Conceptual Frameworks


We recommend the video America: mosaic or melting pot?” as an excellent supplementary assignment or in-class viewing activity for students.  This 6.14 minute short from Vimeo (New Moon Productions, 2008) presents a framing commentary from Kenji Yoshino, a New York University Law Professor, with engaging visual features.  It asks whether “mosaic” or “melting pot” is the better term for a post-assimilationist America, in which marginalized social groups can flourish and find expression and emancipation.

Possible discussion questions that can be used as a “response sheet” while watching the video, or small group discussion questions, or homework assignments.

  1. What is the difference between “assimilating” (covering one’s distinctive ethnic, religious, or other culture characteristics) and so-called “flaunting” (a negative term that has been used for the expression of distinctive, ethnic, religious or other cultural characteristics)?  Can you give some examples from the video of “flaunting” or “covering” one’s visible cultural markers? 
  2. Is “flaunt” a judgment term for public expression of cultural markers?  Can you think of examples that have been called “flaunting” in gay culture, religious culture, racial culture?  Examples in other marginalized cultures? 
  3. Can you think of examples of “covering” in gay culture, religious culture, racial culture?  Examples in other marginalized cultures?
  4. Select two of the readings in Section 1: Conceptual Frameworks, and explain the perspective of those authors on the issues of assimilation, flaunting, covering, and mainstream culture taken up in this video.

Discussion Questions

Selection #1:-- Tatum’s “The Complexity of identity: `Who am I’?”

  • Tatum describes identity as “complex” and made up of many different factors.  As you think of your own identity, what are the racial, gender, sexual, class, religious and other factors that have shaped it?  Do you mainly focus on one or two aspects of your identity or do you think of your identity as “complex” in real-life, everyday interactions?  Can you describe some examples of how various factors in your own identity interact with each other?
  • How do you think that (what Tatum calls) your “dominant” and your “subordinate” identities have shaped your sense of yourself – as you are today?  As your experiences have changed over time?  Were there any personal experiences that stand out for you that made you especially aware of a “dominant” or “subordinate” identity?
  • Are there social situations in which one or more of the factors among your identities seem especially challenging or which provide support for you?  If yes, can you think of social situations in which your “dominant” or “subordinate” identities play out in different ways – either challenging or supportive or both?
  • The Additional Video Resources has a link to an excellent description of Tatum’s book, which will provide a helpful supplement to this reading.

Selection #2 – Kirk & Okazawa-Rey’s “Identities and social locations: Who am I? Who are my people?

  • Kirk & Okazawa-Rey emphasize the role of community in creating and fostering a person’s sense of social identity.  Who are the “communities” or a groups of people most important as influences in your sense of who you are? Can you describe one or two examples of how these communities have helped shape your identity?.
  • Kirk & Okazawa-Rey use the terms “micro”, “meso”, and “macro” to describe the different levels at which you experience your social identities.  Have you been aware of your experience of your identity at these different levels – the personal or relationship level, the level of institutions (classes, sports teams, the place where you work, your neighborhood), and your sense of the overall society in which you live?  Can you connect these levels while also thinking about how they play out differently (or the same way) for you?

Selection #3 – Johnson’s “The Social Construction of Difference”

  • Johnson quotes James Baldwin’s statement that “No one is white before he/she came to America.  It took generations, and a vast amount of coercion, before this became a white country.”  Can you identify one or two examples of immigrants who became “White” in the US?  Were they considered “White” before becoming Americans?   Can you describe how that process of “whitening” happened? 
  • On the other hand, for immigrants who did not become “White” when they came to American, how were they identified racially?  Had that been their racial identity before the process of immigration?
  • Johnson makes the point that the “social construction of reality” applies to sexism and ableism as well as to racism and that these social constructions have no significance except to provide privilege for some and disadvantage for others.  Can you provide examples of how systems of privilege and disadvantage – concerning race, or gender, or any other system of advantage and disadvantage – may have changed over time, as the “social construction of reality” itself changed? 
  • Johnson distinguishes between “diversity”/“difference” (“difference” need not imply inequality) and “privilege”/“oppression” (in which inequality is rationalized or justified by differences).  Can you think of examples you’ve personally observed of “differences” that you have observed or experienced that do not convey inequality?  Can you think of examples you’ve observed or experienced of “differences” that are used to justify privilege and oppression?

Selection #4 – Sue’s “Microaggressions, Marginality, and Oppression”

  • Have you observed or overheard any of Sue’s examples of microaggressions in your neighborhoods or schools or families?  Have you experienced them yourself?  How does the accumulation of multiple microaggressions, day after day, make the person experiencing them feel?
  • Have you tried to interrupt a microaggression?  Can you provide an example of interrupting microaggressions successfully?
  • Looking ahead to Selection #7, where Young describes oppression as the result of the “unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols … [of] normal processes of everyday life”:  Can you give examples of how Sue’s approach to microaggression might illustrate Young’s description of oppression?
  • The Video that provides student examples of this concept is embedded in the main Video section, “Microaggressions in the Classroom.”  It can be further supplemented by a video in the Additional Video Resources section, “How Microaggressions are like Mosquito Bites.”

Selection #5 -- Harro’s “Cycle of Socialization”

  • Harro’s model of socialization describes how people come to accept, both consciously and unconsciously, both inequality and unfairness on the basis of their socialization in with families, friends and neighbors, reinforced in later life through other social institutions.  Provide one or two examples, based on different social identities within your own life, of how your family initially shaped your understanding of social rules, and also explain whether that understanding was later reinforced (or contradicted) in later life by other people or in other social institutions.  If possible, offer one example of a “privileged” identity and one example of a “disadvantaged” identity.
  • Harro’s model describes a “core” of the fear, ignorance, confusion, power or powerlessness that keeps people from breaking out of the cycle of their own socialization.  Can you provide personal examples (similar to Harro’s “core”) that have made it difficult for you to challenge, break out of, or change the way you were socialized?
  • The video in Additional Video Resources on “Getting Called Out: How to Apologize” suggests how one can grow but acknowledging unintended slights or insights, and not trying to wiggle out of them.

Selection #6 -- Bell’s “Theoretical Foundations,” and Adams and Zúñiga’s “Core Concepts for Social Justice Education”

  • Can you describe in your own words what a “socially just” society would look and feel like?  How would such a “socially just” society have gone about transforming the characteristics of an oppressive society?  If you were yourself designing the “socially just” society that you would like to live in, what would be its most striking features?
  • Identify one or two examples of injustice or oppression that you see in our overall society.  How does it appear at the broadest level of society?  In specific social institutions (schools, health care, housing)?  How does it affect a person’s own well-being?
  • Although the readings by Bell, and by Adams and Zúñiga are theoretical, what concepts in these two readings best help you create a vision of a “socially just” society and to understand the levels at which change would be needed to achieve that vision?

Selection #7 – Young’s “Five faces of oppression.”

  • Here’s how Young defines oppression: “Its causes are embedded in unquestioned norms, habits, and symbols, in the assumptions underlying institutional rules and the collective consequences of following these rules  ... in short, the normal processes of everyday life.”  What examples of “the normal processes of everyday life” have you experienced or observed that fit Young’s definition of oppression?  Why do you think these normal processes of everyday life are not questioned or resisted?
  • Young’s offers a different explanation of oppression from the explanation in Bell, Adams, and Zúñiga.  Do you find it useful to have two different explanations oppression?  Do they clarify different aspects of a complicated social system?

Selection #8 – Collins and Bilge’s “Intersectionality Revisited”

  • All of the previous selections described more than one factor in your social identity, so that identity is complex, has different elements, and is shaped by many different experiences in different settings, of social advantage and access or of powerlessness and marginalization.  Can you describe a situation in which you could feel the pull or tug of the different factors in your social identity – in relationships or in social settings?  Did you experience both having advantage and being disadvantaged at the same time?  Were those different feelings related to your awareness of different parts of your identity that were valued or devalued in the relationship or social setting?
  • The description of “intersectionality” treats the factors of identity as interacting at all of the levels of personal and social life that were described in earlier selections (for example, Kirk and Okazawa-Rey, or Bell, Adams and Zúñiga).  Does it help you to think of the complexity of identity and dimensions of society as “intersectional” rather than single elements interacting?  The image of a kaleidoscope comes to mind – all of the differed shaped and colored pebbles or glass pieces stay in the tube, but every time you turn it, their intersectionality creates a different vision of the whole, rather than just the pieces.
  • One of the videos in the Additional Video Resources section explores intersectionality from the perspective of Black women activists, “Apeoplesjourney: African American women and the struggle for equality” is a powerful exploration of the way multiple marginalized identities both intersect and enforce the cumulative damage of multiplied sources of oppression.  The two PowerPoints in the Additional Illustrated Online Resources section both explain the concept of intersectionality as it emerges from “single” identity model, and offers a number of ways to visualize the intersectionality among one’s own personal identitities.

Next Steps

Compiled by Maurianne Adams

Contributions from Mirangela Buggs and Molly Keehn

Action Continuum: Challenges and Supports

(Adapted from TDSJ2, CD Appendices 6H and 12R)

The action continuum can be used as an action activity related to any of the readings in Section 1: Conceptual Frameworks, but it is perhaps most applicable to selection #6 by Bobbie Harro, “The Cycle of Socialization.”  It can be applied to any of the topics in RDSJ2. The action continuum ranges from the extreme of actively participating in personal, institutional and cultural forms of domination and oppression, to becoming aware of one’s oppressive action, to specific ways of initiating change and fostering liberation. Facilitators ask participants to work in small groups to generate at least two examples for a specific social justice issue along each step of the continuum as a small group brainstorm—or the facilitator might prefer to conduct this brainstorm in the whole class. 

Download: Action Continuum

Challenges and Supports:

Facilitators ask participants to select one position on the Action Continuum (above) and select one action that they are willing to take for that part of the Action Continuum.  Facilitator can note the importance of assessing the anticipated challenges and supports in coming up with a realistic action plan.  It is helpful for facilitators to stress that the plans should be located in everyday life and deal with issues within participants' own spheres of influence, or on which they might be able to join and coordinate forces with peers or colleagues (for example, in schools or classrooms or community or religious organizations). 

Note: This assessment of Challenges and Supports can be adapted to or combined with any aspect of action planning, such as those outlined on the Activities Section.

Participant Action Plan Worksheet: Challenges and Supports

Describe the desired action below.  Then break the action into a number of sequential steps (preparatory steps, action steps, closure steps) listed in the worksheet below.  Alongside these steps, itemize anticipated challenges and supports.  Finally, in the space below the worksheet, write any notes about ideas for ways to identify further resources, peers, networks to serve as support.

Download: Desired Action worksheet

Participant Worksheet: Frameworks for Action Planning: “High Risk/Low Risk”

Download: Participant Worksheet

“North Country” Ally-ship Activity

(developed by Molly Keehn)

Goals:  The goal of this activity is to review the characteristics of an ally, and then give participants an example of what being an ally can look like (examples were developed for Sexism but can be adapted to any or all Isms).

Time needed: 20–30 minutes


  • A copy of the DVD, “North Country” (this Warner Brothers film should be available in the “drama” section of most establishments which rent videos as well as through Netflix).
  • Becoming an Ally” either as a handout or on newsprint. Download Here


  • Before showing the film clip, review the characteristics of an Ally in “Becoming An Ally” which is reprinted above. 
  • Tell participants you will be showing them a scene from the movie, “North Country” (2005) which is a fictionalized account of the first major successful sexual harassment suit in the United States.  Give a brief synopsis of the plot of the movie, and let participants know that the scene they will be seeing was a turning point in the movie in which the main character, Josie Aimes (played by Charlize Theron) tries to talk in front of the Union about a class action suit she had filed against the mine.
  • Show the scene from “North Country” titled ‘Union Meeting” (marked as one of the chapters on the DVD).
  • After watching the film segment, have participants discuss what Josie’s father did in the scene that made him a good ally (examples–stood beside Josie, spoke to the miners in a way they could hear him, used his identity to connect with them, showed vulnerability, etc).
  • Have participants call out examples, and write them on newsprint.
  • Ask participants to identity what they can learn from this person’s actions that can be applied to being an ally in their own life.
  • Ask participants to identify examples of Ally-ship in everyday life, dealing with different forms of oppression. Participants might form 8 groups, each group to identify or imagine examples of ally-ships for different forms of oppression treated in RDSJ2: racism, classism, religious oppression, sexism, heterosexism, transgender oppression, ableism, and ageism/adultism.

Social Movements: Research Paper Guidelines (developed by Mirangela Buggs)

(developed by Mirangela Buggs)

Download: Research Paper Guidelines

Further Resources

Additional Resources – PowerPoint on Identity and Intersectionality

The PowerPoint that follows links two powerful Selections on social identity – Tatum’s “The Complexity of Identity” (selection 1) and Bilge and Collins’ “Intersectionality Revisited” (selection 8).  The PowerPoint introduces you to the idea of social identity development (Tatum’s work) through of identity development, biracial identity and a “factor” model that centers race but shows intersections with other co-existent identity.  (This resembles the “traffic” analogy in video 3 of the Additional Video Resources section, “#Apeoplesjourney: African American women and the struggle for identity,” in which traffic moving in different directions collide or intersect at the cross-roads.)  The PowerPoint moves from the idea of intersections that “center” multiple identities at the same moment, to the concept of intersectionality itself, with wonderful illustrations that envision these intersections and interactions as (interior) galaxies.

Use the PowerPoint to revisit and rethink Tatum’s and Bilge and Collins’s reading selections, so that you can diagram for yourself the multiple factors or, once you grasp the galaxy visualization of intersectionality, you use the galaxy that best describes your experience of intersectionality to diagram intersectionality as you experience it.

Wijeyesinghe PowerPoint on Identity and Intersectionality

Conceptual Frameworks Website: Additional Video Resources:  

Webpage editor note: You may not need the embedding information since these are additional resources.  If possible, it would be nice to embed them, but I leave this to your editorial judgment.]

  1. Getting called out: How to apologize (

    People often wonder how effectively to apologize when they have unintentionally offended someone.  This video presents numerous examples of unintentional offenses and effective ways to apologize – as well as ways not to frame an apology.  This video can be used in combination with many of the selections, perhaps most usefully with selection 5, Harro’s “Cycle of Socialization.”

  2. How microaggressions are like mosquito bites (
  3. A cartoon account of the cumulative effect of lots of microaggressions, as if each one were a single mosquito bite but, by the end of a day or week or month, the target is covered with unpleasant bumps.  It is a simple presentation of the multiple “microaggressions” that are experienced by people with marginalized identities and goes well with Sue’s Selection #4 and with the featured Video in the previous section, “Microaggressions in the Classroom.”

  4. #Apeoplesjourney: African American women and the struggle for equality (

    This video looks at the concept of “intersectionality” through the lens of African American women’s intersecting experiences of race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, disability.  The powerful examples of intersectionality in the struggle of African American women against double, triple or more intersecting forms of oppression can be applied to all peoples.  These examples bring to life the discussion of intersectionality by Bilge & Collins, Selection 8.  The two illustrated PowerPoints in the Additional Resources section provide more background and context to this video and to the reading selection.

  5. The Complexity of Identity: Who am I?

    This video elaborates on and gives examples of many of the concepts in Tatum’s Selection #1.