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Prejudice, Power, and "isms"

Published on Jan 08, 2016

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Prejudice, Power, and "isms"

Professional Practice Issues and Ethics
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Most of us are aware that we've made assumptions about others.

And most of us know what it's like to have assumptions made of us.

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But when prejudice joins forces with power or privilege...

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...the product is oppression.

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That's why it's important not only to set aside prejudice...

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...but also become aware of the role of power.

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Because power turns prejudice into an "ism"- like racism or sexism.

Prejudice + Power = “Ism”

The recipe?
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Here's an example:
As a college instructor with the power to assign grades...

It can bother me when students hold prejudices against me.

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And while it may not be right, and it may bother me, it probably won’t have consequences for me.

However- if I, the person who holds the power to assign grades...

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Hold a prejudice against one of my students...

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For being female

Or male

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Or Christian

Or Muslim

Or practical

Or artistic

...my prejudice has consequences.

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Because of my evaluative power as a college instructor, my prejudice matters.

Social privilege is the inheritance of power or privileges based on superficial criteria

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Like being White or male.

I did not choose to be born a White male but I still inherited privileges and power in the society I live because of it.

For example, most of the “heroes” I saw in movies growing up looked just like me.

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Or... I rarely have to explain to people why I listen to the music I listen to or eat the food I eat.

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Most of the bosses I've had in my life have trusted my character and my abilities before I really earned it.

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Few people argue with me when I say that race doesn't define me- that I’m just “normal.”

As a white male it’s not my fault I inherited privileges...

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But I do have to be aware of my power, privilege, and prejudice.

Do I recognize it?

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Am I willing to?

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Am I humble and receptive to the perspective of others?

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Am I willing to assume responsibility for my prejudices and do what I can to correct them?

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Am I willing to assume responsibility for matters of discrimination even if I didn’t personally cause the problem?

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Am I willing to recognize or become aware of my privilege? My power?

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Can I be open to the painful experiences of those who may be negatively affected by my inherited social position?

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Can I think of a time when I wish someone else would have listened to my experience?

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When they were rich and I was poor?

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When they assumed the worst without knowing me?

When I was at a disadvantage but they didn’t realize it?

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Power isn't limited to superficial social criteria. It's also assumed when we become teachers, earn our doctorates, or become counselors.

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So as a counselor, what will I do with my prejudices and my power?

Will I join the conversation about prejudice, power, and privilege in the larger community?

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Will I seek to understand situations in which clients may feel uncomfortable with me?

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Will I challenge my own assumption that whatever has worked for me will also work for others?

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Will I learn to recognize that I am a cultural person myself and therefore have a unique worldview, not just a “normal” or "abnormal" one?

When I am part of the majority, can I set aside guilt over inheriting privilege long enough to listen to what others are saying about issues like sexism or racism?

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Can I be confident enough in myself to admit that there could be areas I am ignorant?

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Can I admit my blindspots?

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As a counselor, I will be in a position of power.
What will I do about it?

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