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19:910:506 Diversity and Oppression Encourages Strengthens Rutgers University

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Rutgers University

19:910:506 Diversity and Oppression Encourages Strengthens Rutgers University

This paper explores the relationship between an individual’s cultural background or family
heritage and their position on the continuum of privilege and oppression. Looking at the
geographical history of my family, paired with a personal interview regarding the family’s
changing values and behaviors throughout history, this paper attempts to unpack the ways in
which individual views on this subject change over time. This paper also highlights the works of
individuals who have made significant contributions to the study of diversity and oppression,
namely Peggy McIntosh. Researching one’s family history, as well as becoming more aware of
the concepts of privilege and oppression, encourages and strengthens one’s sense of compassion,
which is a critical aspect of the field of social work.
Keywords:privilege, oppression, personal history, family tree, culture, diversity

Personal Background Paper
When asked to identify myself through a cultural lens, I don’t always know what to say
because I don’t know much about my family’s heritage. Growing up, my parents told me that I
am mix of German, Hungarian, Russian, Dutch, and Irish backgrounds. So, naturally, that’s what
I identified as when I was asked about my nationality as a child. As I got older, I realized that my
nationality didn’t have much meaning to me when it comes to who I am as a person because it
doesn’t particularly influence my life in any recognizable way. Now, at 22 years old, I identify
myself as a white, female college student from Central New Jersey. To me, those qualities are
the most relevant as far as who I am as a person.
In high school, my history teacher assigned us to write essays on our heritage and the
background of our families. It was as difficult then as it is now to get information about my
heritage because I have a relatively small family. I live with my parents in New Jersey, but the
rest of my family lives six hours away in Pennsylvania. My uncle on my mom’s side lives there
with his family; my maternal grandmother, who is my only living biological grandparent,
recently moved there as well. I essentially have no relatives on my dad’s side because we are not
in contact with the few that are still alive. Writing that paper taught me a bit more aboutwhere I
come from, but my family didn’t document or remember many details, so it was and still is
difficult to tell a concrete story about my lineage. My grandmother tells me that her grandmother
came to America from Austria, but she even admitted that she’s not entirely sure how factual that
statement is. Unfortunately, that is the extent of my knowledge when it comes to my family’s
geographical history.


19:910:506 Diversity and Oppression Encourages Strengthens Rutgers University

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