Each module page of this course will have a video, exercises, and a quiz to help you on your quest to become an ally. Please watch the following video before completing the exercises and quiz on this page.

illustration of hands and encouraging phrases

Part 2 Video

Five Forms of Oppression

In the video, we learned that there are five forms that oppression can take, including Exploitation, Marginalization, Powerlessness, Cultural Domination, and Violence. Let’s take a look at each form of oppression (Young, 2004):

  • Exploitation is the act of treating someone unfairly to benefit from their work; this could look like offering an unfair wage, for example.
  • Marginalization means to push to the fringes, out of the mainstream, or to make unimportant. For instance, Native American Indians in the U.S. continue to be excluded and pushed away from their homelands and, historically, they have been victims of genocide. Marginalization excludes groups of people from useful participation in social life and these groups are often deprived of material goods and access.
  • Powerlessness means that one lacks the ability to control their own well-being; limited power to make decisions and being treated with disrespect because of the social group they belong. An example is people with disabilities who often experience limitations in making decisions that may impact their basic life conditions.
  • Cultural Dominance is how one group’s experiences, history, and cultural expressions are treated as superior in comparison to those of other groups. The dominant culture is reflected in art, music, film, and literature. We typically see that people outside of the dominant group have to fight for cultural space or explain their culture. If you are defined as a member of an oppressed community, you often are seen as representing your entire group, but if you are a member of the dominant culture you are regarded as a unique individual.
  • Violence is a reality for members of some groups. Some people live in persistent fear of physical attack meant to humiliate or destroy them due to group membership. For example, transgender women from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups are likely to be physical assaulted and even murdered.

Which form of oppression is described in each of the following statements?

  1. Despite her Bachelor’s Degree in business administration and her significant job experience, Joanie repeatedly finds it impossible to find employment because of her mental health history.
  2. Shelley, a 14-year-old bisexual White woman, is not exposed to any positive, affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender role models in her school, church, or on the television shows she is allowed to watch.
  3. Although a successful lawyer at his law firm, Julian, a 30-year-old Black man, is repeatedly denied a raise, while he notices equally qualified White lawyers receiving raises over the past two years
  4. Manuel, a middle-aged heterosexual Latino man, works at a factory as a line manager. While his job requires additional training and skill, he is paid minimum wage, the same amount as the people he directly supervises.
  5. Casey, a 22-year-old genderqueer person, who sometimes wears clothing traditionally considered to be masculine and other times clothing traditionally considered feminine, is physically harassed by a group of men living in their dorm.

ANSWERS: 1. M, 2. C, 3. P, 4. E, 5. V

Privileged and Oppressed Groups

Members of oppressed groups are vulnerable to experiencing these faces of oppression. Let’s take a brief look at what some of the privileged and oppressed groups look like in the U.S.:

Social Identities Privileged Oppressed
Race White Asian, Black, Native American Indian
Ethnicity European American Latinx, Middle Eastern , Pacific Islander
Gender Men, Cisgender Women, Transgender, Genderqueer
Sexual Orientation Heterosexual LGB, Queer
Ability Status Abled, Currently Abled, and Temporarily Abled People with disabilities (physical, cognitive, and/or emotional)
Social Class Middle-Class, Upper-Middle-Class, and Upper-Class Lower-Class, Poor, Working Class
Worldview (religion, spirituality, and other values) Christians Muslims, Jewish, Atheists
Nationality American Undocumented People, Immigrants
Language English Spanish, Arab


So, what marginalized groups are likely to experience which forms of oppression?

Remember, not every marginalized group is likely to experience every form of oppression, but some groups do, and therefore some people do. Hinson and Bradley, (2008) note that:

  • People from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups have an increased likelihood of experiencing all forms of oppression. To describe, even from a very young age, black children are disproportionately punished in schools, and are hyper-policed at alarming rates.
  • People of a low socioeconomic status most typically experience exploitation, powerlessness, and cultural domination; they may also experience marginalization. Some specific examples typically include feeling less than higher class people, denial of class heritage and shame about class, hostility and blame towards other working class and poor people, and believing the class system is fair (Class Action, 2004).
  • Gay men experience cultural domination, violence, and marginalization and may or may not experience the other forms of oppression identified. In addition to increased rates of violence, which disproportionately affect LGBT people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, some of the other numerous examples of oppression include (Adams, 2007):
    • The denial of adoption rights to same-sex couples
    • Hospitals not recognizing the spousal rights of LGBT partners when one is sick or dying
    • Lack of LGBT issues/history in school curricula
    • Lack of tolerance toward same-sex displays of affection in schools
    • Barriers to placing same-sex partners on health insurance benefits
    • Lack of media depictions of same-sex families
  • White professional women experience cultural dominance, fear of and real sexual violence, as well as powerlessness.
  • 91% of victims of rape and sexual assault are women, regardless of race and ethnicity (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2015).
  • Some further issues faced by women today include the wage gap; weight-based discrimination; gaps in hiring practices; portrayals in advertising, media, and pornography; and domestic violence.

In taking in all of this information, please remember we do not experience our identities in a vacuum. Think about intersectionality! When we embody two or more oppressed identities, such as a LGBT person from and underrepresented racial and ethnic group, the oppression experienced becomes compounded and more complex.

Please take the chance to reflect with these questions:

  • Which forms of oppression do you experience? How do you know?
  • If you do not experience all five forms, what would it be like to experience all five?
  • What do you want to do about oppression?

Know Your Privileges

In the video for this part, we explored some of the ways that privilege manifests around Race, with White people experiencing privilege as the dominant group. It is possible to explore privilege in the context of any social identity group. For example, below are some specific examples of male privilege. As you read each statement, reflect on what it would feel like/does feel like to experience each privilege.

From Peggy McIntosh’s (1989, 2003) work:

  • I can be confident that my co-workers won’t expect that I got my job because of my gender.
  • If I do not succeed in my career, I can be confident that it will not be seen as a mark against my whole gender’s abilities.
  • I will never be expected to change my name after getting married, or be questioned if I don’t.
  • I can expect that I won’t have to do most of the basic childcare.
  • I can expect to see religious leaders of my gender represented in every major world religion.
  • I was encouraged to be active and outgoing when I was a kid.
  • I do not have to worry about the “message” my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability.
  • Decisions to hire me won’t consider whether I may decide to start a family anytime soon.

For this exercise, reflect with the following questions:

  • What emotions did you notice coming up for you? When did you notice these?
  • Which statements surprised you the most? What about them were surprising?
  • How are you more aware now?
  • What would you like to do with your new awareness?

Some Facts

  • According to the American Civil Liberties Union (2014), there are over 2,500 youths sentenced to life without parole in the U.S., the only country in the world that will give this sentence to a minor, and 60% of these sentences are given to African-American/Black children, despite African-American/Black children making up only 16% of the U.S. population.
  • We have no federal laws protecting against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
  • An alarming one in five women will be raped at some point in their lifetime.

What to do?

Ask people to define oppression and its forms, and then share facts with them about these topics and elicit their responses with a process-oriented question (e.g., what’s it like to hear this fact?)

Test Your Knowledge

Take this quiz to test your allyship knowledge on what you learned in this module.