World Trust

Diversity Training Film Tip #3: Acknowledge Dominant Culture's Power

Posted by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong on July 22, 2014

audience at World Trust diversity training event

One of the great powers of film is its ability to spark conversation that is both challenging and compassionate. This enables participants to leverage the kind of transformative learning that’s crucial for cultural diversity training. But how do you choose a film that’s right for your goals? Read on for our series of tips on how to select a film resource to support your equity efforts.

Tip #3: Acknowledge the Power of the Dominant Culture
“Diversity training is a great idea – but what does it have to do with me?” This is a question that may have come up more than once, voiced by a well-meaning member of a community or organization.

The best way to begin to answer it is by understanding that within an oppressive system, no one is able to fully access their humanity if they can’t also recognize the humanity of every individual around them: even those on the system’s margins. And although all people are therefore both the oppressor and the oppressed within these systems, the dominant culture within a society plays a particular role when looking at the question of race.

Norms of the dominant culture are embedded in history & identity, informing the way that systemic inequity operates. In order to extend learning benefits to a broad audience, participants must hear the voices of people who are part of both the dominant and non-dominant cultures. 

That is to say: films that exclusively share stories of inequity’s impact on people of color can miss the opportunity to include white people in the narrative of a system which impacts all people. It also perpetuates the mistruth that white people can only be a part of the problem, never the solution.

The Takeaway
Inclusion of perspectives from the dominant culture facilitates the kind of welcoming, broad-spectrum conversation needed to tackle inequity at its roots. For a case study exploring this idea further, read more about one Washington State school district’s experience with the World Trust film Mirrors of Privilege.

Topics: Diversity Training Film Selection