Skin Deep Guide

Internalized Oppression

contributed by Hugh Vasquez

Internalized oppression is taking on and believing the stereotypes or lies that are told about you and people in your group. In terms of racism, internalized oppression affects people of color. It is believing that you are not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, deserving enough, etc. It is believing that you or others in your group are less than the dominant group. All people targeted for mistreatment and discrimination to some degree internalize the oppression.

Internalized racism is an involuntary reaction to racism. It is a reaction to the racism that originates outside the group. No one voluntarily adopts negative beliefs about one’s self or group. They do so only because racism exists outside the group. We are trained to internalize these lies and this training begins before we are able to screen out the lies. However, all people of color fight valiantly to resist taking on the effects of racism, but eventually, through no fault of their own, they begin to wear the scars of racism by believing the misconceptions.

How can you recognize internalized racism? It looks like:

  • self hatred of how one looks and acts
  • self doubt of one’s abilities, worth, goodness
  • fear of one’s own power
  • an urgent pull to assimilate or “prove them wrong”
  • not doing something because it is “acting white”
  • isolation from one’s own group
  • self blame for lack of success
  • dependency
  • changing how one looks, acts, or talks to be more accepted by dominant
  • mistreating, judging others in your group for not being Black enough,
    Latino enough, etc.
  • blaming others in your group for being victims of racism
  • colorism within the group valuing those who have lighter skin over
    those with darker skin
  • fighting over the smallest slice of the economic pie


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