Chapter 7: Diversity & Inclusion

Privilege & Belonging

What is Privilege?

Examining privilege

Privilege is access to resources and experiences because of belonging to an advantaged group. It is given rather than earned. Do you hold any of the following privileges?

  • Able-bodied
  • Property Owner
  • Straight or Heterosexual
  • White
  • Male
  • Christian
  • Middle or Upper Class

By exploring the ways that we are privileged, we can enhance our personal understanding. We develop better relationships with diverse people by acknowledging how our identities impact the way we interact and live in the world. How have you experienced privilege in your life?


Privileges are unearned, unasked for, often invisible benefits and advantages not available to members of minoritized groups. They are socially constructed to benefit members of dominant groups.

The BuzzFeed staff members in the video below participated in an activity designed to inspire awareness about privilege.  http://


Becoming aware of our privileges and their effects on others is one of the first steps toward building a more just and inclusive world, which is why learning about and discussing these important issues is taken so seriously in most educational institutions.


One way privilege often appears is through the use microaggressions. Microaggressions are everyday subtle interactions, comments, or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups. Occasionally, microaggressions are intentional, but in most cases, the people who commit them might not even be aware of what they’re doing, the message they’re sending, and the effects their behavior has on others.

There are some generally recognized themes or types of microaggressions:

  • Alien in one’s own land
    • assuming someone was born in another country if they don’t “look American”
    • asking someone where they were born or commenting on their English skills
    • not learning how to pronounce someone’s name
  • Color blindness
    • denying the significance of someone’s identity
    • saying they don’t see color or there’s only the human race
    • questioning the credibility of someone’s story
  • Denial of responsibility
    • denying bias, often with an inaccurate qualifier
    • saying they’re not racist because they have Black or Asian friends
    • asking someone if they’re telling the truth about racial profiling
    • closely related to the myth of meritocracy
  • Second-class citizen
    • treating someone from the majority better than someone from a minority group
    • assuming a professional person of color is the janitor
    • mistaking a female doctor is the nurse
    • closely related to criminal assumption
  • Assigning intelligence
    • stereotyping about a particular group’s level of intelligence
    • assuming Asian people are good at math but women aren’t
    • telling someone they’re representing their race well or are well-spoken
  • Idealizing dominant culture’s values or styles
    • believing others’ communication or clothing styles aren’t normal
    • not allowing sports players to wear braids or dreadlocks
    • dismissing someone who brings up race in an educational or employment setting
  • Sexist or heterosexist language
    • using terms that exclude or degrade women or LGBTQIA+ people
    • using the word gay as an insult or derogatory adjective
    • being forced to choose between male/female or married/single on forms
    • closely related to gender role stereotyping

Some strategies for responding to microaggressions include making the microaggression visible to the speakers and educating them about messages their words may be sending. In most cases, people don’t intend to be hurtful and don’t realize the impact their actions have on others, but honoring the pain and lived experiences of those affected is an important first step in addressing microaggressions of all kinds. Awareness is the first step in not committing microaggressions. It’s also important to realize it is not the responsibility of the marginalized group members to raise awareness or educate others about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it’s imperative we do all we can to ensure everyone feels a sense of safety and of belonging.


According to Cornell University, “Belonging is the feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to work” and school. When people feel like they don’t belong, their performance and their personal lives suffer, so creating genuine feelings of belonging for all is a critical factor in improving engagement and performance.

Resources and readings about belonging in the workplace


According to Very Well Mind, “A sense of belonging involves more than simply being acquainted with other people. It is centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group as well as providing the same attention to other members.” They go on to cite a 2020 study of college students that found a positive link between a sense of belonging and greater happiness and overall well-being, as well as an overall reduction in the mental health outcomes including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Loneliness
  • Social anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
Feeling a sense of belonging helps us deal with stress and increases resilience so we can better manage difficult times. Because it’s so important for mental and physical health, the Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following actions to boost your sense of belonging:
  • Make an effort.
    The most crucial ingredient to building a sense of belonging is effort. You cannot belong if you don’t choose to make the effort to engage with others. It may feel uncomfortable at first to meet new people, but give it time, as you may need to practice self-talk. Soon the actions will become second nature. Behavioral activation and opposite action are effective strategies for getting yourself to put in the effort. Action often is needed to feel motivated.
  • Be mindful of others.
    Think less about yourself while with others and make the other person or the group your focus. Making conversation is critical to increasing your sense of belonging. It is important to mutually ask questions, make small talk, self-disclose skillfully and listen to people’s responses.
  • Keep an open mind.
    Try new activities and meet new people. Consider new ways of thinking. Put in effort to seek activities and groups of people who you share common interests with. You may need to make it happen to start.
  • Practice an attitude of acceptance.
    Recognize that others have different ways of being, which don’t have to change you. Focus on similarities rather than differences. Similarities tend to increase bonding. If you feel that people are not like you, focus on a mutual goal, such as a volunteer opportunity. Validate the feelings of others.
  • Validate action.
    If creating a sense of belonging is challenging for you, remember to give yourself the encouragement you would give a friend. Remind  yourself that it can feel discouraging at times and it will get better by continuing to put in the work.

The following brief video offers some insights into belonging among students transitioning into college for the first time:


Opportunities to belong

In small groups of your peers, brainstorm ways you could increase your sense of belonging at MCC.  What opportunities and organizations does MCC offer that would help you and your peers feel more connected to the College and to each other? Make sure every person leaves the conversation with at least one concrete action step to increase their sense of belonging.






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