Isn’t Rank about Perception?
Not really. This is one of the hardest elements of our model for people to grasp. One way to connect to the idea at the heart of Rank is that it has to do with cost. Let’s look at a couple of examples that may seem exaggerated.
A person who as far as they have known is European American discovers on their 37th birthday that they have an African American grandparent, If we base our analysis of Rank on perception, we would surmise that the person did not experience racism until after their 37th birthday, if at all. Under our definition, that person would have experienced the impact of such oppression their whole life. Why didn’t they know about their African American roots? The secrecy and invisibility result from White supremacy; oppression has prevented the person from knowing the truth about their family and their own identity.
Another example would be a person who as far as they know does not have a disability. Sometime later in their life, they come to consciousness about their disability. One likely reason for their late discovery is ableism. Thus ableism has cut the person off from self-knowledge and from access to accommodations.
What if people don’t know or can’t tell you’re Gay or a Person of Color?
These questions come from people’s attempts to sort out whether social membership is a function of perception. We propose that it is not exclusively or primarily perceptual.
In discussing what Rank is or is not in trainings it is sometimes helpful to illuminate using these kinds of so- called “extreme” examples. What if you’re Native and don’t know you’re Native? What if you have a disability and don’t know you have disability? We bring these examples up in order to highlight that Rank is not about perception, neither others’ perception of the person or the person’s own perception. This contrasts with the widely held understanding of social memberships as purely perceptual. Instead, we suggest that Rank dynamics are trans-perceptual, peri-perceptual. They are related to the economy of energy, access, and costs – the ways that Rank can limit a person’s experience.
Why do so many people not know that they have Indigenous heritage? Because anti-indigenous oppression forced families to keep that ancestry secret, the shame-related associations with Indigenous heritage lead to families “forgetting” their authentic heritage. The descendants who don’t know their background have been Targets of such oppression. Recognizing the costs to a person who lost part of their ancestry is anti-oppressive. Recognizing the benefit of “passing” as non-Native is also anti-oppressive,
If the reason a person has not come out to them selves is compulsory heterosexuality, then they have been a Target of heterosexism and homophobia – both external and internal – regardless of whether or not they appear gay to anyone else or themselves. Recognizing the cost of homophobia to a person who doesn’t recognize their own sexuality until later in life – or ever – is an anti-oppressive awareness.
The ADRESSING Model
Remember that Rank is constructed, artificial, and even arbitrary. We’ve discussed how Rank categories have real implications for people’s lives while simultaneously being based on false and outdated notions. It is difficult to expound on social categories, given how problematic they are. Yet, it is necessary to make a serious analysis nonetheless. To begin a comprehensive examination of Rank, we will look at nine categories for Ranking human beings that currently operate in the United States. All societies have categories for Ranking human beings, which vary not only by geography but also by human era. Rank categories do change over time, but this happens only slowly, on a scale best measured in generations or centuries. Looking at some of the Rank category definitions that have changed, we come face to face with how arbitrary they are. For example, in the 19th century Irish immigrants to the United States were not considered White, as they are now.
Nine Categories of Rank
The nine categories of Rank we identify, following the work of Pamela Hays (2001), are; age, disability, religious culture, ethnicity, social class culture, sexual orientation, Indigenous heritage, national origin, and gender.
The first Rank category is age. Anyone younger than 18 or older than 64 is a member of the age Target group, while people between age 18 and 64 carry Agent Rank. Unlike most Rank categories, membership in this category changes; anyone who lives long enough will experience being a member of a Target group, an Agent group, and a Target group again. Age Target group membership is the only Target category that everyone has experienced, and for a small number of people will be the only type of Target group membership they ever experience.
Childhood and adolescence don’t have to be painful. In fact, for many, they are joyful. Even those with happy childhoods experienced effects of ageism such as being discounted, having less say, and being stereotyped. Much of the suffering experienced by children and adolescents is a direct result of a societal tendency to devalue them. Even the most privileged and favored members of society have shared the vulnerability and powerlessness of being a child and adolescent.
While some elements of age-privilege may begin before or after age 18, or continue past age 64, generally 18 is the age at which we acquire civil rights and are formally acknowledged as an adult in society. Age 65 is generally recognized as retirement age, and this marks a watershed in the loss of Agent group membership.
The oppression associated with this category is ageism. It relates to unnecessary suffering of children, adolescents, and elders caused by societal, institutionalized, and systematic overvaluing of adults.
LaVerne Smith Quote
After fifty years as a business owner and interior designer I have arrived at my 80th year reasonably intact. I dress neatly, my hair is lightly graying and well styled. My hardly-discernible hearing aids allow me to perceive sounds well. I am socially active and able to communicate with intelligence, courtesy and some degree of wit.
Is it a wonder then that I am astonished when tradespeople fail to acknowledge me as being worth their attention? I seem to have fallen into the category of “un important” without recognizing all that much change in myself. I feel tolerated at best, ignored at worst. I find this disconcerting though I retain a healthy sense of my own worth through it all.
It is disturbing and bewildering to me that older people are so often treated as almost invisible here in the United States.
If I were somehow restricted to one outing a week to shop for food or medicine in stores where I may be treated inhumanely, how long would it take for me to lose my self worth? How long would it take anyone? I am truly saddened to consider this probability.
LaVerne Smith, Age Target Group Member, Social Class Agent Group Member
Jean Swallow Quote
Loss of memory, poor concentration, fatigue, apathy, are classic symptoms of depression in a 20 or an 80 year old. What does it mean to be depressed because people’s attitudes toward you are so annihilating, and then to have your depression diagnosed as hopeless senility?
Jean Swallow (1986, p. 202)
Disability and able loss can range from visible physical limitations and sensory differences to invisible mental, intellectual, and emotional losses. A person with no use of their limbs is a Disability Target, and so is one with undiagnosed dyslexia. Society is organized to exclude and to limit the possibilities of people with disabilities, even so-called “mild” disabilities. People with “invisible” disabilities, such as learning disabilities, often have the experience of being a Target without knowing why.
Disability, unlike most Rank categories, can change during a person’s lifetime. Able loss is intrinsically a part of the human experience; an illness, injury, or temporary medical condition can make anyone a Disability Target, for varying periods of time. Most people will have Target Rank in this category at some point in their lives. People with no disability have Agent Rank, while people with any disability are Target group members.
Many experiences of able loss are painful in themselves. Ableism is not associated with that pain. There are inherent struggles in living with restricted mobility. Ableism has to do with the compounding effect of societal devaluing on top of any difficulties associated with the disability itself. For example, many people within the Deaf culture make it clear that being Deaf is not in itself undesirable to them. Hearing dominance is what is oppressive.
The oppression associated with this category is Ableism.
Why are some things considered a “disability” while some are not?
Ableness, just like all the other ADRESSING categories, is a construct, and a faulty one. The truth is that able loss is intrinsically a part of the human experience. Under ableism we ail limit our definition of what it means to be human to able-persons. This leads to a tendency to minimize able loss and to resist taking into consideration the needs of ableism Targets.
One symptom of this resistance is to only acknowledge visible and pronounced able loss. An anti-oppressive position would be to recognize that all able loss matters and that ableism affects all who experience able loss. The goal is not to suggest that every person’s experience of able loss is equivalent, just that able supremacy affects all ableism Targets.
Hearing-Sighted Privilege (by AJ Granda)
· Hearing-sighted people can expect not to have to deal with non-hearing/Deaf-Blind people.
· Hearing-sighted people can expect not to be in the presence of Deaf-Blind people most of the time.
· Hearing-sighted people expect Deaf-Blind people to be grateful to hearing-sighted people if he or she is nice or helps them.
· Hearing-sighted people don’t expect not to be thanked. They will wait, linger a bit, waiting for their profuse thanks.
· Hearing-sighted people expect their personal spaces to be the right personal space and any other definition of personal space is wrong.
· Hearing-sighted people have the privilege to ignore messages or points they don’t like.
· Hearing-sighted people expect all of their own points or messages to be listened to.
· Hearing-sighted people have a huge, huge privilege in “selectiveness” – they have the most options and they have the most privilege to select exactly what they want.
· Hearing-sighted people have the privilege to believe that they are totally independent, even when they are dependent on certain things.
· Hearing-sighted people can believe any alternative forms of independence are not considered independent.
· Hearing-sighted people have the privilege of many, many things being designed particularly for them: audio, visual information, driving, reading, PA communications, computers, everything – they are basically designed for hearing-sighted people.
· Hearing-sighted people have the privilege of having the national language and its most common medium – speech – be accessible to them only.
· Hearing-sighted can expect Deaf-Blind people to be friendly, yet Deaf-Blind people have many more barriers which causes a daily frustration. If everything were Brailled, roped, wheelchair accessible, the message would be everyone is truly welcome, but it is not. The everyday message is exclusion, which causes isolation, frustration, and hopelessness.
· Hearing-sighted people can have a medical emergency, robbery, anything and expect to receive immediate help.
· Hearing-sighted people have the privilege to be an individual. If a Deaf-Blind person arrives for work late (or does something) they represent the entire group of Blind people (“those Deaf-Blind people are always late”).
· Hearing-sighted people can go to any lecture, movie, and workshop without preparation. They can just show up. A Deaf-Blind person has to plan, arrange an interpreter and be expected to show up because hearing-sighted people paid for the interpreter – IF the agency even provides an interpreter.
· Hearing-sighted people can say what they want anytime, anywhere, and they can expect to be understood.
· Hearing-sighted people do not have to explain themselves.
· Hearing-sighted people are not assumed to be dumb first and patronized, then met with a surprised “Oh, you have a brain?”
Religious culture refers not to a person’s avowed religious faith, but to the religious culture in which they were raised and/or participate. Religious culture is institutionalized in social practices such as having a Christmas holiday with sanctioned time off, but not one for Ramadan, Tet, Rosh Hashanah, or Buddha’s birthday. We make a distinction between the words Christendom and Christianity. Christendom refers to the historical spread of norms and values that society has come to associate with Christianity. Christendom is a large category that includes faithing Christians and people raised in the United States who do not identify with Christianity but are also not members of another religious group. Members of Christendom carry Agent Rank under this category, even if they are not practicing Christians. People who grew up in families with Christian roots are members of Christendom, even if their family was not a church-going one. People who grow up with exposure to Christianity and Christendom-defined values in their family, but are also members of a religion or religious culture outside Christendom are Target group members.
Atheists and agnostics who were raised within Christendom hold Agent Rank. Encountering this part of the ADRESSING model, if we identify as atheists or agnostics we may feel inclined to debate the boundaries of this membership, based on our experiences of exclusion. Of course, as you’ve read, the categories are flawed.
We see the distinction between Status loss and Target Rank as significant here. Status loss is a momentary condition that can be delineated in time (there’s a before and an after), in which a particular something about ourselves can be used against us. An incident of exclusion can stand out to our consciousness because it’s rare and not the norm for our lives. We refer to that as a Status loss experience. For example, being teased at school for not being a Christian, and rather for being an atheist, constitutes a Status loss experience.
However, if that person who is an atheist or agnostic is raised with an understanding of the cultural codes of Christendom, they are able to participate and have access to the dominant cultural trends, values, and ways they are advantaged by virtue of not being a member of another religious culture. One way we put this is “If you were born and raised in the United States and you are agnostic or atheist, then a cultural assumption imposed on you is that the God you don’t believe in is the Christian God.” The exclusion felt by an atheist or agnostic who is culturally a member of Christendom is different from the systemic oppression which faces members of other religious cultures, such as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and Indigenous religions, including dissenting and atheist members of those traditions. Members of Christendom who participate in other religious practices, such as meditation, yoga, chanting, or Indigenous ceremony, maintain their Agent Rank. If this category seems particularly ambiguous to you, consider the possibility that you may hold Agent Rank.
This distinction can be subtle; people do change religions, and many of us participate in elements of multiple religious cultures at different times in our lives. We’re talking about deep conditioning and access to cultural orientations that persist whether or not we see ourselves as actively aligned with Christianity. Those of us who participated in Christian cultural activities growing up (such as having a Christmas tree, hunting for Easter eggs), or were exposed to Christian religious doctrine (attending church or Sunday school, reading the Bible at home) hold Agent Rank, unless we have actively converted and claimed a religious membership outside of Christendom. Barbara Rogoff s (2003) way of thinking about what makes up culture is useful here.
“Variations among participants in a community are to be expected. Participants do not have precisely the same points of view, practices, backgrounds, or goals. Rather, they are part of a somewhat coordinated organization. They are often in complementary roles, playing parts that fit together rather than being identical, or in contested relationships with each other, disagreeing about features of their own roles or community direction while requiring some common ground even for the disagreement. It is the common ways that participants in a community share (even if they contest them) that I regard as culture” (p. 81).
One form of oppression associated with this category is anti-Semitism, also called anti-Jewish oppression. Corollary terms would be anti-Muslimism, anti-Paganism, or anti-Sikhism. Christian Supremacy is also an appropriate term.
Why are agnostic and atheist listed as Agent?
In this model, the focus is on cultural groups that carry supremacy. In the United States, the religious group in dominance is not only members of Christian religions but members of Christendom. We use this term to refer to the control group, those who have been affected and shaped in large part by the spread of Christian religions. For example, at the present time, individuals in the U.S. who participate culturally in the Christian calendar are members of Christendom, regardless of whether they identify as people of faith.
Members of the Target group under religious culture include both active believers and people raised within other religious faiths; Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikh ism, Bahaii, Paganism, Santeria, and Indigenous religions from any region of the world. Members of the Target group may be secular or believers; what matters is their cultural membership, not their specific belief system, practices, or faith.
Why are Catholics not listed as Targets?
It is because Catholics are members of Christendom and Christianity. In the history of the U.S. and the world, different religious groups have carried dominance at different times. Currently, Catholicism is not outside of Christendom.