The Sociology of Privilege and Oppression.docx - Daniel...

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Daniel Washington Cross-Cultural Perspectives On Women and Social Change Pers 2001 12/02/14 The Sociology of Privilege and Oppression Privilege: What is privilege? How can one define privilege? When examining privilege, one can define it as a construct that grants certain groups of people the immunity to take advantage of resources and opportunities that are easily accessible. Or, privilege can be defined as a construct that gives particular groups of people social advantages that are unearned, exclusive, and socially conferred, depending on what privilege looks like in any given society. In the United States, privilege is based on a hierarchical system that determines how much power and leeway a person will be granted as a result of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. While privilege has its merits, depending on who is benefiting the most from it, it also has its downfalls; for starters, it creates disparities between those who have social, political, and economic power and those who are socially and economically disenfranchised. If we examine what privilege looks like in the United States, then we must also examine some of the underlying mechanisms that produce different types of privileges and different amounts of privileges for individuals, such as racial and social stratification. We know that in the United States, cisgender, heterosexual white men are the primary beneficiaries of racial, social, and
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gender stratification, so therefore, they have the power to create and maintain a system that will reflect their values and belief systems; anyone who is not white, male, cisgender, and heterosexual will not be granted access to the same social and economic power, and as a consequence, privilege will then turn into a phenomenon where preferential treatment over others will become permissible. Privilege will also reinforce the equal distribution of power between heterosexual white men and women, sexual minorities, gender minorities, and racial and ethnic minorities. Because heterosexual white men are the main beneficiaries of the racial and gender hierarchy that has been produced through their perceived privilege, we must examine the many ways in which this system of inequality contributes to the marginalization of women and racial, gender, and sexual minorities. We must then understand From a sociological perspective, privilege in America is inherently destructive because it leads to the justification of racial favoritism, as well as systemic oppression and disenfranchisement.
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