Tag Archives: reporting

Science of Oppression I: A Basic Understanding of Variables

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


This is the first segment in – what should be – a regular series on this site. Part of my answer to the questions I raised in my “Elitism or Anti-Intellectualism” post, I hope to start making current research and discoveries about how humans work more accessible (and digestible) to folks fighting oppression outside of academia. My goal is to create an “online toolkit” of sorts – one full of scientific resources, references, etc. – built specifically for anti-oppression advocates. Those with the power to oppress often use (faulty) “science” to justify further oppression, and I want to do my part to give the rest of us the means to competently push back.

The first few posts in this series will not really focus on any current research, but instead touch on a few key concepts that are necessary to understand before moving forward.

This first is about how variables work, specifically in the context of oppression. Let’s just get to it.

Definitions:
So, just to make sure we’re all on the same page here – a “variable” is one, single, isolated factor of an overall system that has an effect on the system as a whole. Now, a “system” could be anything from a computer network to Oppression (*1) to a specific question about Oppression (ie. “why do black kids tend to sit together at lunch?”) – anywhere different pieces, doing different things, come together to make something bigger than those individual pieces.

How they work:
Okay. For any given system, there are a million little variables. Some of them bigger than others. For example, when we’re talking about our group of black kids at lunch, variables that could come into play are: race, age, gender, if the kids know each other, who their family is, the time of day, what’s for lunch that day, who the kids’ classmates are, the weather, the academic subject they studied right before lunch, class, what the kids are wearing, number of parents at home, their favorite color, the color of the lunchroom walls, etc.

Get the picture? Our first mistake when playing with systems – especially in answering big questions – is to choose one variable to focus on and dismissing the rest in our deeper analysis. Usually, we choose the variable that is most personal to us, or the most triggering, or that plays on our fears. We tunnel-vision in on just that one thing and create all sorts of – seemingly – logical arguments to go along with it. Continue reading