The definition of oppression is – The systematic institutionalized mistreatment of one group over another for whatever reason. People who experience oppression are marginalized and denied access to basic constitutional guarantees as a result of membership in a group based on any of a dozen identifications including color, gender, age, sexual orientation, class, and other.
Two key words in the definition give a hint at the structure and purpose of oppression. Systematic — not an accident or happenstance, but planned, deliberate and intentional, designed to keep everyone undesirable on the outside and the entitled and privileged on the inside. Institutionalized — it is in the very fabric and foundation of every structure, process and program that is developed to support our way of life.
“Oppression is to oppressed people like water is to fish.” Source unknown
This imagery gives us a way to image the presence of racism to people of color or sexism to women, or heterosexism to homosexuals, or classism to people who are poor. This quote can be applied to any group denied civil rights in a democratic society designed to open doors for everyone regardless of any status. However, the experience is very different from the reality of groups seeking full partnership through the United States Constitution, which is governed and interrupted by human beings. Much as the Bible is interrupted by human beings, regardless of divine intention, we look through and hear through personal filters.