Reflection on Oppression and Privilege from Personal Experience

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In the words of Marilyn Frye (1983), “The word ‘oppression’ is a strong word. It repels and attracts. It is dangerous and dangerously fashionable and endangered. It is much misused, and sometimes not innocently”. In this reflection statement I will try to define what oppression is and how it intersects with privilege in my personal life and experiences. I will explain how I’ve come to understand it and how important it is to recognize your own privilege.

You cannot understand where oppression comes from without considering privilege and where it stems from. “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see..., white privilege, which puts me at an advantage” (McIntosh, 1989). Privilege, domination and oppression come hand in hand and often intersect on many different levels. You cannot have one without the other. An example of one of my intersections is, I experience privilege daily by presenting as a white cisgender woman (I am half Mexican with a very white complexion), but I also face oppression for being a woman. Often people think that they cannot experience privilege because they too experience oppression. I have come to understand privilege as something that is unearned but something I can subconsciously rely on to get me ahead in life. Even if I am oppressed in some ways, I have these privileges I can “cash in”. Examples of my white cisgender privilege are as follows; I can use public bathrooms that are specifically labeled for me without having to worry about being arrested or verbally abused. I learn about my race in school (the white side). My gender is an option on a form. I can assume that people I encounter will understand my gender identity and not think I am confused. I don’t have any problems finding children books that accurately represent my race. I am not associated with violent stereotypes when presenting as white. All of these and many more are examples of unearned benefits I experience in day to day life and I experience even more as an able-bodied white person. It is important to relate white privilege and all privilege to the disadvantage of others, while not all advantages are inherently bad it is necessary to connect the two. If the dominate culture stays ignorant or oblivious to their privilege we cannot hope to redistribute the power that they hold.

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“The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking” (Combahee River Collective, 1978). The women that took part in writing the Combahee River Collective were part of many intersections of oppression. They were lesbians, black, and women. Three separate groups that are dominated in society and are all very much oppressed. The Combahee River Collective really helped me realize and define my own privilege. While I am a woman and also a woman who identifies as queer I am still half white and present as white. I have racial and class privilege to rely or fall back on. I have access and power that marginalized groups do not. I have been given a platform to speak while many people of color fight to be heard everyday who have also been erased from our history books or silenced. That’s why I think it is very important for people who have power to first recognize it, and then realize that that same power comes at someone else’s expense. Growing up I went to a predominately black/latinx school, while I am half Mexican I was considered fully white because I present as white with my dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. I have personally witnessed the opportunities I have been given that my peers have been looked over for, not because they worked any less hard than me but because their skin presented darker than mine.

I am presented with a position of power being half white in America but I have also experienced a lot of misogyny and homophobia in my life because I am a queer woman. While my oppressions are very real my privilege still has a lingering unspoken factor in everything I do, and that’s why I choose to write about that privilege. I have learned from the feminist’s texts I have mentioned above that the first step to dismantle our societies systems of domination is to recognize where you place in this systematic axe of oppression and privilege.

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Reflection on Oppression and Privilege from Personal Experience. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-on-oppression-and-privilege-from-personal-experience/
“Reflection on Oppression and Privilege from Personal Experience.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-on-oppression-and-privilege-from-personal-experience/
Reflection on Oppression and Privilege from Personal Experience. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-on-oppression-and-privilege-from-personal-experience/> [Accessed 23 Jun. 2024].
Reflection on Oppression and Privilege from Personal Experience [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2024 Jun 23]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-on-oppression-and-privilege-from-personal-experience/
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