This is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Systemic oppression, personal bigotry, and jerkiness are not the same, and they’re all bad.
Systemic oppression involves historical, societal structures or norms that systematically deny or diminish rights to a group of people. In the United States, people of color, women, queer folk, and poor folk among others have faced systemic oppression. There are rich folk who have faced systemic oppression, but not for being rich: rich women have faced oppression for their gender, and rich Black people have faced oppression for their race. And there are White folk who have faced systemic oppression, but not for being white.
Acting in ways that strengthen systemic oppression is real bad, even when it doesn’t involve personal bigotry or jerkiness. For example, if I as a teacher rely heavily on standardized tests that have a history of bias against students of color, that’s an awful thing to do, even if I hold no personal bigotry. It’s always jerky, since it always involves mistreatment.
Personal Bigotry involves making value judgements about people based on irrelevant characteristics. These can be made about any group of people. I can be bigoted against White people based on their whiteness, or straight people based on their straightness, or men based on their gender. This is different from systemic oppression.
These beliefs are harmful to the holder’s psyche, but more importantly, when they’re acted on, they’re bad for the folks who are the targets of the bigotry. If I as a teacher express bigotry against boys in my class, that’s harmful. If I as a poster on a messageboard express bigoted opinions, that’s gross.
Personal bigotry can tie into systemic oppression, and they synergize. A trans person who’s bigoted against cis folks and who expresses that bigotry is not doing a great thing; but there’s no synergy there. A cis person who’s bigoted against trans folks and who expresses that bigotry is also strengthening systemic oppression; and the systemic oppression is likely to strengthen other folks’ transphobic bigotry.
Jerkiness involves mistreating anyone. Like bigotry, it can be against anyone, but unlike bigotry, it can be expressed at an individual, and it can be based on relevant characteristics. This last bit is tricky, because it’s a real value judgement when someone is being jerky vs. being justifiably angry or direct. If someone is expressing bigotry, and I come down on them like a ton of bricks, is that justified? What if, in coming down on them, I bring up parts of their personal life that cause them grief?
Expressions of personal bigotry are almost always a form of jerkiness. Because bigotry is based on irrelevant characteristics, and because it generally expresses negative value judgements (even in cases where it superficially doesn’t, such as praising the supposedly innate sports talent of a racial group), expressing these ideas around a target of the bigotry is going to be unpleasant and unjustified.
I’m laying this out because so often I see people confusing and conflating these ideas; or I see people condoning their own shitty behavior by explaining which category they don’t fall into.
For the first part, someone might confuse systemic oppression with personal bigotry, and make some sort of claim about how reverse racism is just as bad as racism. They’re really suggesting that all kinds of bigotry are equally bad–but by not distinguishing between systemic oppression and personal bigotry, they’re missing the story.
I also see folks who excuse their own behavior. Someone might rant about men in a fashion that clearly expresses personal bigotry. If they’re called on it, they’ll get super-defensive about how men aren’t targets of systemic oppression. That’s true, but that’s not the point: it’s still shitty behavior to express personal bigotry, and it’s still shitty behavior to mistreat folks in that fashion.
In terms of how bad they are, systemic oppression > personal bigotry > jerkiness. They’re all shitty and should all be avoided.