Moving Beyond the Cycle

Guest post by Brian Lackman | Assistant Director of Student Engagement, Leadership

Often times in my work with Duke students, I have the privilege of being able to engage in thoughtful and deep conversations around leadership, equity, and the struggle to progress forward individually and collectively to a better place. I have frequently heard the question from students in a variety of ways asking why aren’t we there yet? While I have days where I can be frustrated with the rate of change as we move toward a society grounded in equity, I have to remind myself that each and every one of us is in different parts of our socialization.

I first came across the Cycle of Socialization from the book Readings for Diversity & Social Justice during my undergraduate career. I remember that this article really challenged me to consider a lot of things differently. It forced me to realize that while those people in my life who were my first sources of socialization intended well for me, they also bestowed upon me biases, prejudices, and an understanding of the world that would make me view and understand the world through a singular lens. I was amazed in considering that every element of my identity, how I defined words and concepts, understood my values in relation to the world, everything had been and was continually being socialized. As I kept reading about the Cycle of Socialization, I realized just how many ways that my world view has been reinforced and further entrenched by the institutions, cultures, and entities that I engaged in both actively and passively. I realized that every club that I had been a part of, every organization I had joined, classroom I was in, media source that I consumed, all of it and more kept shaping my point of view. The most critical element of the cycle for me was the results section. I realized that where I was ignorant of the people and world around me came as a direct result of the culmination of these experiences. This left me with the ultimate choice – perpetuate the status quo or break out of the cycle and work towards liberation.

While I appreciate that breaking out of the cycle sounds like a one-time decision, it is one we have to actively make each and every day.  It is important to remember that our society is constantly socializing us to believe and act in a certain way. It is important to always assess what is at the core of our beliefs, values, assumptions, and understanding of the world. If you recognize that one of your values may be tinged with bias (if you haven’t taken it before, I highly recommend the Implicit Bias test from Project Implicit) or prejudice, take the time to do your own personal work to become better educated and understand a new perspective.  It is critical that, in order to better ourselves and our communities (be they familial, local, or global), we are able to unlearn and relearn about the world around us in order to do our part in working toward equity.