Working Assumptions for Addressing Diversity & Social Justice

  1. People are not born with prejudice. Prejudice and bias are learned through experience.
  2. We are all members of many social identity groups, based on race, gender, ethnicity, class, age, ability, sexual orientation, religion and other factors.
  3. Our experiences based on our group membership vary, depending on our location, degree of comfort, group identification, level of awareness, life experiences, etc…
  4. Conflict often happens in interactions between people of different groups because they have been systematically socialized into dynamics of dominance and subordination.
  5. Central to these dynamics is a system of power that gives unearned privileges to members of some groups while, at the same time, oppressing members of other groups.
  6. Privilege, recognized or not, is a social and economic benefit to those who receive it. Privilege includes unearned, often unquestioned and unconscious advantages, entitlements, benefits, choices, assumptions, and expectations some people have, based solely on their membership in certain social groups, which we call agent groups.
  7. Oppression takes many forms, including prejudice, discrimination, marginalization, powerlessness, exploitation, violence, and cultural imperialism. These are experienced by some people based solely on membership in certain social groups, which we call target groups.
  8. While all people have some prejudices and biases toward other groups, not all groups can enforce their attitudes through institutions and systems of power.
  9. All forms of oppression are interconnected, and our experiences with one social identity (for example, gender) may vary greatly because of the ways in which they intersect with our experiences of another identity (for example, race).
  10. There is no hierarchy of oppression. While it can be helpful to talk about how various forms of oppression are similar or different, it is not useful to argue about which is worse. Each form of oppression is destructive to the human spirit, and if one were eliminated, the existence of the others would still affect us all.

Community Norms & Guidelines →


NCCJSTL’s assumptions and community norms have been developed over 25 years of doing social justice and inclusion programming, with influences from the following sources:

  • Andrea Monroe-Fowler & Todd D. Sevig, 1997. Training Workshop.
  • Iris Marian Young, 1990. Justice and the Politics of Difference.
  • Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, 1997. Teaching Diversity and Social Justice.
  • University of Michigan School of Social Work Multicultural Orientation, 2001.