I’m often reminded of the phrase…

by Lucas Fagundes

I’m often reminded of the phrase “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality begins to feel like oppression.”

There’s been some recent internet content suggesting that millennials specifically and society in general have become far too sensitive and prone to offense. Donald Trump has even thrown around the apparently pejorative term “political correctness” suggesting that we’ve gone too far in promoting equal rights and inclusion. Here’s one such video I encountered a few days ago:

 

It features a ridiculous scenario where a teacher dishes out rewards to students for their diversity rather than their ability to ask questions or actually perform academic work. I suppose a case can be made that the latter of these things ought to be emphasized, and that people ought to be rewarded based on individual merits and not descriptive characteristics. Only what this video fails to recognize is that, although we are often rewarded for our descriptive characteristics, it’s far more often towards those who already enjoyed a privileged position in society. To suggest, as this video does, that we have moved so far in the direction of promoting equality and inclusion that we have embarked on a slippery slope to some over-egalitarian dystopia, is just absurd. Accommodating groups previously condemned for breaking societal norms isn’t the flaw of our times; it’s the success of our times.

From what I presume to know about power dynamics, disenfranchised groups have to work harder for the same rewards than privileged groups do. This is why the above quote is so important, and I think it highlights the resentment many feel when we inaccurately perceive some groups getting an unfair advantage over others, even while these “advantages” are meant to make amends for social inequities. It is the definition of a meritocracy that everyone ought to be given the equal opportunity to succeed, provided they are willing to put in the effort. However, because of the variation in personal experiences and the difficulty to accurately perceive the experiences of others, (that is, to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’) we won’t always be able to recognize where and when these conditions do not hold. It’s understandable how those coming from a position of privilege might be inclined to downplay the challenges faced by the disadvantaged; after all, if life outcomes are simply the result of individual choices then it would be unfair to grant advantages only to some people. Even still, we must realize when inequality is the result of factors beyond the control of the individual, and when disadvantage occurs through no fault of their own. If your disposition is to overlook such factors (however unintentionally), then rarely will you think efforts to ‘level the playing field’ are justified. As such, it would be easy to see just how the above video might concern for some viewers.

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