Remember the ADRESSING Model? Use It to More Deeply Understand the Moment We’re in.

By JustLead Staff

If you have shared space with any member of the JustLead team – whether it be through the Leadership Academy Program, trainings, retreats, Race Equity Justice Initiative – you have probably seen the ADRESSING Model created by Pamela Hays and adapted by Dr. Leticia Nieto – one of our partners in this work.Beyond Inclusion Beyond Empowerment Book Cover

The model speaks to the societally ascribed social identities around which our respective realities are built. It is a tool for understanding privilege and marginalization, helping us understand our own lived experiences and ways we can be more intersectional in our work. For example, this is what Columbia University law professor Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw explored when she coined the term intersectionality to explore the compounding impact of bias and violence experienced by Black women.

By looking at the name of this model  – ADRESSING – we see that the acronym reflects the “social rank” or social identity categories most salient within the United States context: Age, Disability, Religion, Ethnicity/Race, Social Class Structure, Sexual Orientation, Indigenous Heritage, National Origin, Gender. Within each, we have “Agent” or “Target” identities that society either privileges (Agent) and marginalizes (Target) through cultural norms, institutional policies and practices, and systems.

How do we apply this model to the moment we’re in? Exploring each of these Target identities offers us a roadmap for understanding and responding when a public health crisis, or any crisis, strikes. In fact, the ability to critically analyze both barriers and opportunities using this approach highlights an experiential truth – those communities already facing the harmful effects of being marginalized will only be further harmed. For instance, children, elders, and those who are immunocompromised have rightfully been centered so far in our COVID-19 discourse as being most vulnerable to a viral pandemic. We have – for the most part – communicated and taken precautions to protect these communities through the closure of schools, specific distancing and isolation guidelines, and additional measures for senior care and assisted living facilities. These measures curb the viral spread and support the health of all of us.

When we look at other Target identities though, we see a continuation of what has always been true: dehumanization, invisibilization, and othering. In this public health moment, equity and justice work means insisting that we amplify our focus on all Target communities–those deemed to be “not American enough” due to their national origin, race and/or ethnic ancestry are facing xenophobia, violence, and racism. People seeking immigration status face family separation and incarceration in detention centers across the country and right here in Washington without proper precautions to COVID-19. They are being ignored while U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) expands the detainee population and continues some deportation proceedings, while also adding a burden on the public health system by requesting face masks that healthcare workers on the frontlines lack. People confined to institutions, particularly those from Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, are already disproportionately affected and targeted by our justice system. Now, they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to inadequacy of healthcare and testing, and the impossibility, while they are incarcerated, of achieving the social distancing necessary to avoid becoming infected, risking serious illness and death.

It is now more important than ever to keep in mind all 9 of the ADRESSING Model’s Target identities and to observe, critique, and push for universally equitable solutions. We must continue to advocate for equity and justice when we see our institutions operating in ways that perpetuate exclusion, oppression and harm to marginalized communities.

JustLead regularly uses the ADRESSING Model as a tool for introspection to more deeply understand ourselves as well as our interactions with others. In this moment, we can apply this model to better relate to others and advocate for the health of all of us.

Consider the following points and ask yourself these questions to deepen your understanding of the moment we are in:

  1. Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test to learn more about your own personal unconscious biases, how they play out and strategies for mitigation. This is foundational to reducing biased behavior against those Target identities discussed above.
  2. Review the Target/Agent Model to understand your own privileged and marginalized identities.
  3. Move more slowly in your decision-making process to reflect on how and if bias is playing out and skewing your point of view. This will also inherently slow down the systems of which we are all a part, and help ensure we are making equity-centered decisions.

ASK Yourself:

  1. How are Target communities being further marginalized in this COVID-19 pandemic response? Are your media sources talking about this? How can you ensure they are?
  2. How am I individually or the institutions I am a part of supporting targeted communities with actual resources in this moment? How will those organizations which, even before this pandemic, and surely well after it, continue to support these same communities?
  3. With the privileges I have (i.e. the Agent rank I play in how society views me), what am I doing to ensure the voices of those mobilized and organized for the health and wellness of marginalized communities is being centered? How am I supporting others with my resources and time?

All we have is each other at the end of day. Capitalistic systems not held in check are especially susceptible to continue harm on Target groups in the face of crisis.  “The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.” – James Baldwin

Social Rank CategoryAgent RankTarget Rank
AgeAdults (18-64)Children, Adolescents, Elders
Development and Acquired DisabilitiesAble-personsPersons with Disabilities
ReligionCultural Christians, Agnostics, and AtheistsJews, Muslims, and members of all other nonChristian religions
EthnicityWhite Euro-AmericansPeople of Color
Social Class StructureMiddle and Owning Class Persons (Access to Higher Education)Poor and Working Class Persons (No Access to Higher Education)
Sexual OrientationHeterosexualsLesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning, and Two-Spirit
Indigenous AncestryNon-NativeNative
National OriginUS-BornImmigrants and Refugees
GenderCisgender MenTransgender Persons, Intersex Persons, Cisgender Women, Non-Binary Persons, Questioning


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