skip to Main Content

The Language of Social Justice

social justiceFor the past couple of weeks my show, DJ and Da Bear: Keeping You at the Top of Your Game, has focused on social justice issues. I have received a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement, and also some requests for additional resources and definitions. In response to the requests for definitions, I’ve compiled some here and will keep adding. Thank you to my colleagues in the virtual world who are sharing your good work at local and national levels.

Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who work to end ableism, and so on. Part of becoming an ally is also recognizing one’s own experience of oppression. For example, a white woman can learn from her experience of sexism and apply it in becoming an ally to people of color, or a person who grew up in poverty can learn from that experience how to respect others’ feelings of helplessness because of a disability.

Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups. If oppressive consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs, or Practices, the institution is oppressive whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have oppressive intentions.

Internalized Oppression is the propensity for people within a marginalized group to believe—internalize—the negative images of their own group, hold in higher esteem characteristics associated with the majority or dominant group, and then behave in ways that favor the dominant group to the detriment of one’s own group. It is the equivalent of the deep, scarring effects of shame on an individual, but applies to a whole group.

Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.[1] It can also be defined as an act or instance of oppressing, the state of being oppressed, and the feeling of being heavily burdened, mentally or physically, by troubles, adverse conditions or people, and anxiety.

Privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.

Social Justice is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”

Social Oppression is the socially supported mistreatment and exploitation of a group, category, or team of people or individual.

Systemic Oppression: The term oppression in such instances to refer to the subordination of a given group or social category by unjust use of force, authority or societal norms in order to achieve indoctrination. Through institutionalization, formally or informally, it achieves the dimension of systemic oppression. Oppression is customarily experienced as a consequence of, and expressed in, the form of a prevailing, if unconscious, assumption that the given target is in some way inferior.

In psychology racism, sexism and other prejudices are often studied as individual beliefs which, although not necessarily oppressive in themselves, can lead to oppression if they are codified in law or become parts of a culture. By comparison, in sociology these prejudices are often studied as being institutionalized systems of oppression in some societies. In sociology, the tools of oppression include a progression of denigration, dehumanization and demonization; which often generate scapegoating, which is used to justify aggression against targeted groups and individuals.



DeEtta Jones

DeEtta Jones is an invited speaker, equity, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant and author with more than twenty years of experience working with people from around the world to on personal effectiveness and building workforce capacity.

Back To Top