Select Page

Teaching Social Justice
Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes PhD, LPC-MHSP, LMHC
Executive Director, AllCEUs
Podcast Host: Counselor Toolbox and Happiness Isn’t Brain Surgery

~ Define social justice
~ Explore the goals of social justice education to include
~ Identity
~ Diversity
~ Justice
~ Action
Define Social Justice
~ The National Association of Social Workers defines social justice as “the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.”
Why Is Social Justice Important in Counseling
~ In what ways can a social justice education assist clients…
~ Emotionally
~ Cognitively
~ Socially
~ Occupationally
~ Physically

Why Is Social Justice Important in Counseling
~ In what ways can a social justice education assist counselors
~ Identify community needs and strengths
~ Help clients tap into appropriate resources
~ Connect with and better understand clients
Social Justice
~ Discrimination and bias contribute to
~ Emotional: Stress
~ Cognitive: Low elf esteem and self-efficacy, creation of erroneous biases,
~ Interpersonal: Conflict
~ Occupational/Environmental: Reduced access to opportunities and services and a reduction in
What is the Impact
~ Women are bad at math
~ During the last 30 years, the gaps in these scores have dropped dramatically in the U.S. In some nations (like Indonesia and Iceland), women outperform men in the tip-top of mathematical performance.
~ Stereotype susceptibility Asian-American women who were reminded of their Asian identities their math performance improved, while reminders of their femininity had the opposite effect.
~ People with mental illness are dangerous
~ – “…the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).“
~ only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to serious mental illness. (

What is the Impact
~ People with mental illness are bad employees
~ Many are medicated and asymptomatic
~ About 18% of workers in the U.S. report having a mental health condition in any given month. (The NSDUH Report The ADA National Network
~ Criminals are bad people
~ All people with addictions are criminals

Goals for Social Justice Education
~ Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.
~ Students will develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.
~ Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.
~ Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.
~ Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

What is your identity
~ Take 5 minutes and complete the sentence “I am a _______________” as many times as needed to define who you are.
~ I am a mother, daughter, teacher, business owner, friend, college graduate, farmer, advocate for animal welfare, runner, white, female, Christian, middle class…
~ What does it mean to be a part of each of those groups?
~ Which identities interact (i.e. animal welfare and farmer; business owner and mother)?
~ How does each of my identities impact my interactions with others and the world?
~ How does each of these identities impact my work with clients?

~ As part of a class project, Rebecca completes the following personal mission statement: “I am more than one identity. I will celebrate all of my in-group and out-group identities and work to understand how they overlap to make up who I am as an individual. I will not allow others to put me into boxes.”
~ Rebecca explains that being a student, sister, female, Latina, Spanish speaker and dancer are all interconnected and equally important.
~ She displays her personal mission statement on the outside of her class binder.

~ Participants choose from a list and share things like name/nicknames, ethnic background, where they are from and where their parents were born, 1 hobby, religion/spiritual belief system, music preferences, one custom or tradition their family practices, etc.
~ Certain themes usually emerge:
~ Even members of the same identity “groups” have very different backgrounds.
~ Often members of different “groups” have more similar backgrounds than they had assumed.
~ Diversity transcends “black and white.”
~ Many people find out information which allows them to connect somehow with someone else in the group.
~ Ask students to explain why this was an important exercise

Activity 2
~ Area Labels
~ Religious affiliation
~ Ethnicity
~ Immigration Status
~ Sex
~ Sexual Orientation
~ Race
~ Class
~ Group Membership (athlete, sorority, attorney)

Activity 2
~ Read the questions. Have participants choose an identity that answers the question for them
~ To allow a space for participants to talk about their experiences and their identities in a more personal way and to provide an opportunity for others to learn from those personal stories
~ To highlight that people with similar identities can experience different levels of salience, self-awareness, and can be differently impacted by their intersecting identities
~ To talk about how we experience our identities on a day-to-day basis
~ To highlight how everyone may experience pain, ostracism, or discrimination, yet feel it within the context of different identities

Activity 2 Questions
~ The part of my identity that I am most aware of on a daily basis is_________.
~ The part of my identity that I am the least aware of on a daily basis is_________.
~ The part of my identity that was most emphasized or important in my family growing up was _________.
~ The part of my identity that I wish I knew more about is _________.
~ The part of my identity that provides me the most privilege is _________.
~ The part of my identity that I believe is the most misunderstood by others is _________.
~ The part of my identity that I feel is difficult to discuss with others who identify differently is _________.
~ The part of my identity that makes me feel discriminated against is _________.

Activity 3
~ Understanding People’s Perspectives
~ 1: Exploring Identity
~ 2: Affirming Our Commonalities and Differences
~ 3: Supporting Social Border Crossings

~ Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people.
~ Students will develop language and knowledge to accurately and respectfully describe how people (including themselves) are both similar to and different from each other and others in their identity groups.
~ Students will respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and will exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.
~ Students will respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.
~ Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

~ Diversity Resources

Activity 2
~ Fact/Opinion Statement Cards
~ Understanding the difference between fact and opinion is critical to our ability to examine our reactions to events and people.
~ Stereotypes and prejudices are often based on opinions that are perceived as facts.
~ Create sets of Fact/Opinion Statement Cards by writing the following statements on blank index cards, one statement per card.
~ Sheri is a student ambassador, welcoming new students and showing them around the school. She mentions to one new student, Kyle, that she helped found the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). Kyle tells her that he is actually transgender and changed schools after beginning transition. Sheri tells him that she will be discreet and assures him that the administration is welcoming.
~ Kyle recounts this story fondly at a later meeting with the school’s counselor

~ Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.
~ Students will recognize unfairness on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g., discrimination).
~ Students will analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically and today.
~ Students will recognize that power and privilege influence relationships on interpersonal, intergroup and institutional levels and consider how they have been affected by those dynamics.
~ Students will identify figures, groups, events and a variety of strategies and philosophies relevant to the history of social justice around the world.

~ Karen notices that many of her school’s facilities are not friendly to those with disabilities. Many students have difficulty navigating the school and are often late to class as a result. Karen decides to look into building plans to determine if any accommodations are present for those in the community with physical limitations.
~ She forms a focus group of students and faculty to come up with effective solutions to the situation

~ Exposing Injustice Using Photographs
~ Exposing Racism
~ Using Photographs to Teach Social Justice: Exposing Gender Bias
~ Exposing Anti-Immigration Sentiment
~ Exposing Homelessness and Poverty

~ Students will express empathy when people are excluded or mistreated because of their identities and concern when they themselves experience bias.
~ Students will recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
~ Students will speak up with courage and respect when they or someone else has been hurt or wronged by bias.
~ Students will make principled decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in their everyday lives and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.
~ Students will plan and carry out collective action against bias and injustice in the world and will evaluate what strategies are most effective

~ Lee has grown weary of the bullying he sees at his school each day. He discusses his concerns with classmates, teachers and administrators to develop a plan to combat the situation. Together, they plan Mix It Up at Lunch Day to promote a greater sense of cohesion among the diverse student body. The day is used to celebrate the launch of a new diversity club, aimed at bringing diverse students together and combating baseless animosity through ongoing intergroup activities.

~ Confronting Injustice
~ Confronting Unjust Laws
~ Confronting Unjust Practices
~ Legal Action: The Supreme Court
~ Advertisements Promoting Activism
~ Showcasing Your Understanding

~ Most people are unaware of all of their role, how those roles interact and how those roles impact how they interact with the world at large.
~ Increasing awareness of self and others is the first step in increasing social justice and reducing stress, conflict and depression
~ People need to become aware of different cultures in order to better understand other people
~ When people see discrimination or bias, they need to be able to identify it as such and be encouraged to take action.