ELPS 432: Photo Elicitation Project

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<p>1Running head: OPPRESSION, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND PRIVILEGE IN HIGH RESOLUTIONPAGE 21OPPRESSION, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND PRIVILEGE IN HIGH RESOLUTION</p> <p>Oppression, Social Justice, and Privilege in High-ResolutionRoy Rodriguez</p> <p>Loyola University ChicagoOppression</p> <p>Oppression #1: For Customers OnlyMy friend and I were sitting on the outside patio of a restaurant in Downtown Chicago when we witnessed an older White house less man take a seat at a table. After a short moment, a member of the staff approached the man and said, Excuse me sir, but you cant sit here. This seating is reserved for customers only. The older man got up and sat at the curb a few feet away. Because of the way this man was dressed and looked, he was seen as someone of a lesser socioeconomic status than what the restaurant aimed to attract and was refused access to the establishment. Because of the way this man was dressed and carried himself, he was automatically associated with being from a lower, disadvantaged group of society (Young, 1990). Though we all saw the incident occur, no one (including myself) did anything to help the man or address the social injustice at hand. In that instant, myself, the server, and everyone else who witnessed the incident occur all became the oppressors.</p> <p>Oppression #2: Man UpAs I was walking home from work at Loyolas Lakeshore Campus, I noticed a young man approaching me with a very interesting shirt: MAN UP. My initial thought was not that this was a form of sexism; rather, it was nice shirt (Hackman, 2010). This style of t-shirts, made famous by the Nike brand, has become very popular over the past year as it uses key phrases in large print on solid colored shirts to emphasize thoughts, motivate those who read them as they pass by, or, in this case, oppress particular groups of people. This shirt perpetuates sexism in our society by explicitly associating masculinity with strength and demonstrating any lack of courage as weakness (Hackman, 2010; Lorber, 1994). Seeing this student proudly wearing this shirt reminded me of my duty as an educator to advocate for other oppressed groups by engaging in dialogue with those around me. After taking the picture, I approached the student to ask him about his shirt and what it meant to him; he had no response and quickly hurried to class.</p> <p>Oppression #3: Heterosexism (New Image)</p> <p>This photo is one I took of a heterosexual couple at a Loyola retreat I facilitated. Although I do not see this particular couple engaging in this activity everyday, this is a public display of affection that constantly impacts the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community and I. I immediately saw this act as oppression in the form of heterosexism, the overarching system of advantages bestowed on heterosexuals (Blumenfeld, p. 371, 2010a). The mere fact that this couple could publicly display their love and affection for one another without being subjected to discrimination, I feel, oppresses the LGB community. This form of cultural homophobia, or the social norms that operate within our society to legitimize oppression against members of the LGB causes these individuals to live in fear of expressing their love for one another (Blumenfeld, p. 378, 2010b).Social Justice</p> <p>Social Justice #1: Equality, Made in USAThis photograph showcases a water bottle with the Human Rights Campaigns (HRC) Equality logo on it. When I see this sticker on my bottle everyday, multiple times a day, I am reminded of what it means to be a gay man in America and the work that still needs to be done in order to achieve equal rights for my community. This image does a great job at motivating me to start conversations about equality for the LGBT community and advocating for such rights in order to contribute to a more socially just world (Ziga, 2010). When I am on the bus or at the gym and I take a sip of water, people ask what the sticker means and how they can get one. As we engage in dialogue, I am able to convey the struggles and social injustices that impact the LGBT community to people as a result of our heterosexist society (Blumenfeld, 2010a).</p> <p>Social Justice #2: Same-Sex America (Display courtesy of Student Diversity &amp; Multicultural Affairs, Loyola University Chicago)</p> <p>At work, I frequently find myself walking past Loyolas Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA). Outside of the office, the department places up-to-date news, literature, and research pertaining to various social injustices in our nation. One of the graphs that caught my attention was one of the various pieces of legislation some states have impacting the queer community. A large portion of the graph shows much of the country with bans on same-sex marriage and other same-sex unions. SDMAs display motivates me to continue on and advocate for the queer community at Loyola and educate others of the hurdles the community is facing in achieving their rights (Ziga, 2010).</p> <p>Social Justice #3: Undocumented Student Ally (New Image)</p> <p>Hanging on the bulletin board above my desk in my office is a postcard that shows that I have completed the training to be an ally for undocumented students at Loyola. Everyday that I loom at this image I am reminded of the struggle undocumented students face in the United States on a daily basis and my role as an advocate for social justice to ensure that those who are in higher education are supported. Munin and Speight (2010) assert that allies are a crucial group in the in the work for social justice (p. 249). Being an ally for undocumented students means that in order to obtain a socially just climate for undocumented students in higher education across America, it takes education and dedication in order to understand the various systems of oppression that are in place that limit the rights of undocumented students and their access to higher education.Privilege</p> <p>Privilege #1: ClassismMy social class is often a privilege that I disregard. The other day I went to Starbucks before class to get a drink and as I waited there for my latte, I noticed two women sitting at a table, like so many others in the coffee shop, typing away on their laptops, sporting designer clothes and handbags. This led me to observe my surroundings even further and realize what privilege I had by having the financial ability to step into such an establishment and have someone make me a specialty coffee drink. Despite coming from a working class family, being in a graduate program and having a job that pays well has significantly altered my social standing (Adams, 2010). I was reminded of the privilege I hold for being able to take part in something so simple such as buying Starbucks and sitting down at a table with my MacBook to sit and study for a class when there are many other people who are not as privileged </p> <p>Privilege #2: AbleismThe privilege I hold being an able bodied individual constantly eludes me. I never think twice about the privilege I hold being temporarily able-bodied (Castaeda, Hopkins, and Peters, 2010). Walking on the street one afternoon, I noticed a man engaged in a deep conversation with a window. As I approached the man, I thought that he might be thinking out loud or commenting on something he saw on the television on the other side of the window. When I walked past him, I noticed that he was holding a conversation with his own reflection. I am not making an assumption of this mans mental abilities, however, seeing this man holding a conversation with his reflection made me think about my own privilege and the obstacles I do not have to face because I do not have any visible or non-visible disabilities. </p> <p>Privilege #3: Christian Privilege (New Image)</p> <p>Walking around Loyolas Lakeshore Campus this holiday season has been quite the spectacle. At every main entrance of the university there are Christmas trees adorned with bright lights like the one in the image above. When I saw these decorations put up I thought back to the reading on Christian privilege and the list of privileges Schlosser (2003) presents of those who identify as part of the Christian faith are granted in American society. Since Loyola claims to be a home for many faiths, I could not help but think how these explicit displays of Christian privilege may impact students of different faith as they walk through the university everyday. Students who do identify as Christian and that do take part in the celebration of Christmas are rewarded for their identity by being granted time off from school which is not the case for many students of different faiths whose religious holidays may not even be recognized by the institution (Schlosser, 2003). They can also be reassured that the campus climate at Loyola will be warm, festive, and welcoming to them.AnalysisAs I began this journey through social justice I was quite apprehensive as to what was waiting to greet me along the way. I did not believe that a class that was overwhelmingly white could be an environment for healthy dialogue on issues of oppression, privilege, and social justice. From my own personal experiences, white folks had a privilege I could never imagine, and because of this privilege they possessed they were incapable of understandings the complexities of my own identity and the oppression, I believe, they bestowed upon me. This privilege could only prevent them from being ready to establish a positive White identity and make them incapable of ever being able to understand me (Henry, Cobb-Roberts, Dorn, Exum, Keller, and Shircliffe, p. 163, 2007). I was jaded, I was intimidated, and I was fearful that I would face hostility from my colleagues if I ever revealed information about myself that did not coincide with the socially acceptable practices and beliefs of our society. By coming into the semester with such a closed mind, I was well aware of the process of learning I was rejecting and knew that I would have to challenge myself and my personal beliefs in order to immerse myself in the experience of the classroom. It is in this regard that I began to realize how my own negative views of the individuals in the class were contributing to a form of racism, reverse racism to be exact, towards my white peers. This view led me to generate a belief in my mind that despite how open and receptive they all seemed to be, they would and could not have the capacities to understand where myself and the other individuals of color were coming from. Had it not been for this course, I believe that I would not have been able to engage in healthy dialogue with members from various privileged groups nor would I have been made aware of the various privileges I hold as a result of some of my identities in spite of some of the identities that subject me to oppression.These challenges emerged from the various and numerous readings for the course that spanned various identities and practices for social justice learning. Aside from the readings, the dreaded yet highly anticipated facilitated dialogues of the course also added a level of intensity to the content that made these identities and the oppressive forces that come with them come to life. These dialogues forced my colleagues and I to reflect deeply on our own experiences with the various identities covered in order to observe how we might have either been victims of oppression or agents of oppression. They also pushed us to look closely at the ways in which society privileges us in spite of some of the identities that may be oppressed. Both the readings and facilitated dialogues led me to challenge my colleagues and myself around the highly sensitive identities of the course to gain a deeper and more genuine knowledge of oppression, privilege, and social justice.</p> <p> One instance I recall this semester when I was challenged to examine the ways in which oppression has directly impacted me was during the week Matt Cartwright and I facilitated a dialogue on heterosexism. My hesitance and discomfort with engaging in dialogue about heterosexism stems from the homophobia I have experienced and witnessed due to my gay identity. Throughout my childhood and into young adulthood, the fear of being targeted, harassed, out-casted, and threatened because of my sexual orientation consumed me. Growing up in a heterosexist, hyper-masculine community, it was a daunting reality that if I ever revealed my gay identity to anyone I could become a target for homophobic violence (Blumenfeld, 2010b). As I child I would hear friends and family members refer to gays as being sick, not well in the head, or diseased perverts. In school I would face harassment from my classmates on the playground by being called names such as sissy or fag and by even being physically assaulted in the restrooms in some of the most extreme cases (Blumenfeld, p. 377, 2010b). These personal experiences along with the homophobia I observed on television, most notably a made for television movie that told the story of the brutal torture and murder of Matthew Shepherd, drove me to silence and fear of my own identity.On the very first day of class I feared the extent to which I would have to challenge myself to look within my own identities and share tough stories about my life with people I hardly knew. What was most fearful for me was feeling the need to share my gay identity due to the fact that, at the moment, it is one of my most prevalent identities and has the most impact on the way I currently view my life. What inspired me to give way to this challenge were the various readings on the purpose of and engaging in dialogue we were asked to read at the beginning of the semester. Bohm (1996) characterizes dialogue as being aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively (p. 1). In understanding dialogue in this sense, it opened the way for a new learning process to begin. I quickly became aware that this new learning process would require me to not only share my own experiences, but to also hear the experiences of others and to understand how these topics have affected them as well. In establishing the process of intercultural dialogue, our class created a space in which a mutual understanding of our group values could emerge and be viewed as contributing to the learning process (Bohm, 1996). This space reassured me of the importance in sharing my stories about my identities and listening to the stories of others in order to get as much as we can so as to be able to obtain a heightened level of awareness around these issues. As a result, I felt that the environment we established was welcoming and understanding enough to allow myself to be vulnerable and share my stories whenever they were relevant.As I mentioned earlier, I rarely viewed myself as someone who had any type of privilege other than being able to have the resources to continue on with my education...</p>