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Diversity, Bias, and Impacting Change

Become a driver of change through self-reflection and greater awareness of the impact of inequity.
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By: Chanelle Wilson, Editor-in-Chief

The college experience is an opportunity to learn, grow, network, and explore the paths necessary for achieving the goals you will reach in your lifetime. This module guides you to consider the practices and skills involved in exploring bias and inequity with the goal of justice. Academic success is often predicated on grade point average, extracurricular involvement, and service to the community—other equally important components are your sociocultural awareness; attention to systems of power, privilege, and oppression; and capacity to impact change. These skills are useful in deepening critical thinking, encouraging self-reflection, and they will be useful for lifelong commitments to societal advancement.

As you move through higher education and establish deep foundations for your personal and professional lives beyond graduation, this module will support you to be the type of leader, thinker, and doer that society needs: a person who incorporates compassion, intercultural awareness, critical consciousness, and justice in all that you do. In essence, these understandings help you navigate the world from a well-rounded and informed perspective. You will come away as a better student and a better human being!

We begin with understanding historical impact regarding bias. This skill explores the question, “How did we get here?,” exposing you to the historical events and processes that have problematized diversity, worldwide. In order to consider how to recognize and disrupt bias, you must also understand the function of bias in larger systems. Drawing relationships between history and its present impact can help to set a solid foundation for thinking about the world differently.

Next, we narrow our focus to considering our own social positioning. This skill engages the question, “What does this mean for me?,” helping you to take the information learned about history and then locating yourself within as an important character in society, beginning with critical self-reflection. This involves focusing on your individual facets of identity, how these are influenced by society, the ways biases have been instilled in us and impacted us, and your personal relationship to larger social structures.

After you have done some self-exploration, we start to consider areas of bias and interlocking systems of oppression. This skill introduces you to the necessity of seeing outside of your own experiences and perspectives; essentially, “What does this mean for others?” You will learn about the social construction of social groups and social categories. Considering the biases that different people experience cultivates a necessary skill in developing intercultural awareness and recognizing the need to understand the diversity of experiences that exist within the human experience.

It’s then time to continue moving outward to think about systems of thought and behaviors within bias and inequity. This skill sheds light on the varying ways human beings participate in and are impacted by systems that sometimes seem outside of our control. We explore the question, “How do systems work together to construct a divided reality?” The frames of reference and perspective included in this skill work to complicate the ideas of right/wrong, good/bad, just/unjust—showing you the many ways systems and behaviors are intertwined and why it is necessary to develop our own critical thinking abilities.

Next, we go big picture to investigate the larger impact of bias and inequity. From a macro level, you will think about, “What does this mean for society?” Moving beyond your personal experiences, to others, we see how the issues discussed are all connected in the social systems within which we all operate.

So, once you’ve thought about history, yourself, society, and large systems, we move to more practical strategies of interpersonal skills and communication. This skill guides you through the application of what you have learned, answering the question, “What does this mean for how I interact with people?” Using a framework for reflection, you are invited to consider you own local spheres of influence and how your interpersonal interactions matter for growth and the disruption of bias.

Of course, in addition to a growing and developing person, you are also growing and developing as a student, so we must apply our learning to academic settings, specifically considering how to disrupt bias in research and writing. This skill helps you consider the question, “What does this mean for my academic engagement?” We will explore how bias in the social elements discussed in other skills also impact educational systems, your schooling activities, and academic commitments. You will be more clearly able to consider how you bring strategies of disruption into immediate educational contexts and action steps you might take to combat bias in what is normally seen as objective educational research and writing.

Finally, we conclude with impacting change. This skill helps you uncover and harness your own power, considering, “What can I do about it?” We all have a role to play in the way society functions, and now that we can recognize the problems, we must also realize that it does not have stay the way it is. We all have some level of influence, and you can exercise it to bring about justice.

Suggested Readings
  • Tatum, B. (2003). Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?: Revised Edition. Hachette UK.
  • Way, N., Ali, A., Gilligan, C., & Noguera, P. (Eds.). (2018). The crisis of connection: Roots, consequences, and solutions. NYU Press.
  • Steele, C. M. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. WW Norton & Company.
  • Solomon, A., & Rankin, K. (2019). How we fight white supremacy: A field guide to Black resistance. Hachette UK.
  • Memmi, A. (2013). The colonizer and the colonized. Routledge.
Page citation: Wilson, C. (2022). Diversity, bias, and impacting change. SAGE Skills: Student Success. https://sk.sagepub.com/skills/student-success/diversity-bias-impacting-change