Oppression…where does it come from?

Earlier in the semester, I took an 8 week online class called “HDF 110 Oppression: Roots & Impact”. This class is part of the Leadership Minor coursework and is a requirement for me before I graduate. I had heard mixed reviews of the class from other Leader Advancement Scholars so I was a bit nervous to see how the class would go.

Despite the class being pretty fast-paced with a lot of information, I really did enjoy the course material. I learned a lot in a short amount of time and the class changed my views significantly on what I believed about oppressed groups. The class expanded my knowledge on LGTBQ issues, poverty and social class, hate in America, religion, gender issues, and individuals with disabilities.

In the first week of the class, I was presented with the following idea:

Individual differences between people do not mean anything until a society decides that these differences matter. In other words, race is constructed solely by society, we are not born racist, we learn that others are different, then racism is born.

Often times, we do not feel privileged because we compare ourselves to people of similar status. We often do not think about a lower status or oppressed group when comparing ourselves. Much to my surprise, 55% of white Americans believed that African-Americans and Hispanics are genetically inferior to them. How is it 2017 and more than half of Americans believe this to be true? There is no scientific way to group people by race, but politically and socially, we put people into groups anyway. We classify people based on skin color, hair texture, and other types of physical characteristics. Knowing that race is solely constructed by a society helped me open my mind and keep it open for the rest of the course.

I loved learning about gender and it is yet another socially constructed ideal. Sex (male or female) are biological and reproductive differences, whereas gender (boy or girl) is simply socially constructed by society. Children learn gender roles from the communities they live in roles for each gender are enforced by parents and educators. We live in a world where baby’s gender reveals are HUGE deals to parents and the first question friends and family ask pregnant couples is “Do you know the gender? Do you want a boy or girl?” From birth, pink items are directed towards girls and blue items are directed towards boys. The toy store has clear sections for only girls and only boys. It’s crazy how much the society we live in reinforces these roles without even realizing what we are doing.

Each topic I learned in the class gave me a new insight into a certain oppressed group and provided me with ways to reduce oppression for these groups. I enjoyed reading about privilege and how to become more aware of my own privilege in order to help those less privileged. HDF110 has given me crucial skills to reduce oppression in my own life and how to be more aware of the people around me!

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