QUOTES FROM THE FIELD:
“Equity and inclusion is not a fixed point; it’s not something you either have or you don’t. We can apply psychologist Carol Dweck’s ideas about growth mindset to the work of equity and inclusion. Having a growth mindset means that we are going to make mistakes and be out of our comfort zones sometimes. Greater equity and inclusion is a goal we can keep working toward. I believe in the principle that we can get better at living and working together in a diverse community. Through faith and collaboration, we can accomplish good things.”
—Floyd Cheung, PhD
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Professor of English
Language & Literature and American Studies, Smith College
Not everyone’s bridge to college is the same length, paved with the same smoothness, or maintained with the same care. Some people find it very hard to locate any bridges at all, in fact. Even when some people try their best to build bridges to academia, it seems like an unidentifiable force on the other side blocks their attempts. Have you ever been discouraged from pursuing certain educational, social, economic, or career opportunities because of who you are? Who you are might mean the color of your skin, your native language, your cultural identity, your economic class, your religious affiliation, your sexual orientation, your gender identification, your physical and mental abilities, and more. If you say “yes” to this question, then you might want to learn about these systems of oppression while you’re a college student and ways to undo them. If you say “no” to this question, then it is your duty as an informed and educated college student to learn about the experiences of those who say “yes.” It is your duty to learn how to undo the systems of oppression that created this reality.
Many universities have as their stated goals in their mission statements the promotion of “intercultural learning” and of “lifelong learning.” Both of these are reflective practices and work toward an awareness of a cultural self. On page 31 of the open textbook Intercultural Learning: Critical Preparation for International Student Travel, the authors define “intercultural learning” as being open to alternative ways of knowing, being in, and seeing the world. Find your institution’s mission statement and see if terms such as “intercultural learning” are in it. If so, then diversity, inclusion, and equity should not be considered supplemental or outside parts of your university experience; they should be central.
The following key terms in the below table are important for conversations about diversity, inclusion, and equity and are remixed from the open textbook Intercultural Learning: Critical Preparation for International Student Travel, pp. 36-38. That textbook’s authors paraphrased each of these key words from original scholarly sources. I have not included the scholarly sources here for simplicity and because I cannot verify the exact paraphrases done by that text-book’s authors. This is not an intentional secondhand plagiarism of those original sources. If you want to find the original sources of these paraphrases and of my own below, please access the references on pages 48-51 of that text.
The process of adopting culture between individuals or groups. Acculturation can be voluntary when you agree to adopt another’s culture. Acculturation also can be involuntary when you must accept and participate in another’s culture.
Fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing the message of the speaker. Trying to be neutral and non-judgmental in your listening by avoiding reacting simultaneously.
The feeling or reality of exclusion, nonbelonging, and separateness.
Refers to the event of an alien people invading the territory inhabited by people of a different race and culture to establish political, social, spiritual, intellectual, and economic domination over that territory and people. It includes territorial and resource appropriation by the colonizer and loss of sovereignty by the colonized. The term also refers to a set of beliefs used to legitimize or promote this system, especially the belief that the morals and ethics of the colonizer are superior to those of the colonized.
The ability to perceive social, political, and economic oppression and to act against the oppressive elements of society.
The transformative process of understanding how power and domination come into practice. Critical reflection includes both structural analysis (such as of class, gender, or race) and cultural factors (such as of values, beliefs, or behaviors).
Practice where there is a diversity of traditions and intergenerational issues, ideologies, beliefs and religions, and race and ethnicities.
The ability to successfully form, foster, and improve relationships with members of a culture different from one’s own. It aims to avoid cultural blindness, or the assumption that all people are the same. At the same time, it is important not to fall into the trap of believing that there are so many differences that we cannot understand or relate to other people at all. Cultural competence is based on a commitment to actively seek information about different ways of doing things and applying and incorporating this information in practice. An understanding of the values, perceptions, social structure, norms, mores, and verbal and non-verbal communication strategies of other cultures. The process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.
A term used to describe the deliberate destruction of the cultural heritage of a people or nation for political, military, religious, ideological, ethnical, or racial reasons. Cultural genocide is the purposeful weakening and ultimate destruction of cultural values and practices.
The process whereby imperialist control is aided and abetted by importing supportive forms of culture.
A system of beliefs, values, and customs that are learned, shared, and transmitted through symbols. Cultures continually evolve through internal processes and in contact with the environment and other cultures. Culture is the foundation of all human activities, which derive their meaning and value from it. Cultures are not monolithic structures that exert definable influences over people’s values, beliefs, and behaviors. Often influences are subtle, go unrecognized, or exist as a composite of cultural and spiritual values drawn from a variety of sources.
The stress, anxiety, or discomfort a person feels when they are placed in an unfamiliar cultural environment, due to the loss of familiar meanings and cues relating to communication and behavior.
A sense of group identification with beliefs, values, and customs that are learned, shared, and transmitted through symbols. While race, ethnicity, and nation are often used interchangeably, they are discrete. Race tends to focus on physical attributes or phenotypes such as skin color. Ethnicity refers to a person’s origins and association with a specific cultural group. Nation refers to nationality within a nation-state.
A basic attitude expressing the belief that one’s own ethnic group or one’s own culture is superior to other ethnic groups or cultures, and that one’s cultural standards can be applied in a universal manner.
A view that Europeans are culturally and politically superior to all other peoples in the world.
The ongoing process that is linking people, neighborhoods, cities, regions, and countries much more closely together than they have ever been before. This has resulted in our lives being intertwined with people in all parts of the world via the rapid distribution of the food we eat, the clothing we wear, the music we listen to, the information we get, and the ideas we hold.
Leadership or dominance of one state or social group over another. Nowadays, it is also used to describe the dominant position of a particular set of ideas and their associated tendency to become common sense.
A total system of foreign power in which another culture, people, and way of life penetrate, transform, and come to define the colonized society. A policy of extending a country’s power or influence through colonization, military force, economic control, or other means. The term “imperialism” should not be confused with “colonialism.” Imperialism operates from the center, it is a state policy, and is developed for ideological as well as financial reasons, whereas colonialism is development for settlement or commercial intentions.
The ways in which racist beliefs or values have been built into the operations of social institutions in such a way to discriminate against, control, and oppress various minority groups. Also known as “systemic racism.”
A highly contentious term that has shifted considerably over time. Scientifically, all human beings belong to the same race, yet historically the meaning of the term “race” has varied. Politically, race is a social construction that changes with the times to meet certain needs of the state or tribe.
A set of economic, political, and ideological practices whereby a dominant group exercises hegemony over subordinate groups. Racism has three inter-related, interactive components that are embedded in and negotiated through everyday life: personal, institutional, and cultural.
A way of thinking, a history of philosophy rooted in “rational” thought where the individual subject is highly valued. Secular humanism prevails and the rational, autonomous, freely choosing individual is highly valued. Democracy and freedom of choice is seen as the most just system promoting human rights, social justice, fairness, and equality of opportunity. Neoliberal economics tend to dominate the social terrain. Free market economics and free trade are priorities. The dominant history is that of exploration and conquest, of voyages, of discovery in the interests of progress, and of the development of Western civilizations. Social life is highly bureaucratized, impersonal, and largely individualistic.
An institutional, rather than personal, set of benefits for those whose race gives them “white skin.” Thus, whiteness is a racial identity, and, in most Western societies, it is a default standard against which all other groups of color are compared, contrasted, and made visible.
A way of seeing and understanding the world. It is a philosophy of life. It is a mental framework of ideas and attitudes about the world we live in, people around us, existing beliefs, and ultimately, ourselves in relation to it all. One’s worldview is shaped by socioeconomical, cultural, historical, and contemporary happenings. One also acts accordingly to one’s values and worldview.
As you work through your college life, take a DIVER approach to critical reflection with regard to various situations and challenges against diversity, equity, and inclusion. DIVER stands for:
The explanation in the bulleted list below is remixed from the open textbook Intercultural Learning: Critical Preparation for International Student Travel, pp. 27:
•Describe: Listen, observe, and remain open, holding off on judgment or evaluation. Simply describe what you saw and what you heard.
•Interpret: Write or discuss what you thought about the situation. Think of two or three different ways your description could be interpreted. Try to put yourself in other peoples’ shoes and think about the interpretations they might offer. What does your description reveal about what is important to you? What aspects do you pay less attention to?
•Verify: Acknowledge that your culture and the cultures of others are dynamic. Therefore, everyone’s understandings need to be constantly checked through collaborative learning processes. Ask others questions to explore your assumptions and interpretations in order to test your understanding.
•Explain: Connect your interpretation with theories and concepts that you’ve learned about. Where might your assumptions come from? What does your description reveal about your values, beliefs, or awareness of power? What does this tell you about your cultural self and others’ cultural practices?
•Reconstruct: Put these steps back together. What does this mean for yourself and your future professional practice? What might you do differently in the future? What new understandings about yourself and others do you bring to a situation?