Resource Guide: Power & Privilege

Power and Privilege Working Definitions

Anti-Oppression: Recognizing that oppression exists in our society and actively working to combat and mitigate the negative impact it has historically had in our communities. Requires an acknowledgment and intentional shifting of our individual contribution to systems of power.

Equality: this is Sameness and GIVING EVERYONE THE SAME THING. This only works if everyone starts from the same place 


Equity: This is fairness and ACCESS TO THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES We must first ensure equity before we can enjoy equality.


Intersectionality: Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and religion-based bigotry, do not act independently of one another; instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination. This concept was developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw.

Institutionalized, interpersonal, and internalized oppression:

Oppression happens on multiple levels and in systems. Keep in mind that these systems are connected and inform each other.

  • Internalized Oppression: the process by which a member of a targeted social identity group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.

  • Interpersonal Oppression: oppression is created and reproduced among people in close relationships through the use of degrading language and or actions that reinforce feelings of inferiority for individuals of targeted social identity groups.

  • Institutionalized Oppression: The systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group. Occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.


Oppression: A violent exercise of power that creates hierarchies of access on multiple levels (i.e. access to resources, self-determination, health, mobility, etc.) A benefit (Financial aid, scholarships, etc.) is not a privilege. 


Power: Degree of control over the material, human, intellectual, and financial resources exercised by different sections of society. Power dictates ideologies that heavily influence the beliefs and behaviors of others.

Privilege: An unearned advantage, immunity, permission, right or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, group, class, race, gender, sexuality, that is actively denied to others. Deals with an ability to influence or have power in society. Usually normalized or seen as universal, which makes it “invisible,”, especially to those who have it.