Final Project — What diversity and social justice mean to people with different backgrounds, based on the photos they took and their interactions in this project?

(The whole names of the participants in this project will not be shown. Initials will be used to replace the names)

From dictionary by Merriam-Webster, diversity means “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization programs intended to promote diversity in schools” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diversity). And justice means “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments ~social justice” (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justice). 

Both diversity and social justice seems very common among people and easy to understand, however, does it mean the same to every person? This report is analyzed from the experiences based on five participants’ interactions in the project and photos that they shot to show their understanding of diversity and social justice. There are two ways that the diversity and social justice will be displayed in this report. The first way is the pictures the participants took from the real life or get from internet and comments they made for their photographs. It will show their first-person perspective of diversity and social justice. The second way is the interactions that they did during the whole project with me, such as, how long it took for them to collect all the photos and how accurate they understand my request, and so on.

Five selected participants were told to do a photovoice project. There is no specific issue or target that request the participants must point on. The only request is taking pictures that relate to their lives and show their understanding of diversity and social justice. The reason that no specific issue was asked is the reaction of their interaction is the main point of this project. How will they take responsibility for this project? How long will it cost for them to do this photovoice project? What topics will be showed from their photovoice? And some other things that showed up during the project time. The five selected participants were told to do this around October 22nd. The last picture was given by Dec 9th. During the project time, the participants were asked to take one to two photos per week for four weeks. Four pictures will be the minimum for every participant. For every image, the participants were asked to give two to three sentences to describe it and explain how the pictures are related to their lives from the perspective of diversity and social justice.

  1. K.I.: The first participant who was asked to join this project is my supervisor from my previous internship. I worked with her more than one year, and we have a good relationship. she is a black single young girl who just graduated from her undergrad sociology program about two and half years with two-year working experience. She is working for American Red Cross with okay pay but still sometimes struggling with money problems as she mentioned before. As a few of black paid-role in Red Cross, which is a non-profit organization, she can see black individuals didn’t be given enough opportunities to develop their careers in the field. Here are the pictures and descriptions from her, and my analysis is down below the pictures. https://uccgl.org/linzhu/final-project-ki/
  2. B.H.: The second participant is one of my best friends. I know him because we both worked for the American Red Cross. He is from a upper-middle-class family and was seen as a typical American normal boy by me. He just graduated from a local university, Mount St. Joseph University, as public health major. He was a nursing student, but he didn’t like helping people in that way. So, he changed his major because he wants to spread public health knowledge to bigger communities and let more people notice the importance of health. He is now working for Amazon.com, Inc. as a part-time logistic person. Of course,  he wouldn’t just limit himself to a bachelor degree. He will definitely at least get a master degree or higher degree. He told me because he is 26 years old now, he has to take responsibility on his on and should ask money from his parents for the school. He told me as a “single” child was because his older sister was already old enough to stay by herself at that time and didn’t live with the family.  Here are his pictures and descriptions, and my analysis is down below the pictures. https://uccgl.org/linzhu/final-project-bh/
  3. L.Z.: The third participant is my mentor from School of Social work, a Chinese woman. She graduated from an excellent Chinese university, Fudan Univerisity, many years ago. She got married to a white man, and their first baby is on the way. She went back to school after ten-year working, now she already finished her first graduate degree in social work and working on another degree in public health. As a Chinese woman who is living in a white family, it gave her difference from Chinese people who just need to deal with Chinese families and gave her some different worldview to really see the issues from other races. I got many suggestions from her, as my mentor. It is fascinating to see her interaction with this project. Here is the link to her pictures and descriptions, and my analysis is down below the pictures. https://uccgl.org/linzhu/final-project-lz/
  4. J.C.: The fourth participant is my friend who is a first-year graduate student in the school of engineering as Industrial & Operations Engineering in the Univerisity of Michigan. We both start to study in the Univerisity of Michigan at the same semester. He just graduated from Purdue Univerisity and had more American-knowledge background than many other international graduate students. As an engineering student, he is not too secretive in diversity and social justice, however, by looking around in his school, there are issues of diversity, such as there are more than 40% Chinese students in some engineering majors, not too many black students in his school, etc. I was really interested in how he will reflect on his diversity and social justice issues as an engineering student. Here is the link to his pictures and descriptions, and my analysis is down below the pictures. https://uccgl.org/linzhu/final-project-jc/
  5. Z.L: The last participant is the son in law of my godmother. As a first generation immigration, after he got his master and Ph.d. degrees found by Ford Motor at the University of Michigan He worked for General Motors about two years. Now, he is working for Michigan State University as an associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering. He is one of the successful survivors in the international student community and is considered as an upper-class immigration now. His achievement and his professor title made me very excited about his works. His pictures and descriptions are here and my analysis is down below the pictures. https://uccgl.org/linzhu/final-project-zl/

There are some issues, and interesting things happened during the time, and I have to change the program descriptions for different people:

  1. From the distribution that I gave them, all photos should be collected by Nov 17th, if they followed the steps. However, none of the participants finished it on time. Actually, by the observations, none of the participants got it start from the last week, the week of Nov 13th. From the point of diversity, there are not too many differences among people in the different background. Everyone has their own busy lives. The request from others is the minor consideration on the schedule for everyone, except telling them it is an important or urgent need. Three weeks ago, Nov 20th, I started to remind everyone about this project and told them I need these photos soon because I feel it will be late if they haven’t started it yet. One week before, around Nov 3rd, I told everyone it is for one of my final projects. Then some of them finally realized it is an urgent need and start to work on it. Jump out from this project, when decision makers are working on the decision which is not related to themselves. They will care much less. It will be terrible on law-making and some other governmental decisions. Gun issues are big issues in the U.S. Everytime after the big gun shooting, people will be sad and feel unsafe for couple days, but after few days, people already throw this thing far away from their mind and continues their normal lives. The reason is easy to find out because these issues did not affect their daily life. However, one day, if Grim Reaper comes and finds them, it is already too late to think about it. Social justice cannot be considered in a right way sometimes because of the lack of empathizing ability.
  2. From the distribution that I gave them, the participants supposed to take photos by their phones to show the diversity and social justice. A few participants said it is so hard for them to find diversity and social justice because of their busy schedule. Based on that, I told them, you can get pictures from anywhere, the only thing you have to keep in mind is that all the issues of the photographs must relate on your own. Auguste Rodin said, “Beauty is found everywhere. Our eyes do not show a lack of sense of beauty, but a lack of observation”. I would say, diversity and social justice is found everywhere. Our eyes do not show a lack of sense of diversity and social justice, but a lack of observation. American is an immigration country, and the world is getting more and more globalized, diversity is all around us. Students from different background with different cultural sit together in the same classrooms; so many restaurants offer food of different cultures; in the grocery stores, products are made from all over the world. Diversity and social justice are big parts of our daily life, however, because of the lack of understanding and lack of attention, people do not understand what they are and how they exist in people’s lives. In the other way, if people can not understand what diversity and social justice are and where and how they exist, how could people know to solve the problems which are caused by diversity and social justice? Unfortunately, many people they do not know about them, and many people do not care about them, so many social issues are still existing hundreds of years later.
  3. When I told L.Z. about the photovoice, she checked “photovoice” from Wikipedia to have a better understanding of it. This action impressed me because the rest of participants just followed what I told them to do. L.Z. was the only one checked on how to make a photovoice. From this, I can see the diversity of peoples’ different backgrounds. L.Z. and I are both social work students, many things that I am doing now was what she did before. So, I can feel more responsibly she took than the others who are not a social work background. I think it is easier for people who have the same background to empathize each other.
  4. Both L.Z. and K.I. Majored in social sciences. L.Z. Graduated with a master of social work degree and K.I. Graduated with a bachelor of a sociology degree. It is easier for them to understand what diversity and social justice are because the issues of diversity and social justice were talked during their classes before. They have the better view of finding out the social justices and injustices and tag with their own experiences. It is a little bit hard for the others to get the idea of diversity and social justice.
  5. Both Z.L. and J.C. are engineering scholars. Their daily focuses are natural sciences. Few social sciences issues were talked in their lives and also because English is their second language, it is hard for them to get the point of diversity and social justice. So, I have to explain more to them than the others and give specific examples to show them what kind of pictures that they need to look for. This process made me thought about the internet environment for recent years. It seems like internet helped people’s life a lot and in some ways totally changed people’s life. However, because all these cell phones or computer applications are created by engineers. High efficiency is their main goal. Use Facebook as an example. People can like the posts they like and dislike the posts they don’t like. By the calculation of the cloud, the server will provide more information related to what you liked, and stop to give you the information related to what you disliked. Because this function, more and more bias were created in people’s mind. Everything around them let them feel they are liked supported by the whole world with whatever they do. Even the posts which support social injustice looks right on their Facebook pages. This will only make the society even worse.
  6. Instead of taking pictures every week, B.H. spent couple hours to drive around in the city for finding pictures. In the view of diversity, I think it reflects out the different working styles. These styles are generated by our culture and the previous experiences. His action represents a group of people who like to spend a block of time to finish something. The positive part of it is this producing way is more high-efficient and get work down quickly; the negative part is that this producing way will ignore or forget the on-going process or on-going development. For short-term programs, it is quick and easy to finish the job and everyone can quickly move to the other programs. It is very good for flexibility. However, for long-term programs, this producing way may hurt many people and create social injustice, such as the deferred action for DACA arrivals.
  7. Everyone’s photos are related to their lives, as I asked. By the end of this project, another idea comes to my mind. What if everyone was told to find photos of diversity and social justice which related to other racial groups or people with different backgrounds than them. Will these participants be able to find out the issues among other groups as accurate as they were trying to find their own issues? Every group of people deeply understand their own needs but most of them never thought about others. When the time people are looking for their social justice, it may cause social injustice for other races or people who differ from them and egoism will be raised up. showed up  Wars are the most harmful human actions that based on one group or several groups people’s social justice, especially jihadist movement.   People who believe different religion killed each other, just because they serve for different Gods. It seems both sides of soldiers are right because they were fighting for their Gods; however, they both are wrong actually because they were killing the human beings come from the same plant as them. KKK is another example of egoism that White Supremacy was announced to offer more power for the white communities. It is definitely the evil consequence of social injustice.

9 thoughts on “Final Project — What diversity and social justice mean to people with different backgrounds, based on the photos they took and their interactions in this project?”

  1. Thanks for your effort Lin. I think that it is difficult to ask people to participate and unfortunately getting everything in on time is a problem. However, I think that you did a nice job despite this problem. I really like Jaedah’s feedback above, so I won’t repeat it here. It is kind of surprising how little people really understand what diversity and social justice is. It is also interesting that their interpretation depended highly on their background and experiences.

  2. I loved how you asked these questions to different people and had them speak their truths and experiences with what diversity and social justice means. It really spoke to me when there so many different ways in which people also equated those terms with the “guilt” or “anger” associated with injustice and over-privilege. It was eye opening and powerful. Great project!

  3. Hi Lin. It looks like you put a lot of thought and effort into this project, and I appreciate a lot of your insights on social justice and how it is perceived by others based on their social identities and statuses. Something that struck me about your project is the broad range of issues that your participants discussed. I do notice that the participants seemed to discuss issues relevant to their own lives, as you had asked them to, and I share your wondering of how the participants would have done the project had they been asked to focus on social justice issues primarily impacting people different from themselves. Given that you know each of the participants personally, it was really neat to read your analysis of the way each of them completed the project and on what timeline. This is something I did not think about incorporating into my project, and I think it is a unique way to look at differences in peoples’ lives and world views from a different angle than we usually do. The Auguste Rodin quote you shared is really inspiring, and I like that you applied that concept to diversity and social justice. I think that there are definitely spaces that have more diversity and social justice than other spaces, but it is definitely easy for people who hold many privileged identities to block this out and not recognize it in their day to day lives.

  4. Greetings Lin!

    I think that your analysis of how the participants all interpreted your instructions differently. I first read the participants stories first and I thought that reading your final reactions really brought everything together for me. I do want to challenge the conversation with social justice and diversity. I think that we happen to equate diversity with race majority of the time. While that is a part of the concept, I think that people think that is THE concept. I would have like to see what your friends learned from doing this project. It seems to me that you are well connected with well off, educated individuals. It was interesting that B.H. went into communities that he thought were low-income and ran down. I wonder if it was invasive for them to go into these communities and take pictures.

    I loved your point on these individuals did not look into what this assignment was or really ask questions about it. You did not fault them for not understanding these concepts, but you said they are unaware and do not know because this is not a part of their realities. It would have been cool if they could have gotten all of their parts into sooner so you could do a follow up or debrief with them what you thought social justice and diversity meant. For me, the responses from the participants turned into one of oppression and domination using lens from the outside looking in. It truly is interesting to see how they interpreted the project. We, as social workers, have to do.

    1. One more thing that I may forgot to mention. I do not think people in low-income areas do not care about their quality of life. We have learned to work with the cards that we are dealt. Some of us are able to make it out and others are not. That does not mean that we do not care. We can not spend every second of our day moping about the situation. Instead that time is used to stay afloat and survive.

  5. Hi Lin! I really liked how you added your own perspective through comments in reference to the photograph and explanation of your participants. It helped give insight to your perception as well as theirs. I liked how you wrote that diversity and social justice are found everywhere, because it is true. It is in the eye of the beholder to identify just what diversity and social justice looks like to them and to capture it. For example, I pulled themes of stereotypes and how they interact with our identities from K.I, the barriers or lack thereof in communities from B.H., bringing people together and acknowledging identity from L.Z., societal changes over time from J.C. and racial compilation from Z.I. Photovoice was really an excellent way to capture the lens in which your participants viewed diversity and social justice. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Hi Lin, thanks for sharing your final project. I really enjoyed looking at each participant’s photos and captions for them, and learned a lot. I think that social justice and diversity are such important concepts, and it’s interesting because they can be defined in so many ways (as all of the pictures demonstrate). I also found your question (will these participants be able to identify ideas about social justice and diversity for other racial grounds?) really interesting. I definitely think it’s important for people to empathize with others and try to understand different perspectives and challenges that people with other identities have. At the same time, I feel that it’s crucial that we tell our own stories, since we can only be experts in our own experiences. If we practiced more empathy, there would hopefully be less war/killing/injustice in the world. Could we achieve this by also practicing non-violence and telling our own truths to the world? Instead of speaking for others, can we lift up all voices to find the commonality of truth in each and promote peace and justice? Thanks for this project and helping me to reflect on this!

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