Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10


Chapter 1: Conceptual Frameworks

Section 1: Discussion Questions

1: Tatum's “The Complexity of Identity: ‘Who am I’?”
  • Tatum describes identity as “complex.” What are the factors that make identity “complex”?
  • How do you think that (what Tatum calls) your “dominant” and your “subordinate” identities have shaped your sense of yourself?
  • Can you give examples of Tatum's view that a people tend to be more aware of their own “subordinate” identities than of their “dominant” identities? If so, why do you think that is?
2: Kirk and Okazawa-Rey's “Identities and Social Locations: Who am I? Who Are My People?
  • Kirk and Okazawa-Rey emphasize the importance of community in creating and fostering one's sense of social identity. Can you name one or more examples of “community” or “people” who have been formative in shaping your social identity — with examples of how they were formative?
  • What is your understanding of the difference between “micro,” “meso,” and “macro” levels at which you might experience your social identities differently? Give one or two examples of each.
3: Johnson's “The Social Construction of Difference”
  • Johnson quotes James Baldwin's statement that “No one is white before he/she came to America. It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country.” He uses this statement to illustrate the “social construction of reality” by which racism, sexism, ableism have no significance outside systems of privilege or disadvantage. Can you provide examples of how systems of privilege and disadvantage — concerning race, or gender, or any other system of advantage and disadvantage — may have changed over time, as the “social construction of reality” itself changed?
  • Johnson distinguishes between “diversity”/“difference” (“difference” need not imply inequality) and “privilege”/“oppression” (in which inequality is rationalized or justified by differences). Provide at least four examples of “differences” that do no convey inequality, and three examples of situations in which “differences” have been used to justify privilege and oppression?
4: Bell's “Theoretical Foundations” and Hardiman, Jackson, Griffin's “Conceptual Foundations”
  • Name five of the defining features of oppression, as discussed by Bell or by Hardiman, Jackson, Griffin. Give two examples of each of the five defining features you identity.
  • What are the three “levels” of oppression as defined by Hardiman, Jackson, Griffin? Provide two examples of each of these three levels. (Can you think of examples where these levels overlap or coincide?)
5: Young's “Five Faces of Oppression”
  • Here's how Young defines oppression: “Its causes are embedded in unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols, in the assumptions underlying institutional rules and the collective consequences of following these rules … in short, the normal processes of everyday life.” Provide three examples of “the normal processes of everyday life” that fit Young's definition and explain the oppressive consequences of these normal processes of everyday life.
  • How does Young's explanation of oppression differ from the explanation given by Bell, Hardiman, Jackson, Griffin? How is it similar? Do the two explanations look at different aspects of oppression as an overarching phenomenon in human societies?
6: Harro's “Cycle of Socialization”
  • Harro's model of socialization describes how people come to accept, both consciously and unconsciously, both inequality and unfairness on the basis of their socialization in with families, friends and neighbors, and with reinforcements in later life in various social institutions. Give two examples, from two different social identities within your own life, of how your family shaped your sense of roles or rules, that were later reinforced (or contradicted) as you encountered different social institutions. If possible, offer one example of a “privileged” identity and one example of a “disadvantaged” identity.
  • Harro's model describes a “core” of the fear, ignorance, confusion, power or powerlessness that keep people from breaking out of this cycle. Can you provide personal examples (similar to Harro's “core”) that make it difficult for you to challenge, break out of, or change this cycle?
7: Harro's “Cycle of Liberation”
  • Harro's model of liberation depends on “critical transformation” of one's understanding of systemic patterns of inequality, privilege and disadvantage. Can you offer an example from the readings or from your own observation and experience, when you “saw” a systemic pattern of inequality? What led you to that insight, either in the reading, or in your own observation or experience? Why do you think it is necessary to have a “systemic” understanding of inequality and oppression in order to work toward change?
  • Harro's model includes “reaching out” and “building community.” Can you provide examples from your reading, or your knowledge of history, or your own observation and experience? Do you agree that it is important to have support from other people and work in networks or communities to effect change?
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