Reflection: Diversity and Social Construction of Power (Essay Sample)
500 word response to the following questions. The paper should be written in the first-person voice. Be sure to write in full, complete sentences. You will be graded for content and quality of writing. Reflect on what you have learned in this lesson about diversity and marginalization and link it to either your personal life, or your future profession (child psychologist).
Part 1: Your reaction
Describe what you remember most from the lesson (what stood out the most) and where you felt most challenged.
Part 2: Your decisions
Describe how what you learned in this lecture will inform your personal life and/or your future profession.
Lesson Material for your reference:
Section One: What is Diversity and How Does it Impact Us?
In the 1980s there was not one country that allowed same sex marriage. Most people where either ‘out’, and very political about being LGBT or, most, were in the ‘closet’. Same sex couples were not allowed to adopt children and most people thought of HIV/AIDS as the ‘gay disease’.
Diversity and Marginalization:
Thinking back to high school, your school might have had a poster with the word “Welcome” in many different languages. You are probably reminded of those days where you celebrated the diversity of your peers and you ate different ethnic foods and may have been introduced to traditional clothes and dances. That certainly is one side of diversity: the idea and belief that Canada is an accepting multicultural mosaic. However, that is only one side of the coin. In fact, there has been a long tradition of scholars and activists challenging the notion of diversity and multiculturalism. One such person is the York University scholar, Himani Bannerji. In her 2000 book, The Dark Side of the Nation: Essays on Multiculturalism, Nationalism and Gender, Bannerji identifies what she terms the ‘paradox of diversity’. Using the term/description “women of colour” as an example, she argues that the description creates a “vague and pleasant” description that replaces race with ‘colour’ and suggests alliance among women. Doesn’t “women of colour” sound much more pleasant than “gender and race”? By changing the way that something is described (recall multicultural / diversity attempts at your high school), Bannerji argues we erase the realities of race, racism, white privilege, and oppression. Her point is that using the terms such as ‘women of colour’ reflects ideologies of power relations by serving to regulate power. This other perspective on diversity suggests that human diversity is not about ‘getting along’ but that human diversity is part of historical and ideological oppression. On a sliding scale where diversity and multiculturalism are on the one end, and anti-oppression / anti-racism are on the other, it’s easy to imagine where Bannerji sits.
To better understand white privilege, please read Peggy McIntosh’s (1988) excerpt about unpacking privilege (2 pages). As you read, take note of your thoughts and feelings.
The reason why I wanted to include this discussion is because it is easy to think of human diversity as a vibrant celebration of colour, foods and diverse traditions rather than to dig a bit deeper and think about the systemic issues such as oppression and privilege that accompany human diversity.
At this point, you are probably not surprised to hear that diversity in the context of community psychology is not so much about the ‘beauty of difference and getting along’ but about recognizing that “human diversity has multiple intersecting dimensions” and is “an important part of understanding differences and similarities between individuals and communities, but also variation within communities” (Kloos et al., 2012, pp. 7-8).
According to Rappaport (1977), community psychology “is an attempt to support every person’s right to be different without risk of suffering material and psychological sanctions” (p. 1). This will often require the community psychologist to work toward providing socially marginal people with the resources, the power, and the control over their own lives, which is necessary for a society of diversity rather than conformity” (p. 23).
Section Two: Power and Oppression
Recall Himani Bannerji’s argument that ideologies of diversity and multiculturalism serve to strengthen existing power relations such as racism, oppression of others and white privilege. What do we mean when we refer to power and oppression? According to Kloos and colleagues (2012), “oppression occurs in a hierarchical relationship in which a dominant group unjustly holds power and resources and withholds them from another group” (p. 231).
The Social Construction of Power:
To make those concepts livelier, I’d like you to watch a very interesting video on the social construction of oppression. In this video, you will watch a third grade teacher simulate the social construction of discrimination by introducing a two-day exercise to her class where students were intentionally discriminated against based on the colour of their eyes.
Oppression and Colonization:
As you have seen in this lesson, there are many forms of oppression. It can be overt (obvious and intentional) and it can also be covert (unintentionally discriminating against an individual or group of individuals based on pre-conceived assumptions that we have—biases that often come from “single stories”).
Another important concept to learn is “intersectionality”. Intersectionality refers to the interconnections between multiple socially constructed categorizations (e.g., race, gender, social class). Oppression of an individual or group with multiple intersecting personal identities becomes driven by multiple intersecting systems of discrimination and marginalization (Kloos et al., 2012). For example, examining the social mechanisms that drive violence against lesbian women of colour must consider the overlapping, complex nature of the various systems of oppression—rather than examining each factor separately.
Oppression can also be systemic. For example, the colonization of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals, families, and communities is a form of oppression that has persisted throughout the history of Canada and continues to exist today.
So far in this course, you have learned a bit about some of the inequalities and discrimination faced by Aboriginal people in Canada. Now that you have also been introduced to different ways of understanding and honouring diversity, I would like for you to read a brief chapter (14 pages) written by a Mohawk woman , Patricia Monture-Angus, who worked as a legal scholar in several Canadian law schools.
This chapter is a story of her experience as "a woman, an Indian, and an Indian woman" (note: intersectionality) attending an academic conference about oppression. She challenges language around "disadvantage" and speaks about her experiences as a "minority". She teaches important lessons about diversity and oppression that I think is a good way to wrap up this lesson.
Reflection – Diversity and Social Construction of Power
Subject and Section
October 24, 2019
The lessons that we have learned about diversity and marginalization in class have raised awareness among us when it comes to the underlying adverse effects of classifying individuals. Before having this discussion, I always believed that the term ‘diversity’ reflects a positive perspective of viewing the inherent differences between societies, cultures, and individuals. Similar to what was discussed by McIntosh, this belief stems from the fact that our upbringing has always presented the concept of ‘diversity’ in connection with themes such as ‘peace’ and ‘unity’, thereby creating an idea that diversity is always good. Nevertheless, as discussed by Bannerji, this recognition of the inherent differences between us also creates a rift between individuals especially since it tends to differentiate between
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