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FYS 101: Oppressions & Microaggressions

This guide is designed to support new students at SU.

What are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions: the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups (Kevin Nadal, John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

These hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment (Derald Wing Sue). 

Three Forms of Microaggressions


Of Note: While this image makes use of the term “color-blindness,” I would like to point out that this is an instance of ableism being used. The use of blindness in this case comes with the implication of the inability to do the right thing. Using an actual disability state to describe a negative situation is implying that a disability is a negative experience. This allows stigma to remain and fester, ultimately ensuring that people with disabilities, specifically the blind community, are looked down upon. 

Source: Sue, D. W., at al. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286.

Microaggression Resources: Videos

Microaggression Resources: Podcasts

Microaggression Resources: Websites

What is Oppression?

Oppression: the combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called "target groups") and benefits other groups (often called "dominant groups"). These systems enable dominant groups to exert control over target groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to basic resources such as health care, education, employment, and housing (Vanderbilt).

Oppression = prejudice + power

Oppression is more than prejudicial thoughts and actions of individuals. Oppression is institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time. Through the use of that institutionalized power, it allows certain groups of people or certain identities to assume a dominant position over other groups and identities and this dominance is maintained and continued at institutional and cultural levels (Collins).

What is Anti-Oppression?

Anti-Oppression is the strategies, theories, actions and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an ongoing basis in one's daily life and in social justice/change work. Anti-oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities. Oppression operates at different levels (from individual to institutional) and so anti-oppression must as well.

Though they go hand in hand, anti-oppression is not the same as diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion have to do with the acknowledgment, valuing, and celebration of difference, whereas anti-oppression challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. Diversity and inclusion and anti-oppression are two sides of the same coin - one doesn't work without the other - but they are not interchangeable (Collins).

Anti-Oppression Resources: Books

Anti-Oppression Resources: Videos