Critical Social Justice


Hola! I am Joel-Lehi. I’m here to talk today about social justice actually critical social this is an approach that recognizes that society is stratified (divided and unequal) in significant far-reaching ways along so it’s deeply
embedded in the fabric of society we actively seek to change this. Those who claim to be for social justice must be engaged in self-reflection about their own socialization into each social groups, their positionality, and must strategically act rom that awareness in ways that challenge social injustice. Let’s start with positionality the The recognition that where you stand in relation to others in society shapes what you can see and understand.
I’m a Latino cis-male, that’s able bodied, polyglot (I speak 4 languages). I mentioned socialization. This refers to our systematic training into the norms of our culture. It’s the process of learning the meaning and practices that enable us to make sense of and behave appropriately in that culture. Lets use a metaphor of wearing a pair of glasses all the time. The two significant parts to these glasses: the frames are the “big picture” (macro) norms – what everyone in the culture is taught from birth, for example girls wear pink and dresses. The lenses constitute the individual (micro) Its how your positionality plays a role. Their your own personalized prescription lenses. Because we cannot be immune to socialization, we all learn prejudice. Prejudice is learned prejudgments toward social others and refers to internal thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and assumptions based on the groups to which they belong. For example, think about how a girl should act? How would an immigrant talk? How would a white frat guy at the university act like? If you can visualize any of those you are showing how you can’t be immune to socialization and prejudice. How we think about groups of people determines how we act towards them; Discrimination occurs when we act on our prejudice. Once we act on our prejudices, we are discriminating. Acts of discrimination can include ignoring, avoiding, excluding, ridicule, jokes, slander threats and violence. Sometimes these are called micro-aggressions. An example speaking to a blind person as if they were a child. Talking loudly to a person with an accent. Asking me to give me a nickname. Telling a girl they are well articulated. Now what’s oppression? It’s actually a simple equation. (Prejudice & Discrimination) + Power=Oppression The power must be historical, social, and institutional. Oppression describes a set of policies, practices, traditions, norms, definitions, and explanations (discourse), which function to systematically exploit one social group to the benefit of another social group. Groups that benefit are called the dominant group. The group that is exploited is called the minority. Actually, let’s call them the minoritized group! The term used to describe these relationships of inequality between dominant and minoritized groups usually ends with -”ism”. Like racism! Let’s give an example. I am Joel-Lehi, a Latino male. My prejudice is “women should stay at home and not work” My prejudice leads to discrimination like making jokes about this (microaggressions). But, because I am male and males have historical, social and institutional power over women. My discrimination becomes actual oppression, and in this case it’s called sexism. This is even more true if my prejudices lead me to impose this prejudice on my partner, sister, daughter, or mom by not allowing them to work. Or I don’t vote for a women solely because she is a women. Or I don’t hire a women because of my prejudice Next example. I am Joél-Léhi, a Latino male. My prejudice is “white people can’t dance” My prejudice leads to discrimination by either making jokes about it, ignoring white people, and not asking white people to dance with me. This is not oppression, It’s not racism. This is discrimination however! I do not have any power over white people because I am Latino. Nonetheless, I am personally missing out on an opportunity to create a more authentic relationship with white people because I am acting on my prejudice. Also, keep in mind that when I oppressed women in my past example I wasn’t only missing out on an authentic relationship, but I was literally limiting them with their opportunities because of my power. Last example, I am Joél-Léhi, a Latino male, polyglot. But this time someone is looking at me with their socialization pair of glasses. It is my middle school counselor who is a white female. Her prejudice is “Joel is an English Language Learner and Hispanic. He can’t have high academic achievement.” Her prejudice leads to discrimination by telling me, “I don’t think you should take honor classes.” “You can’t handle those classes”. This is all after I said I want to take them. She then continues to use her power by literally denying access to honor, AP, and IB classes. Here her discrimination has become oppression, specifically racism because White people have historic, social, and institutional power over all other races. Luckily, my parents and I are resilient and empowered Latinos that we went all the way to the school district to report this racism and put me in these courses. These are real unnecessary unfair barriers I went through. Marilyn Frye illustrates the interlocking forces of oppression through the metaphor of a birdcage. If you come up close and press your face against the bars of the birdcage, you will have a myopic view of the bird inside; your perception of the bards will be limited. Even if you slowly moved around the cage and closely inspected each wire, one at a time, you still could not see why the bird would have trouble going past any particular wire and fly away. But if instead of the close-up view, you step back and take a wider view, you begin to see how the wires come together in an interlocking pattern, a pattern that works to hold the bird in place. It’s now clear that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers. In isolation, none of these barriers would be that difficult for the bird to get around, but because of their connections to one another, they are as confining as a solid wall. The experience of oppressed people is that their lives are confined and shaped by forces and barriers that are not accidental, occasional, or avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to restrict and penalize their movement. In this way, oppression gives everyone a distorted view of how society works. Worse is when those that are oppressed internalize the prejudice about their minoritized identities. For example my mom internalizing she is only good at home and should never run for office. Or me as a Latino thinking it’s because I am lazy and multilingual that I couldn’t take honor classes, not because of the racism that impeded my access. To conclude, Each of us must first become aware of our socialization, positionality, and prejudice. We must then use our power to empower and not oppress others. Call out people that discriminate. Never internalize any of the dehumanizing messages of your minoritized identities. Audre Lorde said it best, “The true focus of revolutionary change is never the oppressive situation which we seek to escape, but the piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within us.” be brave! be authentic! Be your Best Self, and also let everyone else do that by never being an oppressor and oppressing others

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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