Loyola University Chicago

Diversity and Inclusion at Loyola

Key Terms About Cultural Competency

The Executive Council on Diversity & Inclusion convened and agreed on the importance of providing a clear set of working definitions to guide the conversations about diversity and inclusion at Loyola.

Because as Individuals we are multidimensional it is imperative that the focus on diverse social identity be broadened to include multiple identities that a person can hold. Additionally, to understand and appreciate social justice as a value of Jesuit education, it is key that social identities also be considered from the perspective of carrying power and privilege. Beyond naming various social identifiers (i.e., race, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation), the Council calls on Loyola community members to also acknowledge that these identifiers are associated with unearned advantages and disadvantages.  

The framework used by Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is the Model of Multiple Dimensions of Identity - by Abes, Jones, McEwen. The model illustrates how identities often intersect or overlap and their saliency is shaped by context and/or environment. The following set of definitions will provide a common language around key concepts that will facilitate growth in cultural fluency.

Cultural Competency: Individual ability for effective, interpersonal communication with people across cultural differences based in race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, class and other human differences.

Inclusion: Involving people and their differences in the work and life of groups, organizations, communities and nations. Inclusion practices encompass assimilation, differentiation, and integration. (Thomas and Ely, 1996.)

  • Assimilation means including people as members of an organization or other system and expecting them to adapt their appearance and behavior with the norms of the organization.
  • Differentiation involves bringing people into the organization to match the demographic characteristics of clients and markets.
  • Integration is including people in the work and life of the organization in a way that changes the work of the organization and how the organization does its work.

Pluralism: Incorporating diverse groups of people in organizations, communities, and nations. (Pluralism is aligned most closely with the inclusion practice of assimilation)

Multiculturalism: Incorporating the multiple interests, contributions, and values of diverse groups of people in the cultures of pluralistic organizations, communities, and nations.

Social Justice: The elimination of oppression and the creation and development of systems and cultures, which provide inclusion, equity, access, and opportunity for all people.

Oppression: A system of inequality, privilege, and dominance based on skin color and other human physical, anatomical, and mental characteristics, language, dress, roles, emotionality, sexuality, and spirituality.

  • Benefits members of dominant identity groups and harms subordinated identity group members.
  • Based in power and prejudice and manifests as racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, nationalism, ableism, and other forms of oppression.
  • Internalized in individuals and institutionalized in the cultures, policies, and practices of groups, organizations, communities, and nations.

Social Group: a group of people who share a range of physical, cultural, or social characteristics within one of the social identity categories. We are focusing here on social identity groups and the social group memberships typically included in discussions of social justice and oppression.

Examples of Social Identity Categories and Social Groups
Identity Categories Examples of Social Groups
Race

Black, White, Latino/a, Native American, Asian, biracial, multiracial

Sex

Female, male, intersex

Gender

Women, men, transgender, genderqueer

Religion

Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu

Sexual Orientation

Lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, gay

Class

Owning class, working class, poor, middle class

Age

Elders, adults, young people

Ability

Able-bodied, person with a disability

Social groups have different statuses. Within each social identity category, some people have greater access to social power and privilege based upon membership in their social group—advantaged group. We call groups whose access to social power is limited or denied the targeted group. Other descriptors for these two groups include:

  • Advantaged: agent, dominant, oppressor, privilege
  • Targeted: target, subordinate, oppressed, disadvantaged

Border Identities:  identities that do not fit into the binary of advantaged/targeted or oppressor/oppressed. Examples include people of mixed racial backgrounds, transgendered individuals, bisexuals, people who were adopted and raised by a family of a different race, people who are bicultural by virtue of being born or raised in one country or culture and moving to a new country and culture. Those with border identities may experience both privilege and advantage due to their status.

 

Social construction of social identities and status differences: concepts created through historically and culturally specific social processes. For example, the concept of race has varied across time and culture, based on political, social, and historical dynamics.

 

Characteristics of Social Identities:

  • Multiple: We have many simultaneous identities (e.g., able-bodied, lesbian, Jewish adult)
  • Interconnected: We are all our identities; no single one describes us completely.
  • Change: Are these identities fixed through our lives? Some are; some may change (e.g., ability, class, nationality).
  • Choice:  did we choose all our identities? Some (religion, occupation); some not (ethnicity, age).
  • Observable: Can we see/hear all these identities in people? Some we can observe (or thin we can); some are not visible or audible.
  • Salient: Are we always aware of all our identities, all the time? No, there are some identities we do not think about consciously (are not salient) to us; for example, we may not think daily about being U.S. citizens until we travel outside the country.