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Oppression Among Gender Race and Class

In: Social Issues

Submitted By maggiedemanda
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According to Heldke & O’Connor (2004:530), oppression means the unfair treatment of people by the ruling group. People are not always oppressed by cruel tyrants with bad intentions. Oppression also creates injustice in other circumstances, as well. In many cases, a well-intentioned liberal society can place system wide constraints on groups and limit their freedom. Oppression can be the result of a few people’s choices or policies that cause embedded unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols These societal rules can become a “restrictive structure of forces and barriers that immobilize and reduce a group or category of people” (Heldke & O’Connor 2004:530). “Class refers to endure and systematic differences in access to and control over production of goods and services, as well as the resources for provisioning and survival” (Acker 2006: 442). “Gender, refers to the socially constructed differences between male and female and the beliefs and identities that support difference and inequality, is also present in all organizations” (Acker 2006:444). “Race, refers to socially defined differences based on physical characteristics, culture, and historical domination and oppression, justified by entrenched beliefs” (Weber 2001 :10).This paper will analyze and discuss the issue of oppressions in relation to class, gender, and race using W.E.B. Du Bois’ thoughts on race, gender, and class. Also, the intersectional theory according to Patricia Hill Collins will be used for analyzing and discussion in regards race, gender and class. The work of W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) has recently become recognized for its significant contributions to sociological theory (Zuckerman 2004:3). Although Du Bois himself was overwhelmingly concerned with the scientific perspective of "value free" sociological research, later social theorists have found his views on race to offer one of the first instances of the articulation of standpoint theory ( Zuckerman 2004:5). This theoretical perspective is anything but value free, because of the self-conscious efforts of the researcher to look at the social world from the vantage point of minority groups (Zuckerman 2004:5). Feminists, multiculturalists, and even postmodernists have come to recognize the importance of the black point of view found in Du Bois' work ( Zuckerman 2004:5).They have also come to appreciate Du Bois for his focus on local knowledge and practices( Zuckerman 2004:7). “Early in his career Du Bois claimed that the "race idea" was the central thought of all history and that the primary problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color line"(Zuckerman 2004:5). Du Bois viewed the goal of African Americans, not as one of integration or absorption into white America, but one of advancing "Pan-Negroism" ( Zuckerman 2004: 6). Critical of the excessive materialism of white America, Du Bois believed that the black culture could temper the self-interested pursuit of profit (Zuckerman 2004:10). Du Bois ask blacks to organize and unite around their race, and though he was not opposed to segregation, he did come to realize that discrimination stifled the development of "separate but equal" facilities and institutions (Zuckerman 2004:10).
The concepts of the Veil and double consciousness occupy an important place in Du Bois' theory on race (Zuckerman 2004:8). Du Bois discusses both in his work The Souls of Black Folk (Du bois 2008). The Veil is an imaginary barrier that separates whites and blacks. Du Bois hoped his work would allow whites to glimpse behind the Veil, so they could begin to understand the black experience in America (Du bois 2008). Perhaps the most fundamental component of the black experience in America was living with what Du Bois called double consciousness (Zuckerman 2004:8). Blacks are simultaneously both inside and outside of the dominant white society and live with a feeling of "twoness" (Zuckerman 2004:8). By trying to cultivate and preserve a racial identity, “blacks” come into conflict with trying to fit in a white society (Zuckerman 2004:9). According to Du Bois, the tension of being both black and American can manifest itself in pathologies within the black community and discrimination in white America (Zuckerman 2004:9). Du Bois also asserts that “the color line” divides people in the states, causes massive harm to its inhabitants, and runs its own pretensions to democracy ( Zukerman 2004:25). He shows, in particular, how a veil has come to be put over African-Americans, so that others do not see them as they are; African-Americans are obscured in America; they cannot be seen clearly, but only through the lens of race prejudice. African-Americans feel this alien perception upon them but at the same time feel themselves as themselves, as their own with their own legitimate feelings and traditions ( Zukerman 2004:8). This dual self-perception is known as “double consciousness” (Zukerman 2004:8). De Bois holds that due to their double consciousness, African-Americans possess a privileged epistemological perspective (Zuckerman 2004:9). Both inside the white world and outside of it, African-Americans are able to understand the white world, while yet perceiving it from a different perspective, namely that of an outsider, as well (Zuckerman 2004:9).
The white person in America, by contrast, contains but a single consciousness and perspective, for he or she is a member of the dominant culture, with its own racial and cultural norms asserted as absolute(Zuckerman 2004:23). The white person looks out from themselves and sees only their own world reflected back upon them—a kind of blindness or singular sight possesses them( Zuckerman 2004:24). As Du Bois makes clear, the dual perspective of African-Americans can be used to grasp the essence of whiteness and to expose it, in the multiple senses of the word “expose” (Zuckerman 2004:9). That is to say; second sight allows an African-American to bring the white view out into the open, to lay it bare, and to let it wither for the problematic and wrong-headed concept that it is (Zuckerman 2004:9). The destruction of “whiteness” in this way leaves whites open to the experience of African-Americans, as a privileged perspective, and therefore it also leaves African-Americans with a breach in the culture through which they could enter with their legitimate, and legitimating, perspectives (Zuckerman 2004:9).
Intersectionality theory is often used in the feminist theory to explain the way the basis of gender, racism, sexism, classism, and etc. work together to create inequality. The feminist theory believes these bases of inequality are inclusive and cannot be examined separately (Lengermann and Neibrugge- Brantley, 2006:331). For example in the article Modern Feminist Theory Lengerman and Brantley states, “we may describe these arrangements of inequality as vectors of oppression and privilege, which includes not only gender but also class, race, global location, sexual preference, and age.”
The term "Intersectionality Theory" gained prominence in the 1990s when sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1990:6) integrated the idea as part of her discussion on Black feminism, or "Black feminist thought", and made research about Black women more complex and less connected to mainstream feminist research than had been done previously. Collins’ work included women of color in her theoretical perspective and accounted for the exponential salience and, therefore, intersection, of race, gender, class, and sexuality (Collins 1990: 39). Collins’ (1990:40) work included women of color in her theoretical perspective and accounted for the exponential salience and intersection of race, gender, class and sexuality.
This idea is best said in a quoted from Collins (1998:32) "we typically fail to see how our thoughts and actions uphold someone else's subordination. Thus white feminist routinely point with confidence to their oppression as women but resist seeing how much their white skin privileges them." The problem according to Collins (1998:32) “is that then African American's turn on white women because they view them as white power when the truth is that both are part of the same struggling group.” If they joined together, they could accomplish more for women as a whole. As stated before inequalities are everywhere, and organizations are no exception (Collins 1998:32).
In reading “The Glass Escalator Revisited” Williams (2013:610) studied how white men in careers that are typically seen by society as women’s work, such as nursing, social work, teaching, and librarianship are often promoted earlier and paid better. She found that the women working these jobs seem to be welcoming toward white males and pushing them up the escalator. Williams (2013:614) also found that white males were not looked upon negatively, denied recommendations, or seen as violating the standards associated with their gender. In contrast, black males in female jobs were looked upon negatively, or seen as violating the standards associated with black males. It is great that stereotypes are being broken in regards to what is normal “women’s work” and what is dominant men’s work. However, men do face stigma when they enter traditionally female fields but, that stigma actually benefits “white males” because, it pushes them into a more “acceptable” professions that are higher pay and higher status. For example, a white male kindergarten teacher will be “stigmatized” into being a male assistant principle, or a white male social worker will be stigmatized into becoming a supervisor, police maker, or researcher, and in both cases this is likely to propel them over more qualified men of color, or women in general.
“Inequality Regimes” describes class, gender, and race as barriers that oppress advancement at all levels of organizational hierarchy. The basis for oppression in an organization varies although class, gender, and race processes are usually present. In a smaller organization, the class structure may not be so congruent with societal wide class relations, but the owner or the boss still has class power in relations with employees (Acker, 2006:443). Those resources, primarily money and property in wealthy industrial societies, are unequally distributed through wages, salaries, and other forms of transfer (Acker 2006:442).
Race, has been integrated into class hierarchies, but in different patterns than gender. Historically in the United States, women and men of color were confined to the lowest level jobs or excluded from the most powerful (white male) organization that were central in shaping the radicalized and gendered class structure of the larger society (Acker2006: 453).
“Inequality Regime” analysis class, gender, and race process, the one aspect of this analysis focuses is intersectionality, the mutual reproduction of class, gender, and racial relations of inequality. One common outcome of these inequality methods in the rich industrial nations of the North is that the persons at the top of most organizations are likely to be white men; they are very privileged and have great class power compared with most other people in the organization. The processes of exclusion that constitute oppression are class, race, and gender processes.
Using Du Bois’ veil and double consciousness to understand oppression of class, race, and gender, in the article “The Glass Escalator Revisited”, Du Bois would say that when Williams (2003:613) is talking about, “gay men and racial, ethnic minority men, in particular, seemed to be excluded from the benefits of the glass escalator.” Also, Du Bois would apply the veil and double consciousness to Williams (2013:615) when she states “many of the white men I interviewed said that patients confused them with doctors, but few black men encountered this assumption; they were often mistaken for orderlies or janitors.” Looking at these two statement the veil and the double consciousness is present because, the racial stereotypes that are present, black men are there to perform menial service jobs and do not qualify for upper management jobs. These negative stereotypes describe interactions that are simultaneous raced and gendered in ways that reproduce stereotypes of black men as best suited for certain blue collar, unskilled labor.
Patricia Hill Collins would apply the intersectional theory to Williams’ “The Glass Escalator Revisited” when Williams (2013:617) states, “many trans men actually benefited at work.” “They experienced more authority, they were assumed to be more competent, and they received greater rewards, recognition, and economic opportunities compared to when they were women.” The above statement can be seen as intersectional theory because, it suggests that gender, race, and sexuality come together to shape the experiences of men in their employment.
Du Bois’ veil and double consciousness can be seen in the article “Inequality Regimes” when Acker (2006:452) writes “men tend not to see their gender privilege; whites tend not to see their race privilege; ruling class members tend not to see their class privilege.” Du Bois would use this statement to represent the veil and the double consciousness because it shows how the blacks and the whites are separated by the veil and how the whites have a single consciousness instead of the double consciousness like the blacks.
As for Intersectionality Theory in the “Inequality Regimes” this can be seen in the statement, “white men tend to earn more money than any other gender/race category, while both white women and women of color are at the bottom of the wage hierarchy” ( Acker 2006:447). Intersectionality theory can be seen in this statement because, it describes the way gender, racism, sexism, classism are working together to create oppression.
The “glass Ceiling” is a consequence of varying practices that occur across organizational structures and across the career history of white women and women and men of color who do and who don’t make it into upper level management. Thus women and men of color face a double bind that places them in a more ambiguous situation than that experienced by white men. The underrepresentation of white women and people of color in top jobs is still there, but assaults on the strength of the “glass ceiling” are also still strong. Collins’ (1998) article “Toward a New Vision” sums up the “Glass Escalator and The “Inequality Regimes when she writes, the "matrix of domination" is the idea that we should see that oppression is made up of race, gender, and class inequalities. Oppression is not made up of one equality alone but rather an "interlocking" system. Everyone can be defined by their race, gender and class but how they define themselves and how others define them is what matter when it comes to oppression in institutions (Collins 1998:32). Also, Du Bois’ philosophy is significant today because it addresses what many would argue is the real world problem of white domination. So long as racist white privilege exists and suppresses the dreams and the freedoms of human beings, so long will Du Bois be relevant as a thinker, for him, more than almost any other, employed thought in the service of exposing this privilege, and worked to eliminate it in the service of a greater humanity.

References
Acker Joan. 2006. “Inequality Regimes” in Gender & Society Vol.20 No.4:Pp.441-463.obtain from http:// www. Online sagepup.com on October 11, 2013
Collins, Patricia H. 1990 “Black Feminist Thought” Pp.1-290 New York: Routledge
_________1998. "Toward a New Vision." Reading Between the Lines: Toward an Understanding of Current Social Problems 3: 31-43 New York: Routledge
Du Bois W.E.B.2008. “The Souls of Black Folk”. Retrieved November 19, 2013 (www.gutenberg.net).
Heldke, Lisa and O’Connor, Peg. 2004 “ Oppression, Privilege, & Resistance” Pp. 1-791 Boston: McGraw Hill
Lengermann, Patricia Madoo and Gillian Niebrugge. 2006. Pp. 454-488 in George Ritzer, Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots: The Basics (2nd edition). NY: McGraw-Hill.
WEBER,Lynn. 2001 “Understanding Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality” Pp. 1-224 NY: McGraw-Hill
Williams Christine L.2013 “The glass Escalator, Revisited” in Gender &Society Vol.27 No: 5:Pp. 609-629. CA: Sage Publications.
Zuckerman, Phil. 2004 “ The Social Theory of W.E.B. DuBois” Pp.1-206California: Sage Publications

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