The Diversity Dictionary (II)

The “Diversity Dictionary” are posts where I try my very best to explain in plain English common words and phrases that we often come across while reading articles/papers/stories about multiculturalism and diversity. It’s always good to learn new lingo as learning is always good. It’s educational. Part I can be found here.

“Us” and “Them”

This phrase is used to compare people, in particular comparing people of different ethnicities or backgrounds.


One of the ways to be less afraid of and understand the ‘Other’ is to appreciate their cultures and even learn their language. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

Henri Taifel and John Turner have linked “Us” and “Them” to the concept of social identity theory which is the idea that a person’s sense of self is based on their membership of social groups such as class, age and faith.

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The Diversity Dictionary (Part I)

There is no shortage of discussion in the media and academia today about multiculturalism and diversity, including the many topics related to these terms (e.g. ethnic minorities and their rights, international students, languages, racism).

Google both words, or better still, chuck them into Google Scholar’s search engine and you’ll see what I mean.

When we read about multiculturalism and diversity, certain sets of words and phrases pertaining to these topics often repeatedly spring up.

Words/phrases relating to the subject of multiculturalism can be have complex, multiple meanings. It's just like how every Chinese character has various connotations. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

Words/phrases relating to the subject of multiculturalism can be have complex, multiple meanings. It’s akin to every Chinese character having various connotations. It’s also akin to how each and every person has varied personalities, traits and reactions. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

Most of the time, these words appear easy enough to grasp and understand at first glance. However, many of them are in fact complex and vague conceptions – they are ambiguous terms with multiple undertones that one can easily misunderstand.

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