International Step by Step Association
Social justice as goal
• Full and equal participation of all groups in a society
• Distribution of resources is equitable and all members
are physically and psychologically safe and secure
• Individuals are both self-determining and
• Social actors with sense of their own agency and sense
of social responsibility toward others and society as a
Social justice as process
Affirmation of human agency and human
capacities for working collaboratively to create
Features of oppression
Complex, multiple, cross-cutting relationships
Manifested through “Isms”
The Social Oppression Matrix
The Context
• Individual level - refers to actions or attitudes of
individual that maintain oppression
• Institutional level - Focus is on institutions that
maintain and perpetuate system of oppression
The Context
• Societal/Cultural level
- cultural norms that perpetuate implicit and explicit values
- cultural perspective of the dominant group that is imposed on
institutions by individuals and on individuals by institutions
- cultural guidelines: philosophies of life, definitions of the good,
normal, health, deviance, etc – served for the justification of
social oppression.
- foundation of all the “isms”, as well as the internalized
oppression/ domination.
- hegemony - maintained through “regimes of truth” (Foucault)
The Psycho-Social Processes
• Conscious processes - knowingly supporting the
maintenance of social oppression through individual,
institutional and cultural/societal attributes.
• Unconscious processes - unknowing or naive
collusion with the maintenance of social oppression;
occur when the target or agent comes to accept the
dominant logic system and justifies oppression as
normal part of the natural order.
The Application
• Attitudinal level - individual and systemic
values, beliefs, philosophies and stereotypes that
feed the system of oppression
• Behavioral level - actions of individual and
systems that support and maintain social
Roles in the system of oppression
• Targets - members of social identity group that
are exploited, victimized, marginalized by the
oppressor and the oppressor’s system of
• Agents - members of dominant social groups
privileged by birth or acquisition who knowingly,
or unknowingly exploit and reap unfair
advantage over members of target groups.
Relationships within and between the roles in the
system of oppression
A) Internalized oppression – targets collude with their
oppressors by accepting a definition of themselves that
is hurtful and limiting.
• Questing the credentials or abilities of their own social
• Favoring dominant group members and distancing
(often unconsciously) from their own target group
B) Conscious collaboration - target group members
knowingly, but not always voluntarily, go along with
their own mistreatment to survive, or to maintain some
C) Internalized domination
• Belief that privileges are part of natural order
• Power to impose their own values, beliefs and norms as
natural order
• Power to “erase” target group members by failing to
acknowledge their existence or importance
D) Vertical interaction between target and
agent - one-up/one-down pattern
E) Horizontal relationships
• Target – Target
• Agent – Agent
Subtle Forms of Oppression/Isms
• SYMBOLIC “ISMS” – people reject old-style “Isms”,
but still express prejudice indirectly
• AMBIVALENT “ISMS” – existence of emotional
conflict between positive and negative feelings toward
stigmatized target group
• MODERN “ISMS” – people are aware that isms are
wrong, but they still see target groups as making unfair
demands or receiving too many resources
• AVERSIVE “ISMS” – people believe in egalitarian
principles, but have a personal aversion toward those
target groups