Inclusive Language Series: Internalized Oppression

For this week’s edition of our Inclusive Language Series, we will be taking a look at “internalized oppression.”

First, we must examine what “oppression” means. Oppression is the act of a group or institutionalized entity placing severe restrictions on an individual or group. Through these restrictions, the oppressed individual or group is undermined by privileges and resources while other groups benefit at the expense of the oppressed. Examples of oppression include denial of civil rights, lack of adequate access to education, and discrimination in housing and employment opportunities.

“Internalized oppression” is a concept in which the oppressed group accepts and reaffirms the negative stereotypes made against them. When someone struggles with internalized oppression, they believe their marginalized group’s trait(s) limits their social reach and reproduces harmful behavioral patterns to the rest of society. The phenomenon can manifest itself as a result of intergenerational trauma that the group has experienced. In turn, internalized racism, homophobia, and sexism can also emerge from the perception of internalized oppression.

If we hope to help those experiencing internalized oppression, we must demonstrate an active commitment to diversity, equality, and inclusion. Do not participate in the bystander effect and believe others will deal with inequalities. Instead, take action by checking your own implicit biases. First, strive for a growth mindset and learn about the cause of the implicit biases, as these are often the result of stereotypes constructed about other groups. Embrace diverse perspectives by contributing positively to messaging and views of marginalized groups.

Now, it is everyone’s responsibility to challenge and dismantle cultural stereotypes, as it will take a collective effort to undo the years, decades, or centuries of harm that afflicted marginalized groups.

Resources to learn more:

Upcoming Holidays & Observances:

  • November 1-30: National Native American Heritage Month, which celebrates the history and contributions of Native Americans.
  • November 1-30: National Family Caregivers Month, which honors the more than forty million caregivers across the country who support aging parents, ill spouses, or other loved ones with disabilities who remain at home.