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Lecture 4

SOC210H1 Lecture 4: Ethnicity Study Notes Lec 4.doc


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Baljit Nagra

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Ethnicity and Race Relations
Lecture 4
October 2, 2013
Video: Fair or Not? The Snow White Complex (Related to Internalized Racial Oppression)
She used to use a product called fair and lovely. She talks about how having lighter skin is cleaner.
A guy talks about liking girls with light skin and long straight hair.
An Asian woman says light skin is considered more beautiful than dark skin.
A woman says colonial history plays a role.
Another woman says that failing to beautiful is part of an ideology where if you aren’t beautiful, you are seen in a negative light.
Women who do skin lightening use dangerous products.
A woman says this is generations and generations of internalized racism. Whiteness is associated with goodness, purity, etc.
Dark is low class, degraded, rough, etc. This is mapped onto populations of people, where dark is bad and light is right.
Tyra Banks isn’t white, but it sends a message by powerful people that black women can be beautiful, however, it is a certain
type of black.
People are looking at these race issues through eyes that are not their own.
It is about privilege… the privilege of being white. When you are dark, you are marked for life. Thus, light skin is a mark of
privilege. It represents ignorance, though it is often done innocently.
Internalization of Racial Oppression
oThis topic introduces us to internalized racial oppression. The self-hate that can exist within racialized communities
is a difficult topic to discuss. To understand this, we have to go back to colonialism.
When Europeans colonized the world, they labeled all others as inferior. So one of the consequences of colonialism is
that the colonized people often developed a colonized mentality, often believing that they were inferior and they often
expressed a desire to be more like the colonizer.
This is one of the reasons why colonization was so successful, because people started to actually believe they
were inferior. When we watched the Jane Elliott experiment, these kids started believing they were inferior right
away. Jane Elliott says that every time she did this experiment, there was always acceptance at the end. She
describes it as the 5 stages of grief and it ends with acceptance.
W.E. Dubois (1903) was one of the first to address the topic of internalized racism:
He described it as the double consciousness - the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring
one’s soul by the tape of the world that looks on in amused contempt and pity
Internalized Racial Oppression
Frantz Fanon (post colonial studies scholar - 1960):
‘It is possible to be oppressed in ways that need involve neither physical deprivation, legal inequality, nor economic exploitation.
One can be oppressed psychologically’.
To be psychologically oppressed is to be weighed down in your own mind and to have a harsh domination exercised over your
self esteem. The psychological oppressed become their own oppressorsThey engage in self destructive behaviour injurious to
themselves, their loved ones and their neighbors.’
So this colonized mentality discussed before, where you start to feel that you are inferior is relevant.
Internalized Racial Oppression
Karen Pyke (Course Pack): The internalization of white racism by the non-white group or individual which is then directed towards
the self or the group
She talked about the difficulty in talking about internalized racism because her colleagues said it would make them all
look bad. However, she thought it needed to be studied.
She says all systems of inequality are maintained and reproduced in part, through their internalization of the
So she argues that we have to study it in order to understand white privilege, and to understand how
domination and inequality work. She says we don’t have a choice but to study it.
Why Has Internalized Racial Oppression Not Been Studied in Sociology Effectively?
There is concern that such research will be misinterpreted as reflecting some weakness of the oppressed rather than a problem
of white racism.
So the concern is that it will be used against those already being discriminated against. This fear often stops people
from talking about it.
The theoretical fixation with Resistance
This is evident in the mass media: where we see storied about Obama, Oprah, Will Smith in the Pursuit of Happiness.
We like seeing these stories. Pike isn’t saying we shouldn’t look at resistance and racialized people as victims, but we
still have to look at internalized racial oppression because if we don’t look at it, we overlook an important aspect of
How to Understand Internalized Racial Oppression from a Critical Sociological Perspective
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Psychologists don’t go beyond to address how this is tied to privilege, colonialism, etc. They simply look at the
individual, and this often allows them to lay blame in the community, rather than focusing on the overall social structure.
So they look at substance abuse, psychological trauma, etc. Socioloists tie it to living in racialized societies, they tie it
to the media, and other structures. Psychologists look at the individual, and hence lay blame to the individual and
neglect the larger societal problems.
It is not a result of some cultural or biological characteristic of racialized groups or a sign of weakness.
So in talking about Michael Jackson, we talk about how he is weird with lightening his skin, not about how there is a
societal fixation with being white.
It is an inevitable condition of all structures of oppression.
This is what happens with oppression. So if racism is a disease, then internalized racial oppression is a symptom of the
disease. So it is a symptom of racism.
It is a multidimensional phenomenon that assumes many different forms, including the intersection of multiple systems of
So internalized racism can take many forms. It is not just about skin colour or hair or so on. So gender can impact
one’s experience with internalized racial oppression and so on. so in the movie, the girls experienced this because
there is so much pressure for women to be beautiful.
It cannot be assumed to affect similarly located individuals or groups in precisely the same way.
So it can affect different members of the same family, for example, in different ways.
A Critical Sociological Perspective of Internalized Racial Oppression (Pyke)
Highlights the structural and cultural mechanisms that maintain the reproduce systems of domination
All systems of oppression involve the dominant groups ability to win the consent of oppressed people
oAll systems of oppression involve the dominant trying to won the consent of the oppressed, but hegemony relies on
unconscious consent.
Pyke uses the concept of hegemony to understand the process by which the ruling race attains consensus of oppressed people.
Hegemony (Pyke)
She argues that the dominant group controls the construction of reality through the production of ideologies that circulate
throughout society
So the dominant group is controlling ideas, knowledge, theories, and other information that gets circulated.
These ideologies inform social norms, organizational practices, bureaucratic procedures, and common sense knowledge.
So the dominant ideology is spread out.
The interests of the oppressors are presented as reflecting everyones best interests, thereby getting oppressed groups to accept
the dominant groups interests as their own and minimize conflict.
So these ideas aren’t presented as just benefiting white people, but everyone.
White racism can infiltrate the world view of the racially oppressed without their conscious consent in a subtle process some refer
to as mental colonization’.
Hegemony (Pyke)
White racism can be indirectly internalized via cultural myths and ideologies that do not directly deal with race.
So for example, we say we are a meritocracy, but this is not true. Meritocracy says that all that is required to get ahead
is skill and effort, but realistically, if someone has a white name, they are more likely to get a job. So we have
opportunity, but not equal opportunity.
Ideologies win compliance by inspiring a desire among the subjugated to be like the oppressors.
So with assimilation, the idea that the more people are like us the better, but this doesn’t always work out. The idea of a
meritocracy is shoved down our throat, to the point that people don’t always even realize that there is this racism at
This involves the liberal myth that social categories marking difference such as race and ethnicity are mutable and all can join the
powerful if they abide by the rules and behave like the dominant group.
Sometimes hegemony puts out this liberal myth about the more like us you are (assimilation), the better you will be, but
this is not always the case.
Defensive Othering (Pyke)
Defensive othering is identity work engaged by the subordinate in an attempt to become part of the dominant group or to distance
themselves from the stereotypes associated with the subordinate group.
So like a black person, saying, pull up your pants and just do the work.
This dynamic is evident in the formation of negative sub-ethnic identities within the subordinate group.
Defensive othering is an adaptive response to racism and not a cause of racism.
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