Morton Deutsch, a sociologist specializing in conflict resolution, defines oppression as such, “Oppression is the experience of repeated, widespread, systemic injustice. It need not be extreme and involve the legal system…[and it need not be] violent” (2006). Of the definitions of oppression explored, this one is the most applicable to older adults and people with disabilities. Particularly because the oppression that faces those who are older or disabled in the United States is not carried out with excessive force, but in small acts of micro-aggression.
American Association of People with Disabilities Youth Transitions Fellows Leah Katz-Hernandez and Megan Erasmus define micro-aggressions as such, “Subtle, often automatic, stereotypical, and insensitive behavior or comments or assumptions about a person’s identity, background, ethnicity, or disability. It might be presented politely or negatively” (2012).
Micro-aggression is telling a person who uses a wheelchair “just take the stairs up to the adult services wing.” A micro-aggression is assuming an elderly patron wants a large print book. It is people who ask prying personal questions, because an individual does not look “normal”, and they assume they have a right to know about their condition. We see it every day, but it does not always register as oppression, however, micro-aggression is oppression. They are small injustice of everyday life.
As information professionals we have an obligation to our patrons to be aware of the cycles of oppression and to counteract them to the best of our abilities. We must be mindful of our language when speaking with others, and be as inclusive as possible. When designing programs, our stacks, and other library facilities, librarians must look beyond our own situations and strive or openness.
This goes beyond issues of age and disabilities. We need to educate ourselves on our library population, including the aged and disabled. We cannot expect them to be our sole educators, it is not their responsibility. We must also look beyond our stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations, so we can provide them with the best library experience.
Deutsch, M. (2006). A framework for thinking about oppression and its change. Social Justice Research, 19(1), 7-41
Katz-Hernandez, L., & Erasmus, M. (2012, January). Micro-Aggression: It’s Bullying. In American Association of People with Disabilities . Retrieved October 19, 2012
Side note: This post was written in response to a prompt discussion what oppression is, in regards to older people and people who are disabled and libraries.