Social Justice Perspective of Diversity: Overview & Example

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Understanding the psychology and philosophy of diversity is complex and involves thinking about a variety of perspectives. This lesson offers an overview and example that will help you understand the social justice perspective of diversity.

Defining the Social Justice Perspective

Tara is a diversity consultant who works with schools and organizations to help them better understand diversity on a variety of levels. Right now, she is working with a company that wants to increase both their diversity and their inclusion, or how welcoming and open they are to different backgrounds and perspectives represented in the workplace.

Tara believes that this company would benefit from working with a social justice perspective on diversity. This perspective maintains that there are always issues of power and oppression at play when there is diversity. The goal of researching diversity from this perspective is to move toward a more just world, with less oppression and more freedom and equality among people from different groups.

Tara applies the social justice perspective to helping her clients understand:

  • racial diversity within their company
  • socioeconomic diversity among their clientele
  • gender diversity within their company

She also starts to help them think about ability, religion, and education as categories they can understand within the social justice perspective on diversity.

Case Study of the Perspective

One day after a long meeting, an African American man approaches Tara to speak privately. He says that he appreciates the work she has been doing with their company, but he has some remaining struggles and questions.

The man explains to Tara that he has been with the company for over a decade, and he has always felt welcomed and appreciated. However, he has also heard people say things like, 'We're so glad you're here; you make our company a much more diverse place.' Other comments he describes include, 'You're so much smarter than most...people like you.'

Tara listens carefully and encourages the man think about how the social justice perspective might help him make sense of these experiences. It tells us that simply representing people from a variety of backgrounds is not enough to make for real diversity.

The man Tara is talking to is still experiencing oppression via microaggressions, or subtle acts of discrimination based on his race. This show Tara that there is more work to do in order to comprehend and untangle the institutionalized, or entrenched and embedded, racism within the company.

Tara asks this man to write down how it makes him feel when he hears comments like the ones he has described. Little by little, she gathers similar stories from other employees, and she helps them build support groups to collectively discuss these experiences of oppression and how they might overcome them.

People in the company who have more power start to listen openly and think about what they can do not just to improve diverse representation, but to make the company a more just and equitable place for everyone.

Advantages of the Perspective

Tara is proud of the perspective she has taken in her work with this company. She sees many advantages to the social justice perspective on diversity. For example:

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