Image taken from: http://www.txstate.edu/allies/lgbtq_community/cycle.html
This, my dear friends, is the Cycle of Oppression that I am familiar with. I want to stress that this is my own interpretation, and that the definitions can vary depending on who you ask.
The Cycle has four main components, and an optional fifth component. I will attempt to take the Trayvon Martin…. event, through the Cycle of Oppression.
1) Stereotype: A Stereotype is an Idea. A Stereotype is any generalization made about an entire group of people. Common stereotypes you may encounter include “Asians are good at math”, “Asians are bad drivers”, “Mexicans are [undocumented]”, “Black people are suspicious”, “White people are racists”. Stereotypes can be Functional or Dysfunctional, Functional when they are validated by an experience where it is fulfilled, or Dysfunctional when they are refuted by an experience where it is not fulfilled.
>In the case of Trayvon Martin, the Stereotype was likely: “Black people [in hoodies] are suspicious.”
2) Prejudice: A Prejudice is a negative idea. A Stereotype that has negative connotations or causes negative feelings about a group of people being stereotyped becomes a Prejudice. Prejudices are negative feelings and ideas about a group of people, functional or dysfunctional.
>In the case of Trayvon Martin, the Prejudice was likely: “Suspicious Black people are a threat, probably some criminal.”
3) Discrimination: Discrimination is an action. A Prejudice that manifests as an action is Discrimination. The act of Discrimination is towards an individual or to a group of people belonging to the group being stereotyped. Two important acts of Discrimination to note/compare/contrast: “Black people are suspicious, and thus untrustworthy, so I will not hire a person with a Black name” and “White people are racists, and thus I have negative feelings about them, so I will not hire a person who is white (or has an Anglo name)”
>In the case of Trayvon Martin, the act of Discrimination was likely: “Suspicious Black people [men] [in hoodies] are a threat or criminal; this person is a Black man in a hoodie, thus he is a threat or criminal, so I should pursue him and detain him to prevent criminal activity, I should also carry a weapon because he is a threat.”
4) Oppression: Oppression is systematic and widespread trends. Oppression is the systematic and institutional (government, education, law enforcement, healthcare, welfare, media, social norms, etc) perpetuation of acts of Discrimination. Specific forms of Oppression include Racism, Sexism, Heterosexism, Ableism, Ageism, and many more.
Because Oppression is about systematic and widespread perpetuation, this is why I define “Reverse Racism” to be a myth. Studies have confirmed what many people of color know already from their own individual experiences: having a non-Anglo name reduces your chances of getting a job on a macro level. Having an Anglo name, having a portion of White Privilege, shields one from the Act of Discrimination that are based on a Prejudice against Black names that are associated with the Negative Stereotype of suspicious/untrustworthy/lazy Black people.
>In the case of Trayvon Martin, the tragedy that occurred was nothing unusual to anyone who pays attention to systematic racial discrimination by law enforcement, and probably even less unusual to those people of color who live everyday with the fear of being racially profiled by a police officer.
The institutionalized criminalization of Black people is a subset of the Oppression called Racism. The media and discriminatory drug laws perpetuate negative stereotypes about Black people as suspicious and untrustworthy, and a normalized image of the criminal Black man enters the minds of everyday people. The idea of a criminal Black man. A Stereotype. That is how the Cycle of Oppression perpetuates itself.
5) Internalized Oppression: But there is a more sinister component to the Cycle of Oppression. Internalized Oppression is when individuals from the group being stereotyped actually begin to internalize the negative Stereotypes, the Prejudices, the acts of Discrimination, and the systematic Oppression that they feel they just cannot escape. A person may begin to believe that there is no future for them, that the education system will fail them, that law enforcement will racially profile them, that their peers will stereotype them, that they will be turned away from jobs they should have been qualified for. And from that Internalized Oppression, that self hate and despair, a person may turn to the negative Stereotypes that have been put in front of them. And then they too become part of the Cycle, becoming the negative Stereotype forced onto them, and perpetuating the Cycle.