamilywasgivenprivilegesrightfrom
thestart.Thecoloroftheirskinallowedthemtohaveopportunities,doorswherenot
shutintheirface,whereas,blackshadnoopendoors.Shestates,Americahasahistory
ofoverallpreferenceforwhitemales.Whitemenaretheonlyoneswhohavebeen
affordedpoliticalandsocialrightssincethefoundingofthiscountry(Payton).

On December 13, 2014, John Wear, a 17 year old was walking in


the lower east side of Manhattan with two of his friends when a pair of
men came upon them calling them faggots. They stabbed John,
gashed his friends face and his other friend managed to get away.
Wear was taken to the hospital, but his wounds were so severe he
could not be saved. Homosexuals are objects of scorn for teenagers
and of sympathy or moral fear or hatred for adults. They grow up in
confusion and bewilderment as children, then often pass into denial as
young adults and sometimes remain frightened even into old age
(Rauch). Homosexuals face discrimination and hatred everyday. Until
recently, their marriages were not recognized and they still carry the
stigma of AIDS around. However, in America, life is improving for
homosexuals, thanks to the courage of thousands who decided they
have had enough abuse and who have fought hard and continue to
fight for their equal rights. The authors main point in this article is that
every minority uses the word oppression for practically everything.
He advocates, we start by restoring meaning to the idea of oppression
by insisting on unbiased evidence, in other words, ones sense of
personal hurt or grievance is not enough to say that you are, or your
group (based on sexual orientation) is, oppressed.
In an article called Obesity Related Stigma as a Form of
Oppression, the authors investigate social workers attitudes toward
obese people. They examined a study conducted by McCardle (2008).

Utilizing a national random sample of social workers, they found a


relationship between attitudes toward obese people and social work
practices (Lawrence, Hazket & Abel). Apparently, their view of obese
people varied on whether or not the obesity was a result of a health
condition or life style choice. According to the Code of Ethics of the
National Association of Social Workers, 4.02 Social workers should not
practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of
discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex,
sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status,
political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical
disability
Vulnerability, Ignorance, and Oppression is the title of a paper
written to understand the relationship between ignorance and
vulnerability. The author states, it is only because one is vulnerable
that one can be harmed (or benefited). Vulnerability is a basic kind of
openness to be affected and affecting in both positive and negative
ways, which can take diverse forms in different social situations. Being
vulnerable makes it possible for us to suffer, fall prey to violence and
be harmed, but also to fall in love, to learn, to take pleasure and find
comfort in the presence of others (Gilson). The opposite of being
vulnerable is invulnerable. Someone who is arrogantly self-sufficient,
independent or has an illusion of complete control could be classified
as invulnerable. Invulnerability is closure to certain modes of being

affected, in particular, to those that would compel us to recognize our


own vulnerability (Gilson). The author believes that someone who has
been affected by racism, but does perceive himself or herself as
already having been affected, has a sense this is the way things are
and things will always be this way. Gilson sees this behavior as
ignorant. Whereas, someone who is vulnerable will not pretend or try
to hide that they are being mistreated; they will find ways to stop this
treatment.
Oppression can cause self-deceptive behavior because
oppressive social systems create incentives for oppressed people to
believe certain falsehoods about themselves, contrary to their own
evidence (Hay). In Hays article, The Obligation to Resist
Oppression she argues, that accepting ones oppression can make
oppression appear acceptable, or, even worse, it can make oppression
appear not to be oppression at all (Hay). She also claims that by not
standing up for ourselves, we are giving permission to be wronged.
Oppression can also cause weakness of will. A good example of this is
when a woman will consent to unwanted sex, because she doesnt
know how to say no. This irrational behavior is evidence that her
rational nature has been damaged. People who live in oppression come
to view it as normal behavior, therefore, they no longer feel oppressed
because for them this normal.

We all view the world and the people in it differently; everyone is


capable of some sort of stereotyping and prejudice. It may be
uncomfortable for some people to listen when the topic is about
someone elses pain and suffering. We may even talk ourselves into
believing that the oppressed and less privileged live as they do by
choice. The fact is, we dont get to choose our parents; who they are
and what their standing in the world was prior to our birth has a great
influence on our chances of being successful.
On the topic of sexual orientation, it appears that people that
classify themselves as being in the LBGT community have authentically
been oppressed. However, many states have recently passed laws
banning discriminatory practices against them.

WORKS CITED

Chizhik E, Chizhik A. ARE YOU PRIVILEGED OR OPPRESSED?. Urban


Education [serial online]. March 2005;40(2):116-143. Available from: Academic
Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 10, 2015.
GILSON E. Vulnerability, Ignorance, and Oppression. Hypatia [serial online]. May
2011;26(2):308-332. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA.
Accessed April 10, 2015.
Hay C. The Obligation to Resist Oppression. Journal Of Social Philosophy [serial
online]. Spring2011 2011;42(1):21-45. Available from: Academic Search Premier,
Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 10, 2015.
Lawrence, S. A., Hazlett, R., & Abel, E. M. (2012). Obesity Related Stigma as a
Form of Oppression: Implications for Social Work Education. Social Work
Education, 31(1), 63-74. doi:10.1080/02615479.2010.541236
Payton B. Dear Privileged-at-Princeton: You. Are. Privileged. And Meritocracy Is
a Myth. Time.Com [serial online]. May 7, 2014;:1. Available from: Academic
Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed April 9, 2015.
Rauch J. BEYOND OPPRESSION. New Republic [serial online]. May 10,
1993;208(19):18-23. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA.
Accessed April 10, 2015.

"SocialJustice."N.p.,n.d.Web.
"SocialWorkCodeofEthics."
Http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp.N.p.,n.d.Web.11Apr.
2015.