This paper presents a detailed discussion of how a dominant culture’s structures can lead to oppression, marginalization, alienation and denial of privileges for members of less dominant groups. The paper is based on a case study of a Latino woman (Izzie) who is living in the United States (US). The woman is in a mandatory treatment program for mothers with drug problems. Her husband is set to be released from detention where he has been serving a lengthy sentence for drug-related offenses. The paper is divided into several sections. The first section reviews ways of diminishing the issues of oppression, marginalization, alienation, privilege and power facing the family. The second part discusses how social workers can overcome biases and personal values when doing their work. The next sections explain ways of intervening in Izzie’s case, as well as factors that may affect the effectiveness of the intervention.
Ways of Diminishing Oppression, Marginalization, Alienation, Privilege and Power
Izzie’s case gives a perfect illustration of the various difficulties that members of minority groups undergo in the United States. As explained in the case, Latinos living in the US face many challenges because of the manner in which systems and policies are designed. The systems deny members of minority groups equal opportunities as members of the majority groups. Although the United States is one of the most heterogeneous societies in the world, discrimination based on the racial background is rife as can be deduced from Izzie’s case. Most importantly, minority groups have to deal with the endless problems of oppression, marginalization, alienation, privilege and power (Birkenmaier & Curley, 2009).
As highlighted in the case, it is apparent that Izzie and her family are being oppressed by the authorities after the husband is arrested for being suspected of engaging in drug trafficking. Although the police did not have any evidence to show that Izzie was involved in her husband’s criminal activities, the police questioned her for several months and even coerced her to admit to a crime she never committed. Clearly, this was against the laws of the United States, and a good indication of how authorities manipulate their powers to oppress members of minority groups. The police even went ahead and reported Izzie to the family court but failed to prefer any charges against her. This shows that in the first place, the police did not have any evidence to report her to the family court. The police were able to fabricate charges against Izzie because she is from the minority Latino group and could not afford legal services’ help to defend herself. All these is because she is from a poor socio-economic background. She is, thus, subjected to an oppressive system and policies, typical of what many members of her class go through in the United States.
The perceived issue of marginalization is evident in the systems in that due to Izzie’s racial origin and social status; she is not able to participate in the society effectively as other people. For example, she must observe court orders that deny her an opportunity to take custody of her children. She is also required to stay in Family House contrary to her wish. Even before her husband was incarcerated, Izzie and her family were marginalized because they could not find decent jobs or stable housing. In fact, they moved from house to house and sometimes spent the night in the streets because they were homeless. This level of marginalization made it tough for Izzie and her family to participate meaningfully in the community. As a result, the family did not even have friends who could help them during their difficult times.
The issues of alienation, privilege, and power manifest through the manner in which Izzie is separated from her family and denied the opportunity to intermingle with the society. First, the husband is incarcerated, and she is not allowed to visit her. Even the children were not allowed to visit their father but could only send letters. When Izzie is forced to stay at the Family House, her son is separated from her, ostensibly because of his age. This shows that she had no power, which further adds to the family’s trauma. The woman develops strong sentiments against the authorities, the systems and the society at large because they have alienated and segregated her family from the mainstream society. For instance, the administrator at the Family House could not listen to Izzie’s pleas when she requested to be exempted from a further stay at the facility. Even when she explained that her stay at the facility was taking a heavy toll on her family and that she had observed all rules and regulations, the administrator stood firm and refused to allow her out of the facility. This left Izzie with feelings of powerlessness, alienated and having no privileges.
As a social worker involved in addressing issues in Izzie’s life, there are specific measures I could take to diminish oppression, marginalization, alienation, privilege and power. Most importantly, I will start by discussing with Izzie what her family’s experience has been at the hands of the oppressive society. I will then discuss with her what her values and expectations are regarding the circumstances that led to her present predicament. Next, I will review existing policies regarding the expectations of all the institutions and systems that were responsible for Izzie and her family’s predicament. These facilities include the housing department, the child protection agency, the courts and the policy.
I will then discuss my findings with the administrators of the above institutions for them to understand how their policies affected Izzie and her family. For instance, the incarceration of Izzie’s husband caused a lot of suffering to the family since he was the main breadwinner. As a result, the family was rendered homeless, and the children had to be put under the custody of the authorities. This severely affected the children and their mother both emotionally psychologically. The mother was forced to joggle from one menial job to another to sustain her family. At the same time, she was supposed to attend a compulsory treatment program for victims of drug abuse. By discussing these issues with the institutions, the institutions will have an opportunity to discuss why they had to do what they did and if they though whether it was in the best interest of Izzie’s family.
Having known how much suffering the system has caused Izzie and her family, and the reason why the authorities behaved the way they did, I will engage Izzie in the process of developing an effective and long-term solution to the problem. In particular, I will explain to her how the decisions made by the authorities were in the best interests of her and her family. For instance, I will explain to her that the Family House administrator could not consent to her pleas because the facility was operating on strict orders as issued by the court. Similarly, I will explain to her that it was necessary for the children to be put under the custody of authorities because the family lacked a stable home. Finally, I will encourage her to reconcile her ideas and values with the policies set forth by the authorities so as to avoid feeling oppressed, alienated or marginalized. I will caution her that if she continues holding biased views about the society, it well affect her ability to interact well with the society and be part of it.
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