Liberation from Oppression [Essay]

Based on the paper titled “Liberation from Oppression” by Misty Hamilton Smith. Originally published on Nov. 05, 2017 for IDS 400 at Southern New Hampshire University College of Online and Continuing Education.


Liberation from Oppression

According to the feminist Patricia Hill Collins, there is a Matrix of Domination in which there is a ‘system of oppression based on race, class, gender, and sexuality’ (Altman, Dewey, and Anderson, 2013). Oppression is when one group exhibits dominance over another group, in which the dominant group reaps benefits from the “systematic abuse, exploitation, and injustice directed at the subordinate group” (Altman, Dewey, and Anderson, 2013). Systematic oppression of various groups is detailed throughout the expanse of written history. Some examples of oppression include the Ancient Romans and the Goths (Pollheimer, 2014), Britain and Scotland (Lydon, 1994), Nazi Germany and the Jewish people (Nager, Pham, Grajower, and Gold, 2016), African Slaves (McPherson and Hogue, 2010), Women in the United States (Hesse-Biber and Carter, 2009), and the LGBT community (Carbone, 2017).

However, history also shows us that the dominated eventually fight back against those who thrive by oppressing them, finally finding liberation in the end. Liberation is “the act or fact of gaining equal rights or full social or economic opportunities for a particular group” (, 2017) and is often found by groups who have formed in defense of the subjugated. Examples of fighting back from oppression can be seen first in the Goths who sacked Rome and shifted the subject of power to their side in the year 410 (Mazzeno, 2015). Secondly, when Scotland won the right to vote out of British rule in 2014, however, they voted against it seeing that the rule had changed for the better (BBC News, 2017). And thirdly, when the Jewish people were freed from the Holocaust by brave men and women who fought against the Nazi forces in World War II (American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2017). However, during the past few decades, two movements have stood out as front-runners in the fight against oppression and the matrix of domination. These movements are the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s rights groups.

The Civil Rights Movement

The first movement to be discussed in this paper is the Civil Rights movement. “Although the Civil War finally brought about the abolition of slavery, a harsh system of white supremacy persisted thereafter” (Patterson, 2017). Reconstruction was established by groups in the North after the Civil War in order to reorganize the South and bring the newly freed slaves into American citizenship as equals; however, almost 100 years after the war, African Americans were still looked upon as second-class citizens (McPherson and Hogue, 2010). Segregation forced African Americans to avoid any and all ‘white only’ areas under the threat of arrest or even death. However, individuals of exceptional fortitude spoke up and acted out to liberate their fellow man from the subdued lives they were leading, and the Civil Rights movement was born. “Homes and churches were burned, and attempts were made to kill African American organizers” (Patterson, 2017). Leaders of the movement included Rosa Parks, who in 1955 started the movement in full force with her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. “Her quiet courageous act changed America, its view of black people and redirected the course of history” (Rosa Parks Institute for Self-Development, 2015). Today the United States of America enjoys the Civil Rights Act which “prohibits discrimination in the workplace, public accommodations, public facilities, and agencies receiving federal funds, and strengthened prohibitions on school segregation and discrimination in voter registration” (Library of Congress, 2017).


The Women’s Rights Movement

The next movement that fought against the Matrix of Domination was the Women’s movement. Women in the United States, and in many parts of the world, have long been seen as the lower class in relation to men. Therefore, society often viewed that a women’s place was at home taking care of her family (Hesse-Biber and Carter, 2009). Things started to change about the time of the industrial revolution when many women found work outside of the home in the newly formed factories. However, the women who worked outside of the home were still subject to be given low paying jobs that were considered feminine in nature (Hesse-Biber and Carter, 2009). For example, women were fundamental in developing the textile industry in the United States due to the comparison that they had been responsible for sewing in the home setting (Hesse-Biber and Carter, 2009).  Although entry to the workforce had started to happen, women were still under men in societal views and were not given all rights of United States citizenship, such as the right to vote. “The first gathering devoted to women’s rights in the United States was held July 19–20, 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York” (United States House of Representatives, 2017). Formal organizations formed over the decades including The National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association in the 1860s. These organizations were led by women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1890-1892, Susan B. Anthony, 1892-1900 and Carrie Chapman Catt, 1900-1904 (Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections, 2017). Because of their activism “on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment, providing full voting rights for women nationally, was ratified when Tennessee became the 36th state to approve it” (United States House of Representatives, 2017). However, women still find themselves victims of income inequality in today’s society; therefore, women’s groups must continue on fighting (Hesse-Biber and Carter, 2009).

In conclusion, Patricia Hill Collins’ theory of a Matrix of Domination explores the ‘Interlocking system of oppression based on race, class, gender, and sexuality” (Altman, Dewey, and Anderson, 2013). History is littered with examples of how humankind oppresses various groups based on the criteria in the Matrix of Domination. However, at the same time history also shows that the oppressed finally stand up to their oppressors and fight back. The battles of liberation often take decades and in some instances never cease in their causes.



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