2022 Equity Challenge Day 2: Social Identity

“Identity is nuanced. It’s complicated. It’s hard to define. Sometimes it’s dangerous to define, depending upon who’s doing the defining.”

Dr. Yaba Blay

Ghanian American professor, activist, and author

“Identity is nuanced. It’s complicated. It’s hard to define. Sometimes it’s dangerous to define, depending upon who’s doing the defining.” – Dr. Yaba Blay, Ghanian American professor, activist, and author 

This week, you will notice the challenge is building on our various foundations of DEI. Our goal with this material is to meet each of you where you are in your equity journey to support forward progress. To do this, we must build a baseline with each other. Today through Friday, some of the topics will look familiar from last year, but with a deeper dive or different perspective. Need a refresher? Find last year’s material about identity on our website. 

Today, we start with identity. What is identity? 

Dr. Yaba Blay says on Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast that identity is, “the meeting of who you are, who you believe yourself to be, and who others tell you that you are. And I think we’re all trying to navigate that space to come to understand who we are. Because we can’t act like other people’s definitions of us or other people’s projections onto us don’t impact us.”

Ultimately, identity is beautiful. Identity is complex. Identity is personal yet identity is also community. Identity is the core of who we are, and it helps create language for our shared lived experiences as people.  

When we look closer at identity, we can see how identity is shaped by the social groups to which we belong, as constructed by society. This is called social identity. Some examples of social identity include race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status, criminal record, education, socioeconomic class and more. 

The organization oneTILT defines social identity as having these three characteristics: 

  • Exists (or is consistently used) to bestow power, benefits or disadvantage. 
  • It is used to explain differences in outcomes, effort or ability. 
  • Is immutable or otherwise sticky (difficult, costly or dangerous) to change. 

We started this week with identity because to truly transform inequitable systems, we must start with us. When we take time to better understand what social groups we identify with and which may be prescribed to us in society, we can start to unpack how those identities show up in systems of oppression

During the history of the United States, systems of oppression have been created through violence and colonization to maintain inequitable power and control over people who are part of non-dominant groups. Some examples of oppression are racism, sexism, classism and more. It’s important to remember that systems of oppression have always been part of the foundation of the United States and pre-date the founding of the country. Systems of oppression impact access to quality of education, childcare, safe housing, nutrition and more (Social Construction of Systems of Oppression and Privilege, Goduka and Geisthardt).

Today’s challenge materials allow us to better understand the relationship between social identity and systems of oppression. By starting here, we can each see how our own lives are impacted by these systems and define our role in dismantling them.  





  • Listen to Yaba Blay on Brené Brown’s podcast, speaking on the importance of identity, colorism, and taking responsibility for change (80 minutes).


  • Fill out this Social Identity Profile to help you understand your own social identities. Start a conversation with someone (such as a colleague who is also participating in the challenge) using the questions provided. (15 minutes).

Reflect And Share

  1. What identities are you most aware of or think the most about? What consequences do you experience when these identities are ignored or dismissed? 
  2. In what ways do your identities intersect and connect with one another?
  3. Which identities do you hold by choice, and which are defined for you by others? When have you noticed that your identities were used against you or to your benefit?
  4. When looking at the social identity wheel, what did the internal and external dimensions bring up for you? How would you change the wheel to better reflect your experiences?
  5. When you read the quote at the top of this email by Dr. Yaba Blay, what were your initial reactions? How did your thoughts on the quote change after reviewing today’s content?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC22