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Relationship Between Diversity & Justice in Psychology

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

There are many different ways to understand what diversity is and why it is important. This lesson focuses on the relationship between diversity and justice, as well as how this relationship is relevant to the study of psychology.

Understanding Diversity and Justice

As someone who is very interested in pursuing a better world, Abby thinks the field of psychology is the perfect fit for her. By studying psychology, Abby hopes she will form a better understanding of how humans work together and how to resolve different conflicts that come up in society.

Abby is especially interested in the psychology of diversity, or difference. She wants to understand the ways that diversity can influence people's thoughts, feelings, and ways of learning.

Her perspective on diversity is interconnected with Abby's desire to work for more justice, or fairness, in the world. She understands that the fight for justice can be a slow and uphill struggle, but she also believes firmly that a more diverse society can be a more just one.

Perceptions of Diversity, Perceptions of Justice

Abby understands that different people can perceive, or notice and respond to, issues related to diversity and justice in very different ways.

Right now, she has a classmate who identifies as a lesbian. As a heterosexual, Abby is chagrined to notice that she has usually thought of diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, and maybe sometimes gender. For instance, when she walks into a psychology class, she immediately notices how racially diverse the class is, and she wonders how this will affect her learning and that of others.

Abby's friend, however, is more attuned to perceive sexual diversity in any community. Her perceptions of diversity also influence her perceptions of justice. For instance, whereas Abby notices the ways that different authors of color are represented in a syllabus, her friend is more likely to be aware of a heteronormative psychological framework, or an approach to learning psychology that privileges heterosexual development.

Abby realizes that a wide variety of perceptions of diversity and justice are important, and, in fact, having these different perceptions is part of why it is crucial to exist in diverse communities.

Social Problems and Conflicts

At the same time, Abby is also thinking about how social problems and conflicts, or misunderstandings between people and communities, can sometimes grow directly out of diversity.

For example, Abby is working in an internship in a very ethnically diverse community. Several members of the community have been adamant about the need to have all signs in the clinic be translated into Spanish, and Abby is all in favor of this inclusive move.

Then, several other patients come in and say that they would like to see their languages represented too. Though this is harder, Abby's supervisor finds people to translate signs into Khmer, Russian and Vietnamese.

Abby thinks the clinic is moving in the right direction, but then the mother of a child with autism approaches her and says her child is too overstimulated by all the different alphabets and cannot even sit in the waiting room anymore without a tantrum.

As Abby is thinking this over, a patient from Israel approaches her and says she feels marginalized and offended by the presence of Arabic and the absence of Hebrew on the signs.

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