Untying the Knot of Privilege and Prejudice
in a Culture of Instant Gratification.
It is important to isolate the two intertwined issues of Privilege and Prejudice. The reason this must be addressed first is that they require two different types of struggle, and so there are two different conversations to be had, and then intertwined back into the knot where they currently reside in our culture.
Privilege is word that has only recently come into the common vocabulary for a lot of people in the context of social struggle, and most simply it can be explained as the position of power.
Prejudice, on the other hand, is a conversation that most people are familiar with in the context of race and sexual preferences, and more recently the conversation of gender identity. While Privilege is the position of power, Prejudice is the illusion of knowledge.
The distinction between the factual position of Privilege and the more illusory idea of Prejudice is important because the struggle against facts and opinions is executed in two different ways. Facts can be forcibly addressed, while opinions must be convinced and persuaded. This primary difference comes into focus when we look at the difference in the types of struggles for equality. There is what I think of as the pre-emptive struggle, and then there is the collaborative struggle.
The pre-emptive struggle is where we fight against Privilege.
The actions of rioters and protestors, the forcible attention getting, these are methods for holding up inequality and saying “Here I am, look at this!” in a way that cannot be ignored. The only downside to these actions are that while they are strong tools against Privilege, they are in fact reinforcing of Prejudice. They give ammunition to people who look for a reason to label people as causing problems or bad for society, because these types of protests often include or give-way to forms of violence or expressions of anger and frustration that make some observers uncomfortable.
By the same token, the collaborative struggle is one of slow and subtle positive reinforcement that happens naturally, as people are exposed to actual experience they can shed their illusory knowledge and lose their Prejudice. This type of struggle works well against Prejudice but is utterly ineffective against forms of Privilege, because those in positions of power can influence or hinder those types of exposure through media and false information.
It is a 2 steps forward 1 step back type of issue, because we cannot solve one issue without solving the other, but they both requiring actions that work to opposite purposes.
What this means in the end is that the struggle for equality, whether it be race, gender, identity, or other issues that are still coming to light, or maybe we haven’t even realized yet, is a slow process. Slow processes are not things that are easy to motivate people around in our current culture. We text while we drive because we can’t wait until we get home. We develop apps to pre-order food from places that are already marketed as Fast Food restaurants, because fast food just isn’t fast enough anymore.
The idea of struggling and fighting for a cause that will knowingly have setbacks and problems, and will by its own definition struggle against its own actions? That is a tough sell, especially to those who already live in the world on the beneficial side of those struggles.
None of these struggles are doomed, and awareness is a powerful tool for both fights, but I think it is important that we understand both the fights we must have, and the consequences of those actions against the very causes for which we struggle.
It is easier to accept slow and steady results in the overall scheme once it is understood that it is the only way to be successful.
Caleb Deremer is from Atlanta, Georgia.