The Belonging Project

Forging paths of connection around equity and inclusion

In this initiative, small groups of KidSpirit contributors from different backgrounds meet regularly with staff and KidSpirit alumni over a three-month timeframe to get to know each other while actively engaging and reflecting on difficult issues around equity, identity, and inclusion. Over time, each cohort co-creates a project of their own design and shares their voices on a subject that is meaningful to them.

Confronting Discrimination: The Individual, The Collective, The Systemic

By Pahal Bhasin, Max Fang, Zayna Mian, and Raavee Tripathi

Through this project, we aim to inform, educate, and highlight where discrimination stems from and how different types of discrimination are interrelated in order to forge ties of equality, inclusion, and harmony.

First, Zayna sheds light on the context and reasoning behind discrimination. Next, Pahal shares her perspective of a broad experience of discrimination and all the negativity and insecurities it generates. Then, Raavee explores contrasting voices and the unifying call for action they put across. Finally, Max reveals the interconnections between all forms of discrimination and what they mean for those who seek to partake in effective change-making.

The following film features recitations from the editors:

Together we hope to help break the cycle and rehabilitate ourselves and those around us. Below are descriptions of some of our experiences, or the experiences of those close to us, with discrimination. We give our reactions, what we wish we had said, the advice we wish we had received, or what a bystander could have done.

Situation #1:

My mother worked for a consultancy firm and was due to work on a project with a client. He was fully aware of her qualifications and experience, but, upon discovering my mother’s nationality, his attitude significantly changed and he subsequently refused to work with her. The situation was dismissed and a different colleague was assigned to work on the project instead.

What I think should have happened:

Response (mother): “Is there anything I can do to alter your opinion? I was happy to learn that you liked the proposal I drafted so feel free to let me know of any other concerns regarding the project.”

Response (bystander; in this case, my mother’s boss): “I am quite curious about the significance of nationality when it comes to completing this project, given her exemplary qualifications and work experience.”

Situation #2:

I forgot to scan my card on public transport and got caught. My friend said, "Dude, she’s [the tram inspector] a woman, why didn’t you just run?"

What I wish had happened:

I wish I’d just said "that makes no sense" directly instead of only giving him a funny look.

Situation #3:

I have a fair complexion and was standing in front of a white wall. A friend said, "Wow, you were standing in front of the (white painted) wall? I didn’t even see you!"

Advice I wish had been given to me:

It’s okay to find that not funny, and call the other person out.

The following link offers expert advice on reacting to similar situations, and many others:

Discrimination Unmasked
by Zayna Mian

Discrimination, coined from the Latin term discriminat meaning “to distinguish between,” continues to remain a major obstacle to equity and inclusion worldwide. It can be broadly defined as “the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups'' on the basis of traits such as race, gender, ethnicity, age, or religion.1

Apart from violating moral principles of equality and human rights, discrimination disrupts harmony in communities, and victims are more likely to suffer from health issues as a consequence of the stress caused by injustice and prejudiced treatment.2

To tackle and address all forms of discrimination, it is essential to understand its origins. In his publication Peer Prejudice and Discrimination, Harold Fishbein, an expert on developmental psychology, highlights how “the development of prejudice and discrimination has roots in our genetic and evolutionary heritage.” This indicates how attitudes impacting discrimination have been passed down for centuries. However, he asserts that the more prominent targets of discrimination are closely tied to the recent history and cultural dynamics of a society, which explains the variation in the most significant forms of discrimination across geopolitical locations.3

Despite discrimination being an inherent part of the history of human evolution, there are concrete psychological theories that define why and how discriminatory attitudes form.

Stereotyping, which is a natural human cognitive processing mechanism, forms the basis of the social identity theory. This theory, proposed by Polish psychologist Henri Tajfel in 1979, suggests how the act of “grouping things together” can result in exaggerating the similarities and differences between groups, resulting in a phenomenon called social categorization, when we consider all people to have the same characteristics typical of their particular group. This, in turn, results in a “them vs us” mentality such that there are “in groups,” which are groups that we associate with, and “out groups,” which we refrain from identifying with. Consequently, members of an “in group” will strive to glorify their own group and simultaneously portray other “out groups” in a negative light to maintain self-esteem by means of their personal identity.4

The Realistic Conflict Theory was developed based on The Robbers Cave Study conducted by Muzafer Sherif, a Turkish-American social psychologist. In this study, 22 boys of the same ethnicity, age, and background were sent to a summer camp in Robbers Cave State Park, in Oklahoma. After being divided into groups, the boys took part in various competitions for a four-day period, after which “both physical and verbal prejudice became apparent between the two groups.” These events were a representation of the precise nature of conflict and discrimination prevalent throughout the world. In summary, it emphasizes how competition is a root cause of discrimination and conflict. This theory can be applied to understand the cause of gender discrimination in the workforce or racial discrimination against immigrants: competition for resources and identity. Interestingly, Sherif observed towards the end of the study that after attempts to encourage both groups to work together by identifying a set of common goals, feelings of hostility and prejudice greatly subsided between the groups.5

By Scottish Cartoonist Tom Gauld. Can be perceived as a representation of how conflict leads to blatant discrimination and prejudice. Also depicts elements of the Social Identity Theory, by maintaining greater self-esteem through the "them vs. us" mentality.

Discrimination can also be attributed to the need to conform to societal and social norms. Dr. Saul McLeod, a psychology lecturer, mentions how certain influences, including fellow peers, parents, or being part of certain groups, can lead to individuals developing racist and sexist attitudes. Conformity is a very automatic response from a psychological point of view; the need to “fit in” can be triggered by real or perceived pressures. The related Social Identity Theory highlights how groups (i.e. our social class and community) form an integral part of our identity by “giving us a sense of belonging to the social world." This can further justify the human tendency to conform due to the significance that humans place on feeling included and accepted within their groups and communities.6

A Splash of Emotions
by Pahal Bhasin

Hundreds of eyes gawking at me,
Pointing at me, spitting out whatever they want,
Laughing, leaving an imprint,
Because they think I am an object which they can throw away.
I’m hiding my red teary eyes,
Ignoring all these voices to stop my ears from bleeding,
Putting on a fake smile to hide all my wounds,
While they keep stabbing me with their words.
I’m trying to protect myself,
Hide myself,
Lock myself,
Change myself,
But I can’t and I won’t.
Am I not enough?
Why is it always me?
Does being a girl not make me human?
The question I wish could answer
without feeling all the criticism left on my body like bullet holes.

A Warped World and a Waft of Thought
by Raavee Tripathi

Never have I ever felt more like a character straight out of a teenage
adventure novel
Than I did in two thousand and twenty
Twists with every page turned in the calendar!
But thank god it’s over
Because finally we might have a year
With vaccines and bustling streets and happier headlines
We’ll be able to say
We lost so so many
But somehow... we survived a pandemic
And when they ask about Floyd
It... won’t be about music anymore
It’ll be about 7 minutes and 46 seconds of
Blatant murder
It’ll be about the world rising in outrage
It’ll be about seeing
That this was the yarn in the carpet we snagged our shoes on
And as the cloth unraveled
The mess led right to those who weaved it

Forming theories takes time
We base them on observation, on reasoning, on conversations,
Forming opinions take seconds
We base them on what we observe
What we reason out
What we have heard
There’s a little girl somewhere
Who just wants to hike up her dress and play football in the mud
Because she really is the best striker
Even better than that boy across the hall
But apparently her parents missed out on the message
And an aunty downstairs told her to be a "good girl" and go home and read
Theories aren’t within her reach
But opinions have tilted her world
So now every time she marches forward
There is a challenge
Think of me as less capable, I dare you
Equality has been drummed into her
It’s not me, it’s you
But I am still reduced to nothing more
than what you choose to see

Imagine this: a piece of metal that flies through air
Almost as fast as sound
Shattering bone, crushing human tissue
Science fiction? Reality.
Bullets transcended the need for words
Becoming a way to send a message
Because sticks and stones may break my bones,
And words will definitely not harm me,
So they picked up a gun and shot into the crowd
Because we were different
They walked into a club and took lives,
Because we dared to love freely
They walked into a spa and emptied rounds of bullets
Because we were born to those from a certain land
You pulled the trigger
Because I was different.
And while you and him and her and they and I can sit here picking at threads
Thinking we are doing our part
We aren’t, not really.

So, be disillusioned.
Be aware.
Be done.
Be a glaring voice and eyes and hands that do.

When Einstein said,
It is easier to break an atom than a prejudice,
Maybe he didn’t envision a world where
Nuclear bombs are a common threat

If yesterday, we broke atoms,
Greek for indivisible
then maybe today
we can get to breaking prejudices.

The Importance of Intersectionality
by Max Fang

As people become more and more aware of the discrimination that operates in communities around the world, and as change-making becomes a staple in the lives of an ever-growing number of youth, the question of how such initiatives should be conducted is one that we must answer. In recent years, the idea of viewing social issues through an intersectional lens has caught on, and intersectionality is now at the forefront of much of sociopolitical discourse. People believe that an intersectional perspective is needed to best tackle the problems of our time.

But what is intersectionality, and what does having an intersectional perspective mean? The Oxford Dictionary defines the word "intersectionality" as "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage." Simply put, intersectionality is the idea that all systems of discrimination — gender, race, class, etc. — are interconnected and operate in tandem with each other and therefore cannot be viewed separately.

The term was first coined by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 in her paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex. Essentially, the paper uses three legal examples to argue that the American court system’s narrow view of discrimination revealed "the conceptual limitations of . . . single-issue analyses." One such example is DeGraffenreid v. General Motors, a 1976 case in which five black women sued General Motors for "the employer's seniority system [that] perpetuated the effects of past discrimination against Black women." Crenshaw noted that "General Motors simply did not hire Black women prior to 1964 and that all of the Black women hired after 1970 lost their jobs in a seniority-based layoff during a subsequent recession." But the district court at the time rejected the plaintiff’s attempt to sue on behalf of black women — it allowed them to bring the case on behalf of women or black people but both combined. A quote from the court states:

"[P]laintiffs have failed to cite any decisions which have stated that Black women are a special class to be protected from discrimination . . . Thus, this lawsuit must be examined to see if it states a cause of action for race discrimination, sex discrimination, or alternatively either, but not a combination of both."

The court proceeded to dismiss the case for sex discrimination, as General Motors had hired women — albeit white women — before 1964, and thus the seniority layoff system could not have perpetuated discrimination against women. It then dismissed the case for race discrimination under similar circumstances.

Crenshaw notes that "Under this view, Black women are protected only to the extent that their experiences coincide with those of either of the two groups [black men and white women]. Where their experiences are distinct, Black women can expect little protection. . ." Indeed, any reasonable person would see that the discrimination the black women suffered from General Motors’s policy was specific to black women and that not all black people and women were disadvantaged under the policy. Therefore, the court’s refusal to enact an intersectional approach to the case meant that justice was not served.

Of course, Crenshaw’s paper focuses on legal precedent, but her overall point stands — that if we only separately recognize the discrimination that different minority groups face, we are being purposefully ignorant of how people who belong to multiple minority groups are uniquely and especially impacted. The lived experiences of black women are different to the those of black men and white women; the discrimination that a queer Asian faces cannot be generally defined by what a queer person faces, or what an Asian person faces; the difficulties of being a working-class transgender woman are much worse compared to the difficulties a prosperous transgender woman may face, even though there can be overlaps. The experiences of each group are distinctive.

In essence, the intersectional approach is based on the belief that gender, race, and class division are not separate fields and cannot be solved by viewing them separately. Movements that are solely inspired by a singular focus on one area of social discrimination can never get to the root of the problem because they do not encompass everyone who suffers from that type of discrimination, and, as a result, the actions that they take are often performative and ineffective, sometimes to the point of detracting from progress.

The impacts of non-intersectional thinking can be seen in everyday life. People celebrate corporations changing their logo to Pride colors during Pride month when the same corporations abuse impoverished child laborers in Southeast Asia. People celebrate women in the police when the very same police force will continue to discriminate against communities of people of color. When you look at these examples and only focus on surface appearances, you might be inclined to think that they are wins for the queer community and women while the system continues its assault on all minorities. Case in point, the official Disney Twitter account posted this tweet during the beginning of June, the month of Pride when LGBTQ+ people and communities are recognized and celebrated:


One might take a cursory glance at the tweet and feel happy that a big corporation like Disney is recognizing Pride Month. Unfortunately, this is the reality:

(BBC News)

(Gay Times)

Disney also donated $10 million during the 2020 election cycle to the America First Action Super PAC, a conservative lobbying group that advocates for many anti-LGBT legislations. They have also funded the campaigns of various anti-LGBT politicians across the country.

Non-intersectional thinking will conclude that these corporations support minorities. Intersectional thinking will reveal that behind these tweets of "support," the very same corporations continue to perpetuate class divisions that have kept the vast majority of minorities from achieving financial autonomy and representation in law forever.

The right kind of change-making is intersectional because a non-intersectional approach ensures that the causes of discrimination are kept in place.

Sources for "Discrimination Unmasked":

1. “Discrimination: What It Is, and How to Cope.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 31 Oct. 2019,

2. “Discrimination: What It Is, and How to Cope.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 31 Oct. 2019,

3. Fishbein, Harold D. Peer Prejudice and Discrimination: Evolutionary, Cultural, and Developmental Dynamics. Westview Press, 1996.

4. Mcleod, Saul. “Social Identity Theory.” Social Identity Theory | Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 2019,

5. Mcleod, Saul. “Robbers Cave Experiment.” Robbers Cave Experiment / Realistic Conflict Theory, Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 2008,

6. Mcleod, Saul. “Prejudice and Discrimination in Psychology: Conformity as an Explanation of Prejudice and Discrimination.” Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 2008,

Sources for "The Importance of Intersectionality":

1. Crenshaw, Kimberle. "Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics," University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8,

2. Disney. Twitter Post. June 1, 2021, 7:03 AM.

3. BBC News. “The Rise of Skywalker: Disney Cuts Star Wars Same-Sex Kiss in Singapore.” BBC News, 24 Dec. 2019,

4. Robledo, Jordan, et al. “Disney Cancels Production of Its First LGBTQ+ Led Animated Film.” GAY TIMES, 27 Feb. 2021,

Pahal Bhasin is a 13-year-old budding poet. She studies in the eighth grade at Excelsior American School in Gurugram, India. She enjoys reading and writing poems, acting, singing, dancing, drawing, photography, and community service, and loves nature. You can see more of her work at

Max is a 12th grader from Melbourne, Australia who is interested in writing, environmental activism and advocacy, literature, politics, and sports.

Zayna Mian is a 15 year old from Lahore, Pakistan. She is currently a Year 11 student at Lahore Grammar School Defence. She is a prolific reader who plans to pursue her interest in writing short stories, blogs, and eventually novels. Zayna loves playing the piano and also enjoys squash. She is passionate about scientific research and hopes to become a biophysicist one day.

Raavee Tripathi is a seventh grader at Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. She enjoys dancing, reading dystopian books, debating, playing sports, and just surfing the internet. Her ambitions do change, but her current goal seems to be re-reading the Harry Potter series for the 15th time.