Prejudice + Power = ISMs of Oppression

Nov 18 / Pro-Equity Anti-Racism Institute

Prejudice combined with power manifests in various forms of oppression that have systemic and far-reaching consequences in society. These "ISMs" of oppression—such as racism, sexism, ableism, and more—are not just about individual acts of discrimination but about how society as a whole perpetuates inequality through its institutions, structures, and cultural norms. 

Prejudice + Power = ISMs of Oppression 

The equation of prejudice plus power leading to systems of oppression is a fundamental concept in understanding social justice and inequality. Prejudice refers to preconceived opinions that are not based on reason or actual experience. When such biases are held by individuals in positions of power—whether
that power is derived from social, economic, or institutional authority—they can enact policies, practices, and norms that systemically disadvantage certain groups. 

Understanding the 'ISMs' 

The 'ISMs' represent various types of systemic oppression, including but not limited to:

  • Racism: The systemic oppression of people based on their race, which can affect all areas of life including access to education, employment, healthcare, and justice.

  • Sexism: The systemic oppression based on gender, often manifesting as discrimination against women and gender
    non-conforming individuals in various spheres such as the workplace, media, and politics.

  • Ableism: The systemic oppression of people with disabilities, manifesting in physical barriers, discriminatory laws or policies, and societal stigma.

  • Classism: The systemic oppression based on social class, often perpetuating an unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges.

  • Heterosexism: The systemic oppression that arises from the belief that heterosexuality is superior or more natural, leading to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Ageism: The systemic oppression based on age, often impacting the elderly and young through stereotypes and discriminatory practices.

  • Ethnocentrism: The systemic preference for certain ethnic groups over others, which can lead to cultural bias and discrimination in various social policies and practices. 

The Role of Power in Perpetuating 'ISMs' 

Power is a key component in transforming individual prejudice into systemic oppression. It is not just about personal attitudes but about who has the authority to influence and enforce societal norms and laws. Those in power can shape the media narrative, determine economic structures, influence political systems, and even define cultural norms, all of which can uphold and perpetuate these 'ISMs'. 

Combating the 'ISMs' 

Addressing the 'ISMs' requires more than just changing individual attitudes; it demands systemic change. This involves:

  • Policy Reform: Creating and enforcing laws that address inequality and protect the rights of marginalized groups.

  • Institutional Change: Institutions must critically assess and alter their practices to ensure they are not upholding systemic oppression.

  • Cultural Shift: Society as a whole must recognize the value of diversity and actively work to dismantle stereotypes and prejudices.

  • Education: Comprehensive education can play a powerful role in raising awareness about the 'ISMs' and how they manifest in society.

  • Advocacy and Activism: Continued advocacy and activism are crucial in bringing about change and keeping issues of systemic oppression in the public discourse.

In essence, understanding the 'ISMs' of oppression is about recognizing the complex interplay between prejudice and power.
It's about seeing how deeply ingrained biases can become codified in our social fabric—and how this codification can be challenged and ultimately undone.

Through collective effort, education, and systemic reform, it is possible to create a society that is equitable and just for all. 

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Pro-Equity Anti-Racism (PEAR)
A concept that purposefully begins with a Pro-Equity effort to end all systems of oppression, the upstream root cause of inequities, intentionally ensuring an Intersectionality approach leading through the lens of Anti-Racism.