You are on page 1of 6

Running head: Dominate and subordinate reflection 1

Dominant and Subordinate Group Analysis

Jeremy D. Williams
Georgia State University

Dominate and subordinate reflection 2

This paper was intended to take a look at intersectionality and the important role it plays
in shaping a persons life. This is particularly important as a Social Work professional who at
some point will work with a diverse clientele and will need to understand their own personal
history and how it may affect their interactions with clients. This paper also looks into the ways
in which we are both dominant and subordinate and this also is very important. By looking at just
a few of the ways in which we are subordinate it allows us to be better advocates for those less
fortunate then ourselves by having some understanding of what it means to be in that situation.

Since the beginning of human history, people have sought a way to stand out from each
other. This has led to the creation of different categories that separate people for what are

Dominate and subordinate reflection 3

sometimes seen as seemingly pointless and superficial reasons. Some examples include religious
practice, ethnic background, race, gender, sexual orientation. These differences have played a
large part in many peoples lives in the fact that these variations have created what is often
referred to as a system of interlocking oppression. A system of interlocking oppression is a
system in which several of a persons variations are difference combine with one another to
create an oppression that is specific to them. The different ways in which a person can be
dominant as well as subordinate in a society will also be looked at from different points of views.
Subordinate Identification
African Americans
The first subordinate identity that was chosen was race. According to McIntosh (1988)
white people in America are born with an invisible set of currency which they cash in everyday
unconsciously. In reference to this, if as a white person you have a set of currency that you are
able to use every day, I would say African Americans have an invisible debt which they have to
pay every day. For example, a person of color cant go shopping, especially in a large group,
without being followed or looked at strangely. Positive media portrayals of people of color isnt
common place. A person of color cannot excel in any area without being looked at as a model
member of my race. The list of debts is an exhaustive list that many African Americans have to
pay and effects every member of the race in enormous ways. With the bombardment of images
the public receives about this particular group from the media there is no wonder when entering a
high end store no service is offered immediately, or the service at restaurants is visibly different
from the service members of other racial groups receive. This injustice is maintained by a system
that maintains the status quo, even at the expense of all those subordinate individuals, or none
The elderly population has been somewhat successful in drawing attention to some of the
problems their community faces. One group that has not received nearly as much attention, and
are subordinate when compared to older adults, are young adults. This has caused a marginalized
population, such as young adults, to be almost completely overlooked. Due to many of the
stereotypes associated with young people, this population has been largely locked out by law or
by default of many positions and opportunities of power. Often seen as reckless, brash, lacking
morals, and short sited, many young adults if they tried would find themselves locked out of
mechanisms meant to help them. According to Gotgtay (as cited in Rogers, 2013) teens tend to
rely on the amygdala for emotional processing whereas adults use the frontal cortex. Thus, teens
tend to be more impulsive and over reactive than adults and less able to accurately interpret
others emotions. For example, young adults pay a substantial amount more for car insurance then
do older individuals. By making the price for car insurance higher on young adults you dissuade
many from purchasing a vehicle, which in todays increasingly competitive job market is a tool
that further allows an individual to be not only independent, but the car is also an investment that
later can be sold. The bias towards young adults takes a dramatic toll on not only the lives of
subordinated young adults, but also on older adults, who in this situation would be considered
dominant. This bias increases the dependence of young adults on the older population.
Another subordinate group membership would be the one that is anything other than
Christian. As a self-proclaimed agnostic in America. In an overwhelmingly Christian nation,
being agnostic has many drawbacks as you would assume, everything from the currency used,

Dominate and subordinate reflection 4

which has in god we trust, to the ongoing practice of presidents taking their oath of office while
having their hand on a bible, can be a slap in the face of those who dont share the same values
and ideas. In a majority Christian nation it is not hard to perceive many of the slights and
hardships non-Christian citizens go through. For example, often friends detail how once they are
revealed to be non-Christian people immediately question their morality or associate them with
negative stereotypes about that particular group. Non- Christians also overwhelmingly see
themselves represented in government by the dominant group, which are Christians in this
Dominant Identities
Being seen as dominant as a man is no surprise seeing as the United States is, and
continues to be a male driven society. This is seen most clearly at work, where being a male
provides unmistakable advantages. One such advantage is that the work done by men and
women are judged differently even when the work is the exact same. There is an almost
unconscious belief that if a man has done the work, its not only done, but done properly. A
prime example would be past managers, having worked under both male and female supervision
it was quite clear that certain things were never done regardless of the gender of the supervisor.
But when the work is inspected afterwards the male manager is always given a good job, while
the female gets complaints about the work not being completed, even though they both do the
exact same amount of work. The work is the same, the only thing that changes is the
expectations. When women are supervisors the expectation coming in is that the work wasnt
done correctly. Males are also given tasks that fit our stereotypical sex roles. For example,
women are unevenly placed in positions that require little manual labor but more customer
service, where the man at work are often placed in positions that require a lot of physically
demanding labor. It becomes clear why women are cited to be a subordinate population in the
work force, especially in this situation where they are often the disadvantage group from the
beginning by preconceived notions.
No Dependents
Another subordinate group would be individuals who enter the workforce with
dependents. As a person with no dependents the freedom felt by not having dependents is one
very few people get to feel. With no dependents and nothing to worry about ultimately, but
yourself it makes it then more possible for a person to speak up about stuff like sexism or unsafe
working conditions because the threat of job loss loses its power when you just have to think
about nothing. If there are dependents, it becomes unwise to place yourself in any situation
where you will not be able to provide for those you have to provide for. Coworkers, past and
present have described the need and want to quit or speak up about certain things they find
questionable, but they find these questions smothered by the need to provide for those
individuals waiting for them at home.
Abled Bodied
The third dominate group membership is being a part of the abled body population. This
is a powerful group because they are the individuals who hold the most power in society. The
people we often look up to and respect are generally apart of this group. This group includes
politicians, professional athletes, entertainers, and even mailmen. People who are not a part of

Dominate and subordinate reflection 5

the able bodied population face many discriminatory practices, some of which are illegal but still
occur. For example, although its required by law to have access points for individuals who have
disabilities, but often these access points and other seemingly brilliant ideas often exacerbate the
helplessness many disabled people may feel. For example, often time wheelchair ramps are far
out of the way from the entrance and may increase feelings of alienation. As an able bodied
person everything is built with my general ease at mind. There is always a place for the abled
bodied to eat, stand, sit, and rest with relatives ease. Able bodied individuals never have to ask
for special accommodations to be provided, or have to give special notice to teachers or
employees. According to Cooney (2015), Twenty-five years after the Americans with
Disabilities Act became law, navigating Boston can still be a challenge, marked by seemingly
small barriers that can range from humiliating to insurmountable. After losing her leg in the
Boston marathon bombing Jessica Kenly said I am living in a world that is not built for me,
(Cooney 2015).
It has become clear the multi-faceted problems that many clients will face. This
assignment revealed that as a social worker it will be a necessary function of the job to
understand how a specific person can both be empowered and devalued at the same time do to
certain characteristics they possess. It has become increasingly clear that different groups will
and can find themselves empowered in various ways in various situations and that this has and
will continue to have a large effect on individuals. One way in which we can combat the natural
tendency to deny or resist awareness of the ways in we are oppressed and/or oppress others is by making
sure we understand the many ways in which we and other people may be different and then
embracing those differences.


Dominate and subordinate reflection 6

Cooney, E. (2015, October 5). Accessibility issues persist for disabled - The Boston
Globe. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from
6iCfhI/story.html Lum, D. (2011). Culturally competent practice: A framework
for understanding diverse groups and justice issues (4th ed., p. 55). Belmont, CA:
McIntosh, P. (1988). White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to
see correspondences through work in women's studies. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley
College, Center for Research on Women.
Rogers, A. (2013). Human behavior in the social environment (3rd ed.). New York, NY: