A Gemisode™ Series – Part II
Dr. Sarah Webb, in a 2017 essay explained that internalized oppression was “the belief among historically oppressed people that negative stereotypes about themselves and positive stereotypes about a dominant group are, in fact true.” Delving deeper into the dangers of internalized oppression, the 2022 Forbes article by Janice Gassam Asare, offered “Internalized oppression can impact self-esteem and self-worth. When we have internalized the negative stereotypes about our own group, these beliefs we have attached to ourselves can affect our behaviors and performance. For many women that hold multiple marginalized identities, internalized oppression can manifest as the imposter syndrome; the doubting of one’s own abilities”.
The aforementioned factors in and of themselves may stir up a range of thoughts, feelings ,and emotions, however; as referenced in part I of this Gemisode™ series, marginalized individuals and groups may also enact trauma and oppressive tactics against each other to survive, ‘get ahead’, or distinguish racial hierarchy through proximity to whiteness and dominant culture. While the experience of oppression, marginalization, and prejudice is harmful to the individual and groups targeted, these experiences are especially traumatic when enacted by those possessing or thought to have a shared identity.
As humans, we seek the familiar. In many spaces, marginalized individuals seek out others who are assumed to share their experiences and identity as doing so may foster a sense of belonging, which is required for safety. When Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and other marginalized groups enact the same harms that dominant culture has perpetuated against other BIPOC and marginalized groups, the betrayal and hurt felt is deeply painful and disconcerting. When these acts of betrayal occur in the workplace, it is destabilizing and those at the center of the attack(s) often find that it is more difficult to come to terms with the injustice perpetuated (rather, insult to injury) by those with shared intersectional identities than it is is to come to terms with the original othering or demeaning experience(s).
These injustices take many forms including silencing, downplaying, ignoring, lying, or siding with dominant culture in order to maintain proximity status. In explaining the experience, Janice Gassam Asare offered “entering a workplace and expecting to be embraced by individuals who have a similar background or shared identities as you, only to be pushed away causes a different type of pain. The most insidious form of oppression is that which comes at the hands of your own. That cut is often much deeper than any form of interracial oppression one can experience.”
It is impossible to oppress others and maintain systems of inequality without losing our humanity. In the calls for racial justice, freedoms, equality, and anti-oppression, we must interrogate ourselves, our beliefs, and the systems we uphold. BIPOC and other marginalized groups have, for centuries, called for equality and justice, however, that requires that we hold accountable the systems of oppression that are enacted against us while simultaneously holding ourselves accountable for the systems of oppression we enact against other marginalized individuals, groups, and ourselves.
Talking about the ways we enact harm, uphold supremacy culture, maintain the status quo, while looking at ourselves through a lens of both compassion and accountability is a lifelong journey. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s messy. Yet, necessary. If you’re ready to begin the conversation, get in touch with us here to learn about our advisory, coaching, and training services.
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” ~ Lila Watson – Activist, academic, Aboriginal elder, and liberator.