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Anti-Oppression: Anti-Oppression & Beloit College


Welcome to the Morse Library Anti-Oppression Guide!

This guide is intended to provide some general information about anti-oppression, diversity, and inclusion as well as information and resources for the social justice issues key to the Beloit College community.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but rather serves as a starting place for finding information from a variety of sources. It will continue to develop in response to evolving anti-oppression issues and community needs.


In an effort at full disclosure, it should be noted that the collaborators on this guide occupy some of the oppressed identities outlined here, but not all of them. We have attempted to bring together quality, relevant resources for the anti-oppression issues in this guide, but we are not immune from the limits and hidden biases of our own privileges and perspectives as allies.

We welcome and greatly appreciate any feedback and suggestions for the guide, particularly from the perspectives and experiences of the marginalized groups listed and not listed here.

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Much of this guide content was reused with permission from the Simmons College Library

Some Basics

Oppression prejudice + power

  • Oppression is more than the prejudicial thoughts and actions of individuals, oppression is institutionalized power that is historically formed and perpetuated over time;
  • Through the use of that institutionalized power, it allows certain groups of people or certain identities to assume a dominant (privileged) position over other groups and identities and this dominance is maintained and continued at institutional  and cultural levels;
  • This means oppression is built into institutions like government and education systems. For example, think of ways that heterosexism is privileged by and built into laws around marriage, property ownership, and raising/adopting children.

Systems of oppression run through our language, shape the way we act and do things in our culture, and are built around what are understood to be “norms” in our societies. A norm signifies what is “normal,” acceptable, and desirable and is something that is valued and supported in a society. It is also given a position of dominance, privilege, and power over what is defined as non-dominant, abnormal, and therefore, invaluable or marginal.

Anti-Oppression is the strategies, theories, actions and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an ongoing basis in one's daily life and in social justice/change work. Anti-oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities. Oppression operates at different levels (from individual to institutional to cultural) and so anti-oppression must as well.

Though they go hand in hand, anti-oppression is not the same as diversity & inclusion. Diversity & Inclusion (which are defined in another tab) have to do with the acknowledgment, valuing, and celebration of difference, whereas Anti-Oppression challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. Diversity & Inclusion and Anti-Oppression are two sides of the same coin--one doesn't work without the other--but they are not interchangeable.

Allyship is a process, most notably a learning process. Allyship involves a lot of listening and is sometimes referred to as "doing ally work" or "acting in solidarity with" to reference the fact that "ally" is not an identity but rather an ongoing and lifelong process that involves a lot of work. 

An ally acknowledges the limits of their knowledge about oppressed people’s experiences but doesn't use that as a reason not to think and/or act. An ally does not remain silent but confronts oppression as it comes up daily and also seeks to deconstruct it institutionally and live in a way that challenges systemic oppression, even at the risk of experiencing some of that oppression. Being an ally entails building relationships with both people oppressed by their identities but also with people privileged by their identities in order to challenge them in their thinking. (adapted from Allyship & Anti-Oppression)

Allies don’t have it all figured out but are committed to non-complacency.


Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexuality & sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic class, physical ability or attributes, neurological condition, religious or ethical values system, and national origin. (adapted from Ferris State University)

Inclusion is involvement and empowerment, where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging; it values, celebrates, and recognizes the enriching benefits of diversity and practices respect for the talents, beliefs, identities, and lived experiences of its members. (adapted from Ferris State University)

Though they go hand in hand, diversity & inclusion are not the same as anti-oppression. Diversity & Inclusion have to do with the acknowledgment, valuing, and celebration of difference, whereas Anti-Oppression (defined in another tab) challenges the systemic biases that devalue and marginalize difference. Diversity & Inclusion and Anti-Oppression are two sides of the same coin--one doesn't work without the other--but they are not interchangeable.

Note: Definitions for diversity are...well...diverse. Context and environment play a big part in what we mean when we say "diversity," and unfortunately as social justice movements have gained media spotlight, the term has become somewhat hollowed out from being overused and under-defined from situation to situation. The definitions for diversity and inclusion above do not capture the many, many cultural and political nuances embedded in these terms, rather they are intended to provide a broad scaffolding for understanding and engaging with the dialogues in and outside Beloit and on which more specific reifications of these concepts as they apply to particular communities can be structured.

Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness

The Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness (OADI) recognizes and aims to dismantle the structural barriers in place that prohibit the attainment of our college mission for underserved and underrepresented students. OADI reimagines how diversity and inclusion operates by using an equity asset-based framework. This entails reforming institutional structures and practices to position underrepresented bodies and their assets (lived experiences, skills, and mindsets) at the center. OADI recognizes and values marginalized approaches to knowledge production and dissemination. Our work disrupts understandings of what is considered “academic” by centering and valuing non-majority discursive practices and ways of knowing.  

This is accomplished through:

  • Providing targeted, asset-based programming to ensure all students have an equitable inclusive space and place to live and learn at Beloit College.
  • Challenging dominant understandings of what is considered “academic” as a means to create more equitable institutional opportunities.
  • Re-envisioning pedagogy and recognizing the validity and importance of student lived experiences, with the goal of creating inclusive classrooms through an equity asset-based framework.
  • Developing faculty and staff to embed an equity asset-based framework in curricular and co-curricular activities.
  • Establishing benchmarks and measuring progress through purposeful and ongoing research and assessment of campus activities around diversity, inclusiveness, and equity.

Office for Inclusive Living and Learning

The Office for Inclusive Living and Learning (OILL) recognizes the human diversity represented at Beloit College and in its surrounding communities as the College’s greatest educational resource.  Our bodies, histories, social identities, worldviews and inspirations - our whole lives - make this campus a setting unparalleled for a true Liberal Arts in Practice education.  Who we are today and who we will become, both individually and collectively, provide the field in which we live, learn and strive to achieve Beloit College’s mission.

We engage not only students but also college faculty and staff, along with members of the wider Beloit community, through:

  • Intentional identity based programming focused on the differences represented on our campus and in the community, acknowledging not only those identities that have been privileged and empowered but especially those that have been underrepresented and/or marginalized.
  • Challenging and exploring understandings of race, class, gender, power and privilege, by creating opportunities for dialogue between faculty, staff and students.
  • Collaborative ongoing initiatives with campus partners, including but not limited to the Office of International Education (OIE), the Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness (OADI), Learning Enrichment and Disability Services (LEADS), Residential Life, and the departments of Critical Identity Studies and Religious Studies.
  • Developing training and high impact practices aimed at creating a campus learning environment that is safe, understanding and interculturally competent
  • Setting benchmarks and tracking progress through intentional research and assessment of our work around inclusive living and learning.

Anti-Hate Acts and Bias Incident Policy & Report

The aim of this policy is to provide a means by which students, faculty, and staff members who experience hate or bias (both defined here) may have their concerns heard and receive support, conflicts may be mediated, and, when called for, effective community responses forged.

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Privilege & Intersectionality

Privilege is having unearned benefits/entitlements because of an identity you hold that society considers a "norm" and reinforces as dominant through oppression. Privilege and oppression are systemic and are reinforced by binarized, normative hierarchies that categorize certain identities as superior (privileged) and their supposed opposites as inferior (oppressed) (i.e. male and female; straight and queer; cisgender and transgender, etc.). There are various forms of privilege, some of them tangible and others less so. One form of privilege, for instance, is the representation of one's identity in mainstream media and books--something intangible but nevertheless valuable in our culture.

Further Info: 

Intersectionality is the theory that individually we are all oppressed while we are all also oppressors. While you may be a person who is historically marginalized (a person of color for example), you may also have a role and/or be a member of a group that is oppressive to others (while you are a person of color, you may also be a man, an able-bodied person, upper/middle class, straight etc). The idea is that Privilege and Oppression, like identities, come in infinite combinations, meaning an individual is almost always oppressed by some aspects of their identity while privileged by others. Being oppressed in one way does not negate an individual's privilege in another, and no single oppression holds more weight than another.

Further Info:

No matter the intersections of our privilege and oppression, we ALL have a role in combating oppression and unequal power dynamics.