8 Social Legacies That Control Our Lives

By: | April 10, 2017

One of the reasons that communicating about identity issues is so challenging in organizations and communities is because of the presence of powerful legacies. A legacy is defined as something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor. Social legacies consist of norms, laws, expectations and behaviors handed down from past generations that govern how we relate to each other across identity groups. Understanding legacies are important because they shape how we perceive and respond to one other and members of cultural groups. A historical, social legacy can be positive or negative. The institution of slavery is considered a negative legacy; women gaining the right to vote, a positive one.

In the Age of MultiDentity, it’s important to understand how you have incorporated the various legacies you’ve experienced into your world view and it’s critically important for you to acknowledge that your friends, community members, and colleagues will have different outlooks due to the legacies they have experienced.

These differences create dramatic and subtle, conflicts in the filters we use to interpret day-to-day issues such as fairness, equity, and opportunity. These three crucial ingredients have a lot to do with high performing teams and cohesive communities. Let’s begin our exploration of how various social legacies have influenced you by reviewing some of the common legacies embedded within all societies.

Privilege – belonging to an identity group or class that is favored and receives special treatment, protection, and honor

Oppression – the subordination of a given identity group or social category by the cruel, unjust use of force and authority. Oppression robs the individual of human dignity, civil and social rights

Segregation -the practice or policy of creating separate access, facilities and opportunities within the society for the placement of a minority group. And, the exclusion from the mainstream or dominant population of a group of people.

Assimilation – the process whereby a minority group gradually adapts to the values, traditions, and attitudes of the prevailing culture and customs

Civil Rights – codification of laws and regulations that ensure peoples’ physical integrity and safety; protection from discrimination based on some aspect of their identity

Multiculturalism – the appreciation, acceptance, protection or promotion of multiple cultures present in the demographic make-up of specific places such as schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities or nations

Diversity – appreciation for the uniqueness of individuals, and through the process of valuing and including those differences, increasing the effectiveness of a group of different individuals

Globalism – integrating worldwide systems, such as economic, environmental and health-related systems that affect the interdependency of the world

But it all begins with you. You have to know yourself before you can successfully connect with others. In a MultiDentity World it’s important to recognize:

  • How legacies shape your attitudes, expectations, and choices
  • How dimensions of your identity were affected by specific legacies
  • When and how various legacies are operating within yourself, your community, workplace, and colleagues.

Awareness of the presence of legacies can turn a potential conflict into an honest communication and a breakdown into a breakthrough that can help you connect with others in the Age of MultiDentity.

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