Kin1000 – Mid-term Review
Lecture 1- Power
While many of us have little difficulty assessing our own victimization within some major system
of oppression, we typically fail to see how our thoughts and actions uphold someone else’s
Once we realize that there are few pure victims of oppressors, and that each one of us derives
varying amounts of penalty and privilege from the multiple systems of oppression that frame our
lives, then we will be in a position to see the need for new ways of thought and action.
To get at the “piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us,” we need at least
First, we need new visions of what an oppressor is. New categories of analysis those are
inclusive of race, class, and gender as distinctive. I suggest that we examine our different
experiences within more fundamental relationship of damnation and subordination.
However, new ways of thinking that are not accompanied by new ways of acting offer
incomplete prospects for change. To get at that, “piece of the oppressor which is planted deep
within each of us,” we also need to change our daily behaviour.
We often assume that people around us (teachers, doctors, peers) will act and feel in prescribed
ways because they belong to a certain race, social class or gender category. These judgements
must be replaced with fully human relationships that transcend the legitimate differences
created by race, class, and gender.
I focus on two basic questions:
1. How can we reconceptualise race, class, and gender as categories of analysis
2. How can we transcend the barriers created by our experiences with race, class, and
gender oppression in order to build the coalition’s essential for change?
How can we reconceptualise race, class and gender as categories of analysis?
We must shift our discourse away from additive analysis of oppression. Such approaches are
typically based on two key premises.
1. They depend on either/or, dichotomous thinking.
Thoughts are not seen as two different interconnecting ideas and are seen as opposites.
Either/or dichotomous thinking is especially troublesome when applied to theories of oppression
because every individual must be classified as being oppressed or not oppressed. 2. Additive analyses of oppression allow dichotomous differences to be ranked.
One side is dominant, and the other subordinate. Examples like white’s rule black’s and men are
superior to women lead to the assumption that oppression can be quantified, and that some
groups are oppressed more than others.
Additive analysis rests squarely on twin pillars of either/or thinking. These approaches see
African American women as being more oppressed than everyone else because they
experience oppression by race/class/gender simultaneously. But, race/class/gender may all
structure a situation but may not be equally visible and/or important in people’s self-definition. In
places like American South and South America racial oppression is more visibly salient and in
Haiti class is more apparent.
We need to ask new questions. How are relationships of domination and subordination
structured and maintained in the American political economy?
1. The Institution dimension of oppression
Oppression is structured along 3 main dimensions- the institutional, the symbolic, and the
individual offers a useful model for a comprehensive analysis.
Systematic relationships of domination and subordination structured through social institutions
(schools, businesses, hospitals) represent the institutional dimension of oppression. Racism,
sexism, and elitism all have concrete institutional locations.
To see how race, class, and gender interlock in nature the antebellum plantation is a perfect
example. She suggests that slavery was a race/class/gender institution.
In slavery we saw variations of levels through white women, lower class white women, and
slave black women. Lower class white women got few protections held out by their upper class
sisters. But the undervaluing of black women kept all white women in their place. Racism
stripped black people of all their rights as human beings, because they were black.
The chain of command on the plantation went
White Man (reigning patriarch) Wife (white women, helpmate, bring up his heirs) Faithful
servants (tied to the capitalist political economy, largely property -less) Working Class white
women and men looking from afar.
While blacks experienced the harshest treatment under slavery, and thus made slavery clear
visible as a racist institution, race/class/gender interlocked in structuring slavery’s systematic
organization of domination and subordination. These basic relationships still remain intact.
2. The symbolic dimension of oppression
Societal sanctioned ideologies used to justify relations of domination and subordination
comprise the symbolic