The Psychology of Privilege

“The tone that many SJWs [social justice warriors] go about criminalizing white people… is no way to move in a productive direction for the racial issues the U.S. faces today. Regardless of how much they can rationalize their positions, if their opinions and actions still leave a bad taste in a person’s mouth after confronting them, then maybe they should adapt accordingly”

This comment I saw on a Facebook post the other day is a perfect example of how most of the discourse about disadvantaged communities in the U.S. centers around the feelings of privileged groups. Let me explain:

The problem:

  1. If the goal is an equal, integrated society, those who are disadvantaged need the help of privileged groups, because they’re the only ones who actually have the power to shift inequality gaps between communities.
  2. So entire movements are basically centered around informing privileged groups in order to convince them to help make these changes (hence lobby conferences, labor unions, social media campaigns, etc.).
  3. However, privileged groups get uncomfortable with this (not necessarily on a conscious level) for a couple of reasons:

-It’s hard to give up something that benefits you, even if that something is to the detriment of others

-Being associated with a community that historically and contemporarily thrives off of the suffering and disadvantages of other groups may make them feel guilty (e.g. my drunken floor mate mumbling “I hate being white” while face down on a table at 3:00 am).

  1. Basically, confronting privileged groups about issues regarding their privilege makes them uncomfortable, and so they tend to ignore it. Disadvantaged groups are thus forced to advocate more often and more loudly, or their grievances will be swept under the rug. This makes privileged groups feel even guiltier, and also irritated at the persistence of advocacy groups. For many individuals in privileged groups, the problem isn’t “What can I do to alleviate the conditions of disadvantaged communities”? It’s “How can I get rid of my own guilt so I don’t have to deal with my own personal stress from the fact that I may be associated with other people’s problems”? And the quickest way to do this is to…
  2. Justify their ignorance by centering the discourse about these issues around their feelings.

-This is where the #alllivesmatter and #meninist campaigns kick in. Whatever method disadvantaged groups use, privileged groups will distort it to make it about them because they don’t want people to make them feel racist or feel sexist, amongst other forms of prejudice.


If you agree with the statement at the beginning of the article, but disagree with what I just said, think about it. Does an entire movement, no matter how much they can “rationalize their positions” deserve to be delegitimized just because it brought a “bitter taste” into your mouth? Of course learning that you are part of a problem that affects communities on a national and even global scale is going to bring a bitter taste in your mouth! That’s not the reason why movements aren’t headed in a “productive direction” for solving these issues; the real reason why is that privileged groups are failing to realize the extent to which their opinions about issues affecting entire communities are mere reactions to the way other opinions make them feel about their likability as individuals. “I’m not racist, I’m not sexist, so any perspective that says otherwise must be wrong”


But the problem is, whether or not you’re prejudiced has very little to do with how you consciously feel. If anything, it has more to do with what you don’t feel. The fact that you can see a Black man killed by a cop on the news and have more sympathy for the cop than for a person whose right to exist was usurped from him, the fact that when you hear of a woman being raped the phrase “maybe she was asking for it” is a legitimate option, the fact that when you see a homeless man on the street your go-to opinion is “the lazy bum should just get a job”. These are all examples of prejudice, and none of them have much to do with how you actively feel about the worth of Blacks or women or the homeless as human beings. They are more-so rooted in a new form of prejudice; a passive apathy and indifference to the systematic and structural inequities regarding other communities.


The takeaways:


  1. Social movements do not exist and persist just to make people feel bad about themselves, rather they are indicative of how desperately disadvantaged groups want their conditions to be mitigated, in conjunction with the lack of progress from other methods of doing so.
  2. Just because you don’t perceive yourself as prejudiced doesn’t mean you aren’t. In fact, staying comfortable in your own perceptions of reality is a valid candidate for the definition of ignorance.

It sucks that the truth makes many of us uncomfortable, but not all epiphanies make you feel good, you know. When the man walks out into the sunlight in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, he is essentially blinded, and does not actually become comfortable with the light for several days. But, despite his struggle, he still made the decision not to run back into the cave, and that is what I’m asking of those in privileged groups. Don’t run back into the cave just because your eyes hurt, don’t let other communities continue to feel discriminated, insignificant, and often afraid for their own lives just because you don’t want to wake up from a good dream of privilege.

Where to go if you want to wake up:

Privilege 101

How to be an ally

Stories Worth Sharing

I’ve always questioned bloggers.

In a world that’s seemingly oppressed by the internet and social media networks, it’s become far easier for someone to gain attention than in the past, and so I’ve always seen bloggers as people who just want attention- people who have been haughtily convinced their opinions are of the few that are worthy of sharing and worthy of fandom. With that said, I would never have imagined myself here in my dorm desk whoring for this same attention from an unknown audience.

In fact, I’ve never really been the most active on social media in general (Yes, sad to say I was/am that guy who uploads maybe one Instagram post per month, and goes weeks at a time without changing his profile picture on Facebook). In my life, I’ve seen more than enough over-sharers (Those who post like ten gagillion pictures every day (like really? I get it, good lighting is almost like gold these days and we should take advantage of it when we can, but do you think I need to see THAT many angles of your face?)), and ignorant statuses, and I’ve never wanted to take an active part in all the Facebook fiascos and Snapchat shenanigans. Instead, I’ve preferred to mostly watch the chaos of our intermingled virtual existences from a distance.

At the same time, though, I’ve been relatively lonely. I’ve always been the kind of person who wades in the middle of social extremes, breaking stereotypes and avoiding labels. So ther’ve been many times where I can’t always be nerdy and analyze deontological ethics, or be a fan boy and rave about how much I love Zendaya (my future wife, yes I already called dibs) and Childish Gambino, or be an athlete and appreciate Steph Curry’s rare ability to both catch and shoot and pull up off the dribble when I want to. I’ve struggled with my paradox of an identity for quite some time now, wishing for someone or something that was just as complicated as me to save me from my Sisyphean solitude, but I’ve failed miserably; I’m just too complicated.

But you know who else is complicated? LITERALLY EVERYBODY. And you know where everybody talks about how complicated they are nowadays? The Internet (If you prefer journals and diaries I applaud you for keeping it retro). So that should’ve been it, right? I’ll just be more active on social media and I won’t be lonely anymore. HEELLLLLL no! I’ve been wanting to create this blog for over a month and I’ve just now built up the guts to make it happen. Until this point though I’ve been too afraid that I’ll be judged and ridiculed for suggesting that what I have to say is worth listening to.

Actually exposing yourself on social media is hard- it takes a firm amount of courage and confidence, both of which are things that most of us struggle with as individuals. But the connections we make and the support systems that develop for us as a result are very fine rewards for choosing to share our stories with other people, even if we don’t really know them. I’ve come to realize that my preconceived notions about bloggers were all just excuses to justify not taking on the challenge of putting myself out there. I couldn’t be upset about my own lack of connection when I wasn’t even using the resources tailored for connection.

Needless to say, I’m not blogging simply for the sake of procrastinating on my computer programming homework (sometimes you just need a break from all the damn semicolons!), or for attention, but also because I’ve come to realize the importance of connection. It may well be that no one ever reads this post- that these words wither and shrink into the perennially expanding abyss of tweet fights and cat videos that is the Internet. But odds are that some people will find this post somewhere along the roads of their life journeys, and odds are that at least one of them will understand. At least one of y’all will see the same criticisms of society as I do, or share my same passions for basketball and Philosophy, or like STEM and humanities at the same time. At least one of you will be able to say “me too”.

Those words are the words that truly matter in life. Those words are why we blog.

Feel free to comment below other reasons why you blog/write or give suggestions as to some topics you might want me to write about!