Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Heeding the Call: A Program on Justicemaking for Junior High School Youth

Leader Resource 2: Spheres Diagram

From Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin (New York: Routledge Press, 2007).

Copy the diagram on newsprint, but not the accompanying text. You will provide the text in the course of the activity.

The inner circle is the sphere of Self.

The next circle -- going out from the center circle - is the sphere of Close Family & Friends.

The next circle is the sphere of School & Congregational Life.

The outer circle is the sphere of Community.

Spheres of Influence

  1. Self: Educating yourself, understanding your values and feelings, examining how you want to change
  2. Close family and friends: Influencing the people closest to you
  3. Social, school and work relationships: Friends and acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, people with whom you interact on a regular basis
  4. Community: People with whom you interact infrequently or in community setting

The Spectrum of Oppression:

Supporting Oppression

  • Actively Participating: Telling oppressive jokes, putting down people from target groups, intentionally avoiding target group members, discriminating against target group members, verbally or physically harassing target group members.
  • Denying: Enabling oppression by denying that target group members are oppressed. Does not actively oppress, but by denying that oppression exists, colludes with oppression.
  • Recognizing, No Action: Is aware of oppressive actions by self or others and their harmful effects, but takes no action to stop this behavior. This inaction is the result of fear, lack of information, confusion about what to do. Experiences discomfort at the contradiction between awareness and action.
  • Recognizing, Action: Is aware of oppression, recognizes oppressive actions of self and others and takes action to stop it.
  • Educating Self: Taking actions to learn more about oppression and the experiences and heritage of target group members by reading, attending workshops, seminars, cultural events, participating in discussions, joining organizations or groups that oppose oppression, attending social action and change events.
  • Educating Others: Moving beyond only educating self to question and dialogue with others too. Rather than only stopping oppressive comments or behaviors, also engaging people in discussion to share why you object to a comment or action.
  • Supporting, Encouraging: Supporting others who speak out against oppression or who are working to be more inclusive of target group members by backing up others who speak out, forming an allies group, joining a coalition group.
  • Initiating, Preventing: Working to change individual and institutional actions and policies that discriminate against target group members, planning educational programs or other events, working for passage of legislation that protects target group members from discrimination, being explicit about making sure target group members are full participants in organizations or groups.

Confronting Oppression

Created by P. Griffin and B. Harra, 1982.

Becoming an Ally

What Is an Ally?

An ally is a member of the agent social group who takes a stand against social injustice directed at target groups (Whites who speak out against racism, men who are anti-sexist). An ally works to be an agent of social change rather than an agent of oppression. When a form of oppression has multiple target groups, as do racism, ableism, and heterosexism, target group members can be allies to other targeted social groups they are not part of (lesbians can be allies to bisexual people, African American people can be allies to Native Americans, blind people can be allies to people who use wheelchairs).

Characteristics of an Ally

  • Feels good about own social group membership; is comfortable and proud of own identity
  • Takes responsibility for learning about own and target group heritage, culture, and experience, and how oppression works in everyday life
  • Listens to and respects the perspectives and experiences of target group members
  • Acknowledges unearned privileges received as a result of agent status and works to eliminate or change privileges into rights that target group members also enjoy
  • Recognizes that unlearning oppressive beliefs and actions is a lifelong process, not a single event, and welcomes each learning opportunity
  • Is willing to take risks, try new behaviors, act in spite of own fear and resistance from other agents
  • Takes care of self to avoid burn-out
  • Acts against social injustice out of a belief that it is in her this own self-interest to do so
  • Is willing to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again
  • Is willing to be confronted about own behavior and attitudes and consider change
  • Is committed to taking action against social injustice in own sphere of influence
  • Understands own growth and response patterns and when she/he is on a learning edge
  • Understands the connections among all forms of social injustice
  • Believes she/he can make a difference by acting and speaking out against social injustice
  • Knows how to cultivate support from other allies

Printing This Handout

Download a high-resolution copy of this Handout (PDF) for printing.

LEADER RESOURCE 2 Spheres Diagram