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Social Justice Foundations

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John McKnight

on 10 August 2018

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Transcript of Social Justice Foundations

Social Justice Ally Development
Social Justice Defined

The goal is "full and equal participation for all groups, where resources are equitably distributed and everyone is physically and psychologically safe" (Bell, 2007).

Adams & Bell (2007) state that "social justice is both a process and a goal" where equal access and participation in society exists regardless of group membership.

People in a just society are aware of and choose to fight against unearned power and privileges.
The 64-Million Dollar Question
What kind of ally would you like to be?
Who are the people or what are the issues you care about?
How can this week help you to get there?
What information are you lacking about the systems that keep oppression in place for the target groups?
How will you obtain this information?
Social Justice Foundations
John McKnight & Amber Zuber
Intended Outcomes:
Through active participation in this workshop, attendees will be able to:
Define 'social justice' and other key terms, including:
social construction
Identify subordinated and dominant group memberships;
Generate examples of individual, institutional and social/cultural oppression
Understand social justice ally identity development
Key Terminology
Diversity Defined
Talbot (1996) defined diversity as “a structure that includes the tangible presence of individuals representing a variety of different attributes and characteristics”
Although other more comprehensive definitions exist (Levin, 2003; Milem, 2003), diversity is often used to refer to the number or proportion of individuals with a specific characteristic in an environment. Gurin (1999)referred to this interpretation as “structural diversity.”
Talbot (1996) defined multiculturalism as “a state of being in which an individual feels comfortable and communicates effectively”across social groups (p. 381).
Whereas diversity is a quantifiable characteristic of an environment, multiculturalism is better conceptualized as a journey that is ongoing and developmental (Talbot, 1996).
Awareness - Being aware of one’s internal biases, prejudices, and “isms” (e.g., racism, heterosexism, classism, sexism).

Skills - Being able to successfully navigate relationships and communicate within a specific culture. Example – being able to talk within 6-12 inches of personal space vs. the 18-36 inches common in the U.S.

Knowledge - Specific pieces of information about a culture or a group’s historical timeline. Example - giving the “thumbs up” suggests approval in the U.S., but is a curse word in some parts of the Middle East.

Developing multicultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures
Multicultural Competence
- Awareness, Skills, Knowledge
Group Membership
Group Identities
Sexual Orientation
Socioeconomic Status
Individual Identity
Physical Traits
Life Experiences
Family Traditions
Dominant & Subordinated Identities
Dominant Identities
Are often dominant by virtue of majority
Have greater access to power and privileges
Make the rules
See their behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, values as normative
Examples include males, Whites, Christians, others?
Subordinated Identities
Often in the minority
Know more about dominant group members than the reverse
Have to understand the rules for survival
Are accustomed to being viewed as 'the other'
Examples include women, POC, Jews, others?
Power & Privilege
Power is the notion that members of dominant groups are able to assert control (indirectly or directly) over subordinated groups.
Ex: Only U.S. citizens over 18 can vote in presidential elections
Ex: All students will be required to purchase a meal plan
Other examples?
Privilege is the idea that there are unearned benefits associated with being a member of a dominant group.
Ex: Men often earn more than their female counterparts
Wage gap - $.77 to $1.00
Ex: Heterosexual PDA
Michael Sam & media fallout from "the kiss"
Other examples?
Activity: Who am I?
Dominant and Subordinated Identities
Social Construction
One of the key theories from sociology that aids in our collective understanding of how groups and systems were formed.
Josselson (1996) argued... that identity is “not just a private, individual matter [but] a complex negotiation between the person and society” (p. 31).
"To say of something that it is socially constructed is to emphasize its dependence on contingent aspects of our social selves. It is to say: This thing could not have existed had we not built it; and we need not have built it at all, at least not in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had we had different needs, values, or interests, we might well have built a different kind of thing, or built this one differently. The inevitable contrast is with a naturally existing object, something that exists independently of us and which we did not have a hand in shaping."
-Paul Bosshogian, NYU Professor of Philosophy
John's slight amendment -- some things exist naturally, but as humans, we create rules, norms and behaviors and apply them to those natural existences
Ex: Body type, skin color, others?
Social Construction of Gender
Who decided that men should dominate societies?
Women of the Hopi Indian Tribe were
(and are) in matrilineal, which means
they trace family lineage through mothers.

Women also participate fully in their societies,
as storytellers, artists, musicians and

There were more than 18,000 Hopi living in
the United States in the 2010 census.
Social Construction of Race
Race is not biological.
Race: category of people labeled and treated similarly because of some common biological traits

Has no biologically scientific basis; biological variability exists but doesn’t match our “race” categories precisely

Racial characteristics aren’t transmitted as complexes in our DNA
Diversity Education: Focuses on appreciating social differences without an emphasis on power dynamics or differential access to resources and institutional support needed to live safe, satisfying, productive lives.
A system that maintains advantage and disadvantage based on stereotyped social group memberships. Oppression operates on many levels and happens both intentionally and unintentionally.

Levels of Oppression
Individual: attitudes and actions that reflect prejudice against a social group
Institutional: Policies, laws, rules, norms and customs enacted by organizations and social institutions that disadvantage some social groups and advantage other social groups
Cultural: Social norms, roles, rituals, language, music, and art that reflect and reinforce the belief that one social group is superior to another

Oppression results in disadvantage for targeted groups and privilege for advantaged groups.

Matrix of Oppression
Group Membership (Dominant & Subordinated Group Identities)
Multicultural Competence
Social Construction
Social Justice
Multicultural Competence
Identity Development
"Wow, there are a lot of different types of people here... "
"All this diversity is making me think a little deeper about who I am."
"Learning about myself has made me want to know a lot more about others."
"Developing multicultural competence has made me realize that I have some privileges in life... now what do I do?"
Social Justice Ally Development
"I understand that some groups of people are more privileged than others in our society, and I don't think that's quite right. I am finding ways to advocate on the behalf of the underprivileged. This will make us all better as a society."
The Path from Diversity to Social Justice
3D Matrix of Oppression
Activity: The Matrix
Understanding the Levels of Oppression
What is an Ally?
Ally: A member of a dominant social group who is working to end the system of oppression that gives them greater privilege and power based on their social group membership (e.g. men working against sexism)

Advocate: Someone who speaks up for her/himself and members of her/his identity group (e.g. GLBT people working toward marriage equality)
Believing provocatively dressed women are "asking for it"
A man feeling obligated to carry a heavy package for a woman
Assuming men in the workplace are providing for their families
Assuming women of child-bearing age are less committed to their careers
Telling a blonde joke
Deferring to a woman to take notes during a group project
Believing that men are better negotiators (think-car dealership)
Expecting that women will change their names after getting married
Objectifying women in advertisements
Asking women if they are stay at home moms
Offering maternity leave for women but not paternity leave for men
Designing an academic building with fewer female restrooms than male restrooms
Aspiring Ally Identity Development
For Self-Interest
For Altruism
For Social Justice
Selfish - I do this for the people I know and care about
Other - I do this for them
Combined Selfishness - I do this for us all
Ally to...
A person
A target group
An issue
Relationship with members of the oppressed group
Focus of the problem
Individuals - overt perpetrators
Others from the agent group
I don't make mistakes - I'm a good person, and perpetrators are just bad people
Has difficulty admitting mistakes to self or others - struggles with critique or exploring own issues - highly defensive when confronted with own behavior
Seeks critique as gifts and admits mistakes as part of doing the work and a step towards ones own liberation - has accepted own isms and seeks help in uncovering them
Doesn't see privilege - wants to maintain status quo
Feels guilty about privilege and tries to distance self from it
Sees illumination of privilege as liberating and consciously uses unearned privilege against itself
Adapted from Edwards, 2006, p. 47
Journal Prompt:
Full transcript