In the first semester of my sophomore year I took the class Oppression: Roots and Impact on Human Development in the United States, also known as HDF 110. The class was very interesting and informative because it taught me about privilege, power and oppression from a non-bias standpoint. The forms of oppression I learned about were: racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism and classism (socioeconomic status).
I never realized how easily we are exposed to privilege, power and oppression. One of the projects I completed in the class was a cultural awareness assignment. The first part of the assignment required me to write about five different instances where I observed privilege, power or oppression in my every day life. My observations came from stereotypes of race, sex, sexual orientation, ability to complete certain tasks, and social class. Some of the conversations I heard encompassed more than one of these stereotypes. For example, one of the conversations I heard was about race and sex. Stereotypes and expectations from a group of people can range from huge topics in the news to assuming a woman will take a man’s last name when she is married. I realized that I hear about these topics more than I was previously aware. The second part of the assignment was to find an instances from news sources or pop culture sources that highlight each form of oppression I learned about in class. I found the instances in music, television shows, YouTube videos, online news, and magazine articles. Privilege, power and oppression are spread throughout society on a wide scale using the media, whether it is to acknowledge or enforce it in a negative or positive way. The unfortunate reality is that many people are not aware of oppression if they are not in the group that is being oppressed.
HDF 110 taught me there are ways to fix the issues of privilege, power and oppression. The first step is to acknowledge that a problem does exist and that it is a problem for everyone. The second step to to pay attention to where the privilege, power and oppression come from. This step is what the cultural awareness assignment did – it made everyone in the class see where these issues are found in every day life. The third step is to listen to opposing viewpoints and counter arguments. It is also important to listen when an opinion gets checked because there is always a reason why. Maybe something that was said was offensive and it was not even known to be offensive. The final step is to do something about the issue of privilege, power or oppression on a micro level or macro level. A micro level would be to point issues out to friends and family. A macro level would be to join organizations or write letters for change.
Everyone has the ability to be a leader and make a difference in this world, but it is important to listen and understand everyone’s viewpoints. It is our job in society to reduce the power given to privileged groups and distribute it among everyone because in reality, we are all humans who deserve to be happy.