Deconstructing -Isms and Phobias

A Lifelong Journey

Racism conjures up a multitude of definitions and interpretations, not to mention emotions. Critical Race Theorists have devoted years, some literally dedicating their lives to discerning the origins, peripheries and nuances of its meanings and impacts on society. For years Racism was front and center. Eventually Sexism began to call for equal attention. Both -isms transitioned as scholars began to equate Racism and Sexism as having the same oppressive components and connections to power, control, white dominance and male privilege.

These two -isms received the major portion of attention during Diversity Literacy conferences and workshops leaving other -isms and social phobias unmentioned. As with Racism and Sexism, other social constructs foster oppression and victimization. All are highly complex as to their “thin or thick” understanding. As with medical pathologies and deceases, social scientists, Diversity Literacy scholars and theorists use their own x-rays tools to discover, interpret and explain their findings. In time, the layers of complexity became refined as scholarly MRIs provides layers of meaning.

Historians, psychologists, anthropologists, scholars, educators and critical theorists began to uncover the depths of oppression and victimization and the lingering intragenerational and multigenerational effects on what Paulo Freire called the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” – the complex relationships between oppressors, the oppressed and the process of oppression. 

As the 21st Century provided more opportunities to expand research by authentic minority voices, new social constructs were exposed and made clear. For example, discourse on Race and Gender evolved with sub-headings of overt, covert, aversive and institutional. Gender became more than just about male or female identity. Sexism and feminism provided astute clarifications focusing on individual rights, choice and equity.  The constructs of Ability, Age, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Religion and Socio-economic Status became the Big 8 followed by the Small 4 – Situational Factors, Geographic Origin, Marital Status, and Physical Appearance.

Fast forward to 2019 and the list has become quite sophisticated, amplified and ever growing.


The following are but a sample of Social Constructs [oppressive behaviors, practices, ideologies, theories, traumas (acute, chronic, or complex) -isms and phobias]:

Admission Unethical Practices, Ageism, Anti-Semitism, Apartheid, Arranged/Forced Marriages, Authoritarianism, Biases, Bigotry, Birtherism (Birthism), Boys Will Be Boys, Chauvinism, Child Abuse, Child Marriage, Child Slavery, Colonialism, Confirmation Bias, Conspiracy Theories, Demagoguery, Despotism, Discrimination, Doctrine of Discovery, Domestic Slavery, Domestic Terrorism, Domestic Violence, Dysgenics, Eugenics, Fascism, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Gaslighting, Genocide, Good Old Boys’ Club, Hegemony, Hidden History, Historical [Negationism, Revisionism, Denialism], Holocaust, Homophobia, Human Trafficking, Imperialism, Incest, Identity Politics, Indentured Servitude, Intellectual Inferiority Theory, Intra-generational Trauma, Intergenerational Trauma, Internal Colonialism, Islamophobia, Jingoism, Legal Lynching, Lookism, Lynching, Machoism, Mein Kampf, Middle Passage, Misandry, Misogyny, Multigenerational Trauma, Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, Nationalsozialismus, Narcism, Nazism, Nepotism, Pathological Lying (The Big Lie), Patriarchy, Plantation Schools, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD), Predispositions, Prejudice, Profiling, Psychological Inferiority Theory, Racism (Overt, Covert, Aversive, Systemic, Institutional), Rape, Relocations, Scapegoating, Scientific Racism, Separátocide, Sexism, Sexual Assault, Sexual Coercion, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Slave Ships, Slavery, Social Death, Soul Wounds, Stereotyping, Survivor Syndrome, Terra Nullius, Terrorism, Totalitarianism, Transphobia, Unmarked Slave Graves, Wakiksuyapi (Lakota), Wedge Issues, White Entitlement, White Nationalism, White Loss, White Privilege, White Slavery, White Supremacy, Xenophobia.

Given that Diversity-Threads is dedicated to the subject of Diversity and its Threads, the discussion of social constructs can’t be ignored. Therefore, a more in-depth understanding of social constructs requires critical examination. In order to achieve this goal, we need to listen and speak with a broad sense of knowledge and understanding rather than snippets of talking points overheard by one-sided radio or cable talk show hosts on NPR, CNN, MSNBC or FoxNews.

The stakes are too high – beyond audience ratings. Lives are on the line – children’s lives. The tenets of democracy, justice, rule of law, civility and decency are on the line. Citizenship itself is under MRI scrutiny.

It comes down to personal awareness – personal courage – personal integrity of what we think America is and should be. America – calling out to each of us as it has done in the past – not waiting for the 4th to wave a flag, echo truncated talking points. It now asks for much more… to do violence to our constructed souls.