It is a part of human nature to divide the world into “us” and “them” and to promote “our” interests over “theirs”. This behavior is seen in the interaction of many types of groups: Whites and Blacks, men and women, urban dwellers vs. rural people, Jews and Muslims, Catholics and Protestants, Republicans and Democrats, and many others. There is a great deal of sociological research on this phenomenon of “us” vs. “them”. Everyone is prejudiced against some group of people, meaning that they pre-judge individuals based on the group they belong to.
It’s important to create a safe environment in which people are willing to be honest with themselves about their prejudices. This works best when prejudice is presented as inevitable, although unfortunate, part of being human.
People resist being shamed and will simply lie to themselves about their own prejudices, unless the topic is presented without blame.
People with power and control of resources will naturally resist threats to their position. This is part of human nature. It’s important to create a safe environment to get people to be honest with themselves about this.
Diversity training should seek to build empathy. Many people of all cultural groups feel they have been disadvantaged in some way. Some groups have been the object of oppression for generations and have suffered much more than others, however, it is simply more effective to allow everyone in the room to speak about their own concerns. Most people listen to others more openly when they feel others listen to them.
Achieving social equity requires policy change, brought about by advocacy. Strengthening this social movement requires greater empathy and trust among individuals. Diversity training should seek to accomplish that.