Social Change… Starting with Identity

One of the goals of community psychology is to analyze social change and to guide social action toward resolving social problems (Goldstein 2015). I am currently writing a research paper regarding the death penalty for another class. As part of my research, I watched a TED Talks video featuring Bryan Stevenson titled “We need to talk about an injustice,” and I started thinking about social change research.

Bryan Stevenson’s lecture is a very powerful and enthralling speech. I was intrigued by the speaker and he held my attention from the beginning to the end. From the very beginning of the speech, Mr. Stevenson persuasion is very clear. He shares information about his goal and provides information, truths, and facts about current situations going on the American justice system. Mr. Stevenson says “There is power in identity. When we create the right kind of identity, we can say things to the world around us that they don’t actually believe makes sense. We can get them to do things they don’t think they can do.” That is a very powerful statement and it holds so much truth to it. Mr. Stevenson then told a story about his grandmother, and how she pulled him to the side and told him three things. The story was rather humorous, but it’s not just the humor that sticks with you. The story had a message. His particular message that he got from his grandmother was to not drink alcohol, and that stuck with him as he grew older.

Mr. Stevenson’s area of expertise is law. According to the bio, Bryan Stevenson is a public-interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. He’s the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based group that has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent prisoners on death row, confronting the abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. With this background, Mr. Stevenson is more than qualified to speak on the subject. Mr. Stevenson gives facts to support his cause. He uses statistics to further add emphasis to the cause. He pleads to everyone, this is not just about one or two races, this about humans as a society. Mr. Stevenson says “Wealth, not culpability shapes outcomes. We cannot be fully evolved human beings until we care about human rights and basic dignity. That all of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone. That our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion,and justice.”

“Participation Action Research (PAR) works to address the specific concerns of the community as well as the fundamental causes of the oppression, with the goal of achieving positive social change (Brydon-Miller, 1997). I see this video combining research and law together to bring about change in our society, which is very important if we are to progress as a society.


Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Journal of Social Issues,53(4), 657-666. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00042

Goldstein, E. B. (2015). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Stamford: Cengage learning.

We need to talk about an injustice [TED Talks]. Retrieved from

1 comment

  1. Thank you for sharing this Ted talk and these ideas. I believe there is a lot of power in how we self-identify. For many disenfranchised groups, the systems that are built into society can be overbearing, can break a spirit, and ultimately can persuade a person to develop a personality that does not inspire them to live to their greatest potential. One of those broken systems is the judicial system. Criminals should be held accountable for their actions, surely, but there is no room for rehabilitation or redemption in our society for those who have committed crimes. What this can do to a person, ultimately, is create an identity of someone who will always live within the realm of the prison systems. Instead of habits of productivity and success, this person develops only the habits of a permanent criminal. This may appear to only affect the life of the prisoner but the crimes this person commits will affect other lives and will have our society paying the price in a financial sense. This is a potent example of how addressing a societal issue from a psychological sense is as equally important as the pragmatic and systematic sense as they respond to each other. .

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