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, pp. 49–50.
Internalizing and acting out (often unintentionally) the constant messages that you and your group are inferior to the dominant group and thus deserving of your lower position.
- Believing that dominant group members are more qualified for and deserving of their positions
- Seeking the approval of and spending most of your time with members of the dominant group
- Behaving in ways that please the dominant group and do not challenge the legitimacy of its position (i.e., “the model minority” discourse)
- Silently enduring micro-aggressions (everyday slights, insults, and insensitivities) from the dominant group in order to avoid penalty
- Having low expectations for yourself and others associated with your group
- Believing that your struggles with social institutions (such as education, employment, health care) are the result of your (or your group’s) inadequacy, rather than the result of unequally distributed resources between dominant and minoritized groups.
New Discourses Commentary
Internalized oppression is one of Social Justice’s nastier concepts. Under a rubric of internalized oppression, any member of a “minoritized” or “oppressed” group who doesn’t follow the Social Justice (that is, woke or critically conscious) mentality can be accused of being an unwitting sell-out or victim of false consciousness that acts against their own interests. This might be done either cynically or by unintentionally supporting the dominance that Theory alleges holds them down (see also, acting white, patriarchal reward, male approval, neoliberal reward, gender traitor, race traitor, internalized sexism, internalized misogyny, internalized transphobia, and internalized racism). This enables the Social Justice activist to dismiss any information or narrative provided by any member of a Theoretically oppressed group that contradicts, doubts, or refutes Social Justice and its Theory.
This last point is particularly important because Social Justice tries to place its claims to knowledge(s) in the lived experience of oppression through a concept called “positionality” (see also, standpoint epistemology). Under this way of thinking, knowledge about oppression can only be gained by the direct experience of oppression (due to systemic power dynamics). Members of dominant groups cannot understand oppression unless it is explained to them by members of oppressed groups (see also, epistemic exploitation). Under this mindset, a member of a minoritized group who disagrees with Theory would have to be listened to if there wasn’t some way to discredit their opinions and experiences as inauthentic.
As Theory explains that one’s relationship to systemic power is determined by group membership (positionality), all members of any given identity group should have similar experiences of oppression—and most importantly, those experiences should match what Theory has “learned” about them. This narrative is easily interrupted by the existence of members of Theoretically oppressed groups whose lived experience refutes the claims of Social Justice. Thus, the concept of “internalized oppression,” in which members of “oppressed” groups choose to operate within the existing system rather than taking up a lifelong commitment to critical consciousness and Social Justice activism, provides a means for Theory “not to be wrong” even when challenged by people to whom dominant groups would otherwise be demanded to shut up and listen.
Acting white; Authentic; Consciousness raising; Critical consciousness; Dominance; Epistemic exploitation; False consciousness; Gender traitor; Identity; Internalized misogyny; Internalized racism; Internalized sexism; Internalized transphobia; Knowledge(s); Lived experience; Male approval; Meritocracy (ideology); Microaggression; Minoritize; Model minority; Narrative; Neoliberal reward; Normalize; Oppression; Patriarchal reward; Position; Privilege; Race traitor; Shut up and listen; Social Justice; Standpoint epistemology; System, the; Systemic power; Theory; Woke/Wokeness
Revision date: 2/4/20