When I think of bias, prejudice and oppression, I tend to look back at the historical beginnings of stratification and dominance, when slavery and colonialism are at their peak. Was it a case of not having a choice or choosing to follow to escape the consequence of counter action? Turner (2005) differentiates the standard view of power and the three-process theory of power where the former delves into the control of resources and interdependence; whereas the three-process theory denotes that “power is an emergent property of specific social and psychological relations between people and these relations shape the form it takes” (Turner, 2005). The latter perspective gives us hope in redefining the norms, beliefs, and practices that have been established over time as power can influence “people to act in line with one’s desires by persuading them that the desired judgment, decision, belief or action is correct, right, moral, appropriate” (Turner, 2005). Thus, the norms, beliefs and practices formed from long ago, can be shaped by the change in circumstances to ensure that it would be for the benefit of the people and not of those leading.
I say this in the hope that all the prejudices and biases that fabricated my poor self-image and those of others would eventually put to a stop. From economic to racial and gender slurs, I had them all. However, I will only focus now on the classism on poverty that I experienced in life. Being young, I hated to admit that my family belonged to the low-income group. This would mean that my friends at school would look down on me, would not treat me the same as they treat those who are in the high-income bracket. People who did not have money were judged with the way they dressed, talked and conducted themselves in public. There was such as a thing as “cheap talk” because people who are poor do not know any better. Thus, I vowed to myself that I would never admit that we did not have money as the economic status automatically comes with respect/disrespect from others. To get away from judgments, as soon as I walked out of school, I disassociated myself from peers and ventured into my safe world at home. As I moved to university, there was a thing called,“sub-urbanism”. I coined this word to describe a person like me who came from the city, but not the metropolis – a city that has its accent that was described as “provincial”. Interest and social groups in university were formed based on geographical locations, how smart you are based on the perception of others and one’s religious affiliation. Dormitories were tagged as “classy”, those occupied by the rich; “oldies”, those who are quite ‘old’ pursuing their masters and doctorates and “provincial”, those who come from outside the metropolis. Of course, I stayed at the one dubbed as “provincial” and only socialized with my kind as I seemed to be invisible when I walked past the “rich kids”. I came to pass the hallways pretending that I was walking through an empty space. As a young adult, I continued to face invisibility in social settings when my sister married a man who came from a well-off family. Each time I visited my sister, I would greet her in-laws and they would just walk past me as if nothing was heard. I cringe upon the memory of those moments when I felt invisible. Thus, I vowed to myself after graduation that I would never be poor. At 20, I worked for my independence. I worked at least 15 hours a day to do extra teaching for more income. I had my child at 24 and worked even harder. By then, I was able to establish myself at work and was already being honed for a leadership role. I was relieved that I was no longer being scrutinized with how much or less money I have, but with the abilities that I have.
To this date, recounting all those experiences and realizing my feats at this time in my life, I am proud to be where I am. I knew I could not change these people by questioning their behavior towards me. However, showing them that I have gone miles apart from my beginnings, that I have gained more than what they had then, their perspectives have changed. As well, those others who have seen beyond what they see on the surface, my color, gender, and race have lifted me up from the invisible context. My abilities were honed and appreciated. I have become a respected individual. In this regard, I changed my predicament with the support of those who have “the power to influence people to act in line to what are correct and moral” (Turner, 2005). This is the power that we need to promote equity.
Turner, J. (2005). Explaining the nature of power: A three-process theory. European Journal of Social Psychology. 35 (1). Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/227724259_Explaining_the_Nature_of_Power_A_Three-Process_Theory