Internalized Racial Oppression

Internalized Racist Oppression (IRO) is a specific training that WOCA provides.

IRO is the internalization by people of color (POC) of the images, stereotypes, prejudices, and myths promoted by the racist system about POC in this country. Their thoughts and feelings about themselves, people of their own racial group or other POC are based on the racist messages they receive form the broader system.

Internalized Racist Oppression manifests itself as:

  • self doubt

  • hopelessness

  • inferiority complex

  • powerlessness

  • self hate

  • apathy

  • low self esteem

  • addictive behavior

  • conflicts between racial groups

  • abusive & violent relationships


These also apply to poor white people and women who are often left out the system.

The cycle of oppression manifests during a person's early childhood years through misinformation, biased history, missing history, and stereotypes. The cycle is then reinforced by stereotypes, omissions, distortions, people, systems, institutions, family, friends, teachers, clergy, movies, athletes, artist, writers, government, media, higher education, and even people we know, love, and trust.

We collude both as oppressed and the oppressor:

  • We have internalized the process

  • We view the misinformation as truth and our reality

  • Difference = wrong and abnormal

  • Disconnect from those who look, sound, and speak like us

  • Agree openly with the opposite side against our own ethnic group to fit in

  • Deny own ethnic group, culture, traditions, and language



What Can Be Done?

We possess the knowledge, the tools, and the power to attack and eliminate patterns of internalized racism from among ourselves and in our communities. Nothing will contribute more significantly to our individual re-emergence nor to our liberation as people than our firm commitment to this project.

Each individual can commit himself or herself to learning to identify and recognize patterns of internalized racism in themselves and in others. Each individual can create ways of reminding ourselves to see patterns of internalized racism in all relationships and interactions with other that are not working well and are not characterized by understanding, cooperation’s, clear thinking and safety.

(Excerpted from Suzanne Lipsky’s Internalized Oppression.)


October 2000 IRO Workshop with trainer Yvonne Paul
The Women of Color Alliance will continue to provide this specific training throughout communities of color because, even though we may often share the same issues, we are from very different cultures, traditions, and backgrounds. In order to heal our communities, we first must heal from within and begin to build alliances with our white sisters, who may share similar issues with women of color: poverty, single parenting, two jobs, low income, domestic violence, or living in labor camps and reservations where education, jobs, and a strong support system may be limited. WOCA is an organization committed to empower women and girls of color in the state of Idaho. WOCA is an organization run by women of color on behalf of women and girls of color, who desire to reclaim their voice, while remembering those who came before us and those who will come after us.