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Anti-Bias Anti-Racism




Oppression: Institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time and allows "certain groups" of people to assume a dominant position over other groups and this dominance is maintained and continued at an institutional level. this means that oppression is built into institutions like government and educational systems. 

  • On a personal level, oppression expresses itself through beliefs (stereotypes), attitudes, values (prejudice), and actions (discrimination) used to justify unfair treatment based on distinct aspects of one’s identity, real or perceived. These can be internalized and directed towards the self or externalized and directed towards those we interact with on a day-to-day basis.

Individual Oppression: "The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate privilege & oppression. Individual (racism/sexism/heterosexism/ableism/etc.) can occur at both an unconscious and conscious level and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a “____-ist” joke, using a racial/gender/religious/etc. the epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of a group of people."Source: Allyship and Anti-Oppression: A Resource Guide from TriCollege Libraries. 

Institutional Oppression: "The network of institutionalized structures, policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for dominant group members. And creates discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for subordinated (marginalized communities) group members. The advantages for dominant group members are often invisible to them or are considered entitlements or rights available to everyone as opposed to unearned privileges awarded to only some individuals or groups. Institutions may be Housing, Government, Education, Media, Business, Health Care, Criminal Justice, Employment, Labor, Politics, Religious Organizations, etc."  Source: Allyship and Anti-Oppression: A Resource Guide from TriCollege Libraries.

Internalized Oppression: "When members of a target social group adopt the agent group’s ideology and accept their subordinate status, prejudices, and/or stereotypes as deserved, natural, or inevitable." Source: Allyship and Anti-Oppression: A Resource Guide from TriCollege Libraries.

Heteronormativity: A worldview that frames heterosexuality as the standard sexuality. This is created through repetitive representations of heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships in our society. An example of heteronormativity is the assumption that people are heterosexual unless they “come out”. Another example is how non-heterosexual relationships are expected to be similar to traditional “heterosexual” relationships (i.e., labeling one partner as the “man” of the relationship, expecting couples to want marriage/children, etc).

Classism: A hierarchical system that provides or denies resources, agency, and dignity based on one’s perceived, socioeconomic class (poor/working class, middle/upper class, upper class, etc.). 

Prejudice:  Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group. source: McLeod, S. A. (2008). Prejudice and Discrimination.

Microaggression: Everyday verbal and non-verbal slides, indignities, put-downs, and insults, whether intentional or not that people of color, women, LGTBQIA and other marginalized groups experience in their everyday interactions with others. These interactions, oftentimes appear to be a compliment but contain a hidden insult to the person receiving the comment. Microaggressions occur because they are outside of the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator and are rooted in ideologies, such as racism, classism, sexism, colonialism, and other discriminatory belief systems. ( Source: Microaggressions in everyday life video) 

So...what's "misia"?

This Libguide uses the suffix "misia" instead of the suffix "phobia." The suffix "phobia" comes from the Greek word for "fear of," and so it denotes an intense aversion to the part of the word that precedes it (e.g. arachnophobia is a fear of spiders). Words like "homophobia" or "Islamophobia" are pretty recognizable, and most folks understand them to mean a position or perspective that is prejudicial and discriminatory against LGBTQIA+ identities and the religion of Islam respectively. 

The problem with using "phobia" terms as labels for prejudice is that there are folks who actually have phobias (real anxiety disorders in which someone experiences intense anxiety or fear that they're unable to control—Claustraphobia, for instance). So when we use terms like "homophobia," we are equating bigotry with a mental health disorder, which does several problematic things:

• It inaccurately attributes oppression and oppressive attitudes to fear rather than to hate and bigotry;

• It removes the accountability of an oppressive person by implying their actions and attitudes are outside their control.

So since labeling oppression with "phobia" suffixes is harmful, many folks are exchanging them for "misia" suffixes instead. Misia (pronounced "miz-eeya") comes from the Greek word for hate or hatred, so similar to how Islamophobia means "fear of Islam," the more accurate Islamomisia means "hatred of Islam."

For these reasons, our guide will be using "misia" language in place of "phobia" in an effort to be as accurate, clear, and inclusive as possible.



Oppression = prejudice + power

  • Oppression is more than the 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 (privileged) position over other groups and identities and this dominance is maintained and continued at institutional  and cultural levels;
  • This means oppression is built into institutions like government and education systems. For example, think of ways that heterosexism is privileged by and built into laws around marriage, property ownership, and raising/adopting children.

Systems of oppression run through our language, shape the way we act and do things in our culture, and are built around what are understood to be “norms” in our societies. A norm signifies what is “normal,” acceptable, and desirable and is something that is valued and supported in a society. It is also given a position of dominance, privilege, and power over what is defined as non-dominant, abnormal, and therefore, invaluable or marginal.


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 to cultural) and so anti-oppression must as well.

Though they go hand in hand, anti-oppression is not the same as diversity & inclusion. Diversity & 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 & Inclusion and Anti-Oppression are two sides of the same coin--one doesn't work without the other--but they are not interchangeable.


Privilege is having unearned benefits/entitlements because of an identity you hold that society considers a "norm" and reinforces as dominant through oppression. Privilege and oppression are systemic and are reinforced by binarized, normative hierarchies that categorize certain identities as superior (privileged) and their supposed opposites as inferior (oppressed) (i.e. male and female; straight and queer; cisgender and transgender, etc.). There are various forms of privilege, some of them tangible and others less so. One form of privilege, for instance, is the representation of one's identity in mainstream media and books--something intangible but nevertheless valuable in our culture.


Intersectionality is the theory that individually we are all oppressed while we are all also oppressors. While you may be a person who is historically marginalized (a person of color for example), you may also have a role and/or be a member of a group that is oppressive to others (while you are a person of color, you may also be a man, an able-bodied person, upper/middle class, straight etc). The idea is that Privilege and Oppression, like identities, come in infinite combinations, meaning an individual is almost always oppressed by some aspects of their identity while privileged by others. Being oppressed in one way does not negate an individual's privilege in another, and no single oppression holds more weight than another.

No matter the intersections of our privilege and oppression, we ALL have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.


Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexuality & sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, physical ability or attributes, neurological condition, religious or ethical values system, and national origin (adapted from Ferris State University).


Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values, celebrates, and recognizes the enriching benefits of diversity and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, identities, and lived experiences of its members (adapted from Ferris State University).

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

Note: Definitions for diversity are...well...diverse. Context and environment play a big part in what we mean when we say "diversity," and unfortunately as social justice movements have gained media spotlight, the term has become somewhat hollowed out from being overused and under-defined from situation to situation. The definitions for diversity and inclusion above do not capture the many, many cultural and political nuances embedded in these terms, rather they are intended to provide a broad scaffolding for understanding and engaging with the dialogues in and outside ASM and on which more specific conversations of these concepts as they apply to particular communities can be structured.

With Thanks

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

This Libguide began was adapted from the American School of Madrid, which was adapted from the Simmons University Libguide, and has grown to include sources from our ASU resources and community. It is a work in progress with news, resources and links to actionable information.

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