Social Justice Usage
Source: Sensoy, Ozlem, and Robin DiAngelo. Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education, first edition. Teacher’s College Press: New York, 2012, p. 49.
Internalized dominance refers to internalizing and acting out (often unintentionally) the constant messages circulating in the culture that you and your group are superior to the minoritized group and thus entitled to your higher position.
- Rationalizing privilege as natural (“It’s just human nature—someone has to be on top.”)
- Rationalizing privilege as earned (“I worked hard to get where I am.”)
- Perceiving you and your group as the most qualified for and entitled to the best jobs (“She only got the position over me because she is Black.”)
- Living one’s life segregated from the minoritized group yet feeling no loss or desire for connections with them (i.e., patterns of White flight rationalized as “I want my kids to grow up in a good neighborhood where they can play outside with their friends.”)
- Lacking an interest in the perspectives of the minoritized group except in limited and controlled doses (i.e., during “ethnic authors” week, or holidays such as Chinese New Year) or when it appears to benefit the dominant group (“I want my child to experience diversity.”)
- Feeling qualified to debate or explain away the experiences of minoritized groups (“I think you are taking this too personally, I don’t think that’s what he meant.”)
New Discourses Commentary
In Social Justice, there is a persistent and overwhelming concern with “systems of power,” that are Theorized to explain how dominance and oppression operate in society. Because of its roots in critical methods and critical theories, high among Social Justice’s concerns is the ways in which dominance, oppression, and the relevant power dynamics are normalized by society: especially its dominant discourses (ways things are spoken about), its institutions (see also, institutional racism), and the people in it (see also, hegemony). A critical mindset typically has the goal of exposing (and then aiming to dismantle or disrupt) the injustice alleged to be hiding in assumptions about what is and what isn’t normal.
“Internalized dominance” seeks to explain why members of groups considered dominant would see their dominance as normal. It is a kind of privilege-based false consciousness through which those Theorized to have systemic or institutional power will rationalize the “justice” or “normality” of that state of affairs, specifically in an attempt to maintain it (see also, status quo and conservatism). The idea suggests that the dominant group is usually unaware of the injustices they benefit from, contribute to, and perpetuate (see also, white ignorance, white innocence; and pernicious ignorance). The remedy to this problem in Social Justice is to awaken (see also, woke) a “critical consciousness” through some practice of consciousness raising, perhaps like pointing out people’s privilege and telling them to check it.
This concept ultimately relies upon psychologizing the “privileged” person, if not outright mind-reading, to ascertain the “true” reasons they may hold views like that their hard work and education were instrumental in their success (see also, meritocracy and mask). (Note: this is a good place to remind the reader that the original purpose of Critical Theory was to combine Marx’s analysis with Freud’s psychoanalysis.)
One may immediately recognize the bind that members of so-called dominant groups are placed in by the employment of this concept. Their motivations are always going to be held as suspect, as though they are acting only in their own self-interest, usually in an identity-political sense, even if they don’t realize it. This makes nearly any behavior by a member of a dominant group easy to problematize by casting unfalsifiable aspersions upon their motivations (see also, allyship). In practice, this can result in a state where members of dominant groups, even when trying their best and doing exactly as they are told to do by advocates of Social Justice, cannot possibly do anything right (see also, interest convergence and epistemic exploitation).
Active ignorance; Allyship; Consciousness raising; Conservatism; Critical; Critical consciousness; Critical theory; Discourses; Dismantle; Disrupt; Dominance; False consciousness; Hegemony; Identity politics; Injustice; Institutional racism; Interest convergence; Internalized misogyny; Internalized racism; Internalized sexism; Justice; Lived experience; Mansplaining; Marxian; Meritocracy (ideology); Minoritize; Norm; Normal; Normalize; Oppression; Pernicious ignorance; Position; Privilege; Problematize; Social Justice; Splaining; Status quo; Systemic power; Theory; White fragility; White ignorance; White innocence; Whitesplaining; Willful ignorance
Revision date: 2/4/20