Social Justice

Social Justice Case Study

The purpose of this assignment is to

  • Recognize foundational concepts related to social justice and identity.
  • Reflect on one’s progress towards development of empathy related to social justice issues and identity,


  • Use this document, and save it as “Social Justice Assignment your first and last name”
  • Read the “case study reading” info below.
  • Answer the case study questions beneath each question below (meaning keep the question in your assignment sheet). · Answer the questions using the case study information below and our readings: “What is privilege?” “Intersectionality,” “White privilege,” “Straight & Cis Privilege,” Male Privilege,” and Ornstein (2017). Be sure to cite the reading when paraphrasing or using a direct quote. Do not use or reference other sources that refer to similar topics when completing this assignment.
  • Keep answers typed, single spaced, 12-point font, no cover page, use Microsoft word, full sentences, 1” document borders, keep all of the assignment instructions and questions in your document

Case study reading:

What is social justice?

Social justice is the equal distribution of privilege, opportunities, and wealth. Social injustice, then, is when there is unequal distribution of privilege, opportunities, and wealth. In the current U.S. society, there is a significant imbalance in the distribution of privilege, opportunities, and wealth across a wide variety of areas.

Inequality and the United States

The gender pay gap is one example of inequality in the United States. Studies have demonstrated that when women and men perform the same jobs, women on average are paid less than men. The gender pay gap varies across industries, but women who are financial managers, physicians, accountants, retail sales workers, registered nurses, lawyers, education administrators, and chief executives earn between 65% and 92% of what men earn for performing the same job responsibilities; the only differentiating factor is their gender. The fashion industry also suffers from gender inequality. While there are numerous women working in the fashion industry, research from 2018 found that most executives, or the highest-paid employees, in the fashion industry were male or about 80% of executives. Therefore, despite the fashion industry being dominated by women employees and women’s clothing having more sales than men’s clothing, men are more often occupying the higher paid jobs in the fashion industry.

Racial inequality is still a significant issue in the United States and another example of the unequal distribution of privilege. However, many white people feel that racism or racial inequality is not a significant issue in 2019. Despite the progress since the abolition of slavery and jim crow laws, Black people are still at a significant disadvantage. For example, one study found that when researchers sent resumes with either African American or white-sounding names, the white-sounding name candidate needed to send about 10 resumes to obtain a single call back whereas the African American sounding name candidate needed to send on average 15 resumes to obtain a single call back for an interview.

Racial inequality can also be found within the fashion industry. For example, while there have been numerous successful Black designers in the fashion industry, the industry at the same time experiences systemic racial inequality issues. For example, most fashion models are white as compared to people of color; while this inequality in fashion models has lessened over time, the industry more often casts white models to represent the ideal of beauty over models of color.

What is implicit bias?

According to a research center at the Ohio State University, implicit bias “refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.” They are enacted “without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.” These implicit biases have been learned over time, yet they are malleable and can be unlearned. Therefore, even if individual’s have an unconscious bias towards a group of people, these attitudes are able to be changed.

One example related to fashion is the concept that people with disabilities have rarely had accessible or adaptive clothing available on the market. This does not necessarily mean that the fashion industry professionals actively and overtly think “they do not like people with disabilities or do not think they should have clothing.” What likely is happening in the industry is that people have an unconscious bias towards people with disabilities and are not thinking about their needs or interests as individuals. The fashion industry has also until much recently, lacked visible models with disabilities in their fashion advertisements.

How to reduce implicit bias?

There are numerous ways to reduce implicit bias. In this article published in Psychology Today, the authors discuss how while awareness of your biases is a first step, it is not enough. The authors explain that in order to significantly reduce bias, practices should include: exposing people to counter-stereotypic examples, developing an understanding of the outgroup member, and engaging with members of the outgroup in a positive interaction. In a large-scale study, scholars examined that while interventions aimed at reducing bias had good intentions, these interventions did not always work to reduce people’s biases and that more data was needed to be able to determine the best methods to reduce bias.

What is empathy?

Empathy refers to the ability to understand individuals who are in outgroups, or individuals who are a part of a group that we do not self-identify with or belong to. That is, empathy is the ability to understand the experiences or expressions of individuals who are not like us.

Think back to the example of people with disabilities and their representation in fashion advertisements. If you were in charge of selecting models for a fashion photo shoot and you knew it made people with disabilities feel poorly about themselves if they did not see themselves represented (feeling negatively towards oneself about lack of representation, too, is not limited to people with disabilities), would that influence your decision about who to choose? Understanding their experiences or listening to their stories can help increase empathy.

Case Study Questions:

1. Harvard University, an Ivy League institution, has some of leading researchers in social psychology who study implicit bias. They have developed numerous tests to evaluate individual’s implicit bias levels. Go to their website and take one of the following quizzes: skin tone, weapons, race, religion, Asian, Native, gender-career, sexuality, disability, or weight. The survey will take about 8 minutes to complete. After you complete the survey a) identify the survey you took AND record the results of the survey. Then, b) reflect on your result: are you surprised by the results of your quiz? Why or why not?


2. According to our Ornstein (2017) reading, “in a fair and just society, people are paid on the basis of the goods and services they produce for the common good.” Read this article in Footwear News about the retail industry and pay. a) What social identity is described as having unearned benefits or advantages in the article and why? b) According to the article, is the retail industry creating a fair and just society? Why or why not?


3. a) Reflect on your own social identities. In what ways do you occupy privileged or non-privileged social identity groups? b) Have you ever thought about privileges in relation to your social identities before? Why or why not?


4. Watch this short film on privilege. The video highlights some of the ways that intersectionality is important to understanding oppression and marginalization. After watching the film and reviewing the readings, discuss why is it important to take an intersectional approach to understanding privilege. Be specific with at least one example to demonstrate your answer.


5. Reflect on your current understanding about privilege and social identity. a) Do you feel like you have an ability to empathize with individuals occupying oppressed social identities why or why not? b) think about the people who you grew up around, were the people from a variety of backgrounds or were most people similar to you and your family. How do you think your background contribute to your ability to empathize with individuals occupying oppressed social identities? c) Is there a particular identity you are interested in learning more about?



100 points total

Meets or exceeds expectations

All parts of questions are answered.

Questions are answered correctly and in accordance with the information presented in the reading.

Answers contain at least two full sentences, contain explanations and examples where appropriate and show synthesis of information in reading when appropriate.


Some parts of the questions are answered.

Questions are mostly answered correctly in accordance with some information presented in the reading.

Answer contains less than two full sentences, contains brief explanation or example and shows little synthesis of information from reading when appropriate.

Needs development

No or few parts of question answered.

Questions are not answered correctly or in accordance with information presented in the reading.

Answer is short phrases or not complete sentences, contain no explanation or examples and show no or little evidence of information from reading when appropriate.

Question 1 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 2 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 3 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 4 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points
Question 5 is complete, correct, and well developed. 15-20 points 9-14 points 0-8 points


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Dress, Appearance, and Diversity in Society by Kelly Reddy-Best is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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