Internal Dimensions of GCORR’s Diversity Wheel include age/generation, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and physical/mental ability. These are cultural aspects over which we, for the most part, have no control. (Nuances to this include, for example, physical ability, which might change based on activity level or in cases of illness or accident.) The internal dimension is the layer in which many divisions between and among people exist and which attracts much of the efforts of diversity work.
For many people, the internal dimensions of culture are those which we are able to recognize first. Sometimes we recognize these aspects because other people make us aware of them (ascribed identities). At other times, for example, we might intrinsically understand ourselves as racialized, gendered people of a certain generation (avowed identities). Because we connect what we see to the internal dimensions of culture, this is where we can make many of our assumptions and where many of our implicit biases rest. Consequently, many introductory diversity and equity resources focus on these aspects to make it easier for people to make connections between intercultural competency and the “isms” that often stand in the way.
“Isms” are shorthand for a list of oppressions that focus on aspects of the internal dimensions of culture. While there are some exceptions to the template, prejudices and discrimination based on race is racism, on age is ageism, on gender is sexism, and so forth. Intersectionality refers to the reality that dimensions of culture and cultural identity intersect. A Black male is not only Black but also male and lives life never as only one or the other. However, depending on the circumstances he might receive privilege or experience discrimination. For example, he might receive privileges in a meeting where maleness is valued over femaleness, then walk into his next meeting and experience discrimination because Whiteness is privileged over Blackness.
The internal dimensions of culture are what are often highlighted in anti-discrimination laws and in discussions (and arguments) about difference. Intercultural communication and competence helps us to recognize our own spheres of influence and experience and why we feel so strongly about our own internal dimensions of culture. With increased self-awareness, we can enter into vital conversations and mutual relationships with people who identify with different internal cultural realities in healthy and productive ways.
Institutional equity at this level imagines, creates, and sustains a United Methodist connection that creates equal access for every person to live fully into God’s best for their lives. Racial discrimination is rooted out from every training procedure and spiritual formation ideology. Connection-wide gender equity provides women with equal access to high level lay and clergy leadership positions. Conferences from Africa, Europe, the Philippines, and the U.S. come together and mutually discern how Wesleyan theologies emerge contextually from each of our ethnic contexts.
Our internal dimensions of cultural identity are often the most powerful for each of us. And, if we listen carefully to God and to each other, they can provide us with the most powerful opportunities for diversity and equity work that really make a difference.