Oppression -"The social act of placing severe restrictions on an individual, group or institution. The oppressed individual or group is devalued, exploited and deprived of privileges by the individual or group which has more power." (Barker, 2003)
Source: Barker, R.L. (2003). Definition of oppression. Social Work Dictionary. Retrieved May 11, 2017 from http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mdover/website/Oppression%20Compendium%20and%20Materials/Definitions%20of%20Oppression.pdf
Sometimes these acts are explicit (such as laws in the past with respect to slavery, or the historical disenfranchisement of Canada's indigenous people), however, oppression is also formalized in the ways society has always done things, which tend to privilege white, male, middle class experiences.
For example: men who wear turbans may be prevented from certain jobs or hobbies in which other headgear is considered "required," without a determination whether there are other ways to address issues of safety or uniformity. Preference for one way of "being" – can be the result of the majorities cultural upbringing. This may cause people to discriminate without realizing why.
How to take safe and purposeful action
Kivel (2002) outlines strategies and recommendations to challenge racism and white privilege:
Assume racism is everywhere, everyday: We have to learn to see the effect that racism has. You already notice the skin color of everyone you meet—now notice what difference it makes.
Notice who is at the center of attention and who is at the center of power: Racism works by directing violence and blame toward people of color and consolidating power and privilege for white people.
Understand the connections between racism, economic issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice.
Take a stand against injustice: Intervene in situations where racism is being passed on.
*For a complete list of recommendations and guidelines please visit the site below.
Source: Centre for advanced studies in child welfare (2014). Action strategies and activities. Retrieved May 11, 2017 from https://www.cascw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/WhitePrivilegeAction.pdf
When we talk about oppression, privilege must be discussed. This tool-kit explores concepts of privilege and how we can all become allies in the fight to end racism: http://psac-ncr.com/sites/ncr/files/05_expandingthecircle.pdf
A guide book supporting individuals and groups as they commit to collective action against various forms of oppression: http://www.socialjustice.org/uploads/pubs/EducatorsGuideforChangingtheWorld.pdf
Considered a classic article by those in the field doing anti-racist work, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," can be used in workshops, classes, or team meetings as a great conversation starter: http://www.winnipeg.ca/clerks/boards/citizenequity/pdfs/white_privilege.pdf