Critical Race Theory: Internalized Oppression Definition
Internalized racism may be defined as a racial hierarchy, consciously or subconsciously accepted by an individual, in which people of color are consistently ranked below white people. It is supported by but not limited to the exhibiting belief that one racial group is inferior while another’s culture and thinking aspects are superior. The most vivid example is assuming that being white is normal, or the propensity for evaluating one’s self-worthiness based on racial identity.
Racism is always based on a system of oppression, for example, by white people over people of color. Internalized oppression assumes systemic power’s unequal distribution in the following areas: decision-making and enforcement, broad access to resources, setting and determining the standards of appropriate behavior, and being able to define reality. In other words, internalized oppression may be defined as a concept in which an oppressed group perceives an inequality of value relative to the oppressing group, aiming to be like it and possibly using its methods against itself.
Generally, such inequality resulted from historic matters like genocide, colonialism, and oppression. For years, one group of people used the emotional, material, spiritual, and intellectual resources of others through disrespect for their ways, deception, and force. Overcoming internalized oppression and learning to live with each other regardless of skin color requires dismantling oppressive structures, giving white people power over the people of color.
Internalized oppression makes people of color criticize each other, using racist social messages verbally. It sometimes makes people of color join racial institutions and take part in racist policies against their people. It also makes them address more value to the members of their group with lighter skin color or less kinky hair, or other “more white features”. For instance, young black girls find themselves in a daily occurrence from an early age. Often, older women in their families or communities instill negative attitudes toward the skin complexion based on the slavery times traditions. Mostly, black women care about hair texture, length, and color, as well as about the complexion of the skin. Being naturally kinky, curly, or coarse, African American hair undergoes numerous time- and money-consuming procedures to make it straight, long, and light. During their whole lives, black women struggle with their natural “bad” hair to make it look like the European “good” one.
Internalized oppression makes people of color believe that negative stereotypes relative to them and positive stereotypes relative to white people are, to a certain extent, true and grounded. If one takes black students facing internalized oppression as an example, it is evident that they often consider their social group inferior to the “whites” social group. They think of themselves as naturally unintelligent, incapable, and lazy people who do not value education itself. Internalized oppression is not always based on race – it might be ground on class and gender either. Some girls believe that they are naturally not very capable of science or math. Another example is the students living in low-income families and thinking that they have a lack of qualification for advanced classes. While applying to magnet high schools, “black students” demonstrated a significant rise in their admission rates and test scores in cases they were sure that they would be determined by knowledge and skills, not gender or racial characteristics.