Is Everyone Really Equal? 
An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education

Is Everyone Really Equal?

An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education


Sensoy, Ö. & DiAngelo, R. (2012). Is everyone really equal? An introduction to key concepts in social justice education. NY: Teachers College Press. 

240 pages.

ISBN-10: 080775269X. ISBN-13: 978-0807752692.

Part of the Multicultural Education Series

Edited by James A. Banks

Published by Teachers College Press in New York

Sample full pdf of Chapter 2 Socialization

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2012 Critics Choice Book Award! from the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) for outstanding contribution to scholarship in the Social Foundations of Education field.


This practical handbook will introduce readers to social justice education, providing tools for developing “critical social justice literacy” and for taking action towards a more just society. Accessible to students from high school through graduate school, this book offers a collection of detailed and engaging explanations of key concepts in social justice education, including critical thinking, socialization, group identity, prejudice, discrimination, oppression, power, privilege, and White supremacy. Based on extensive experience in a range of settings in the United States and Canada, the authors address the most common stumbling blocks to understanding social justice. They provide recognizable examples, scenarios, and vignettes illustrating these concepts.

This unique resource has many user-friendly features, including “definition boxes” for key terms, “stop boxes” to remind readers of previously explained ideas, “perspective check boxes” to draw attention to alternative standpoints, a glossary, and a chapter responding to the most common rebuttals encountered when leading discussions on concepts in critical social justice. There are discussion questions and extension activities at the end of each chapter, and an appendix designed to lend pedagogical support to those newer to teaching social justice education.

DETAILED CHAPTER CONTENTS (preview Chapter 2 in full at link below)


Series Foreword, by James A. Banks, PhD.



What Is “Critical Social Justice”?

Chapter Summaries


A Parable: Hodja and the Foreigner

Layers of the Parable

1.Critical Thinking and Critical Theory

Two Dimensions of Thinking Critically About Knowledge

A Brief Overview of Critical Theory

Why Theory Matters

Knowledge Construction

Example of Knowledge as Socially Constructed

Thinking Critically About Opinions


What Is Socialization?

Cultural Norms and Conformity

“You” in Relation to the “Groups” to Which You Belong

3.Prejudice and Discrimination



All Humans Have Prejudice and Discriminate

4.Oppression and Power

What is Oppression?

Social Stratification

Understanding the “isms”

Internalized Dominance

Internalized Oppression

Hegemony, Ideology, and Power


What Is Privilege?

External and Structural Dimensions of Privilege

Internal and Attitudinal Dimensions of Privilege

Common Dominant Group Misconceptions About Privilege

6.The Invisibility of Oppression

What Is an Institution?

An Example: Sexism Today

What Makes Sexism Difficult to See?

Discourses of Sexism in Advertising

Discourses of Sexism in Movies

Discourses of Sexism in Music Videos


What Is Race?

A Brief History of the Social Construction of Race in the United States

A Brief History of the Social Construction of Race in Canada

What Is Racism?

Two Key Challenges to Understanding Racism

Racism Today

Dynamics of White Racial Superiority

Dynamics of Internalized Racial Oppression

Racism and Intersectionality

8.Racism as White Supremacy

What is Whiteness?

White Supremacy in the Global Context

Common White Misconceptions about Racism

9.“Yeah, But . . .”  Common Rebuttals

Claiming That Schools Are Politically Neutral

Dismissing Social Justice Scholarship as Merely the Radical and Personal Opinions of Individual “Left Wing” Professors

Citing Exceptions to the Rule

Arguing That Oppression Is Just “Human Nature”

Appealing to a Universalized Humanity

Insisting on Immunity from Socialization

Ignoring Intersectionality

Refusing to Recognize Structural and Institutional Power

Rejecting the Politics of Language

Invalidating Claims of Oppression as Over-Sensitivity

Reasoning That If Choice Is Involved It Can’t Be Oppression

Positioning Social Justice Education as Something “Extra”

The Paralysis of Guilt

10.  Putting It All Together

Recognize How Relations of Unequal Social Power are Constantly Being Negotiated

Understand Our Own Positions Within Relations of Unequal Power

Think Critically About Knowledge

Act in Service of a More Just Society

Appendix: How to Engage Constructively in Courses that Take a Critical Social Justice Approach




About the Authors


“Sensoy and DiAngelo's book sings with insight, clarity, and humanity. This is a brilliant primer to help us consider what it means to think critically and to act for justice.”

Bill Bigelow, Curriculum editor, Rethinking Schools magazine

“The most accessible book on social justice I have ever read! The authors speak truth to power and in language we can all understand. I can't wait to use this text. The authors demonstrate that important concepts about social justice and political change can be both understandable and engaging. This is a huge contribution to the field.”

Mara Sapon-Shevin, Professor, School of Education, Syracuse University

“I commend the direction of this book that addresses concepts such as social and institutional power, socialization, and oppression rather than framing social and political inequality as the consequences of behavioral problems and cultural misunderstandings. The approach the authors have taken supports teachers and their students in rethinking the ways in which the problems of inequality have been normalized as everyday practices. The book will help teachers to rethink inequality in systemic terms and to find opportunities for taking action at any moment.”

Carol Schick, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Regina

“This timely book offers a reader-friendly, unflinching approach to answering those questions on social justice that people are often afraid to ask. The authors provide clear definitions, recognizable examples, robust counterpoints, and thought-provoking activities. All critical educators need to get this text in the hands of their students.”

Darren E. Lund, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary


“During a recent conference, I found it interesting as I listened to academics and educators struggling to articulate and use the language of anti-racism. One teacher suggested that, often, he has to refer to the dictionary in order to make sense of the words being used in these complicated conversations about anti-oppressive theories. Although the ideas are complex, and the social realities and forces being described demand a complex theorizing, the material can be learned. I need to say without hesitation that Is Everyone Really Equal? is a must-read for anyone interested in or teaching about social justice education or anti-oppressive education.”

Michael Cappello, Assistant Professor

University of Regina

Full review published in: In Education 19(3)

Date published: May 2014

“...this volume fills a gap in quality resources for teachers and teacher educators who seek to guide students through a difficult critical interrogation of social power and assumed knowledge.”

Joanne Pattison-Meek & Serhiy Kovalchuk

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

Full review published in: Journal of Peace Education

Date published: May 2014


“...pre-service teachers from my course found the text to be very user-friendly... Students also identified the use of analogies as helping them clarify their understanding of the concepts...

Is everyone really equal? draws from critical scholarship which centres and interrogates specific sites of oppression such as racialization, in order to theorize how identity constructions contribute to the reproduction of dominance and oppression, while also recognizing the intersectionality or interconnections of multiple identities such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability.”

Sheelah McLean

University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Co-Founder, Idle No More

Full review published in: Our Schools/ Our Selves, Issue #110, Vol. 22, No. 2

Date published: Winter, 2013

“...too often local-global interconnections are elided and that global events are rarely mentioned in conversations on social justice education. Sensoy and DiAngelo’s work avoids the tendency to simply focus on national social issues to theorize discussions on social justice. The book provides numerous examples of how social justice projects can be local as well global and that local-global formations are overlapping, interconnected, and cannot be avoided considering the complicated ways Western nation-states are involved in colonialism and White supremacy ideologies locally and globally.”

Binaya Subedi  & Melinda McClimans

The Ohio State University, Columbus
Full Review published in:
Theory & Research in Social Education

Date Published: November 21, 2012

“Sensoy and DiAngelo’s book is to social justice what the Chicago Manual of Style is to the art of writing.”

La’Ron Williams

Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice

Full Review published in: Ann

Date Published: February 15, 2012

“As an introductory text to social justice education, educators who have extensively engaged in learning about the topic or are regularly engaged in social justice work in the community or in the classroom may be inclined to give Sensoy and DiAngelo’s book a pass. This would be a mistake.”

Simon Funge, Lecturer

School of Social Work,
California State University, Long Beach
Full Review published in: Teachers College Record

Date Published: December 21, 2011