Image by Haysol Chung
In every crack of the internet and in any vaguely political conversation, there seems to be a certain type of person lurking, waiting to find the right moment to interrupt growing social awareness with all-inclusive, but essentially undermining, comments.
These types of people are almost always part of a privileged group, desperately insisting that their group needs just as much attention and activism as the groups they oppress. The glaring problem with this logic is that, as the privileged group there is no reason to defend their rights. They have created a system that will always favor their rights over those of other groups.
To put this into perspective, if our American society were a classroom, the dominant, privileged group takes the role of the teacher and the rest of the population are left as students. Some of these students will get more instruction on the set curriculum if they have more favorable characteristics of race, class, and gender as determined by the instructor. The further away from the “ideal” tropes a student gets, the less help they receive before the inevitable exam. Those students who are coddled more will obviously perform better, whereas those with less help will often struggle on the exam.
The dominant group doesn’t need activists, to continue this analogy, because activists play the role of students working toward the improvement of marginalized groups. They are students who are consistently asking questions, requesting additional explanation, and demanding reevaluation of how the material was taught. By doing this, they can improve their own scores, as well as those of their fellow pupils. They are the outspoken representatives of the oppressed groups who campaign for corrections so that unfair point deductions (social injustices) can be reduced in the future. A person of privilege, however, doesn’t need to advocate for fair treatment because they are in charge. This is their lesson plan in their classroom.
In essence, privileged group activism is like studying for a test you wrote.
Why would those in control of our society need to proclaim unfairness in a world where they will almost always be guaranteed a favorable result?
The system was created for them, by them, and continues to champion for their continuing stronghold on resources, justice, and overall quality of life. There are no errors in their master copy of the exam.
In reality, however, we can see that there are errors everywhere. Despite this, there are people claiming dominant group individuals face the same disadvantages as marginalized people.
In the workplace, we can note this in-group versus out-group distinction when observing the wage gap between men and women. Women make 54 to 78 percent of what men do, with Latinas on the low end and white women on the high end.
Indisputably, there is injustice, inequity, and “grade markdowns” where there shouldn’t be. The people who need activism to fight this are not those perpetuating the system itself. The people who need activism are the people who have been wronged by the system based upon categorizations they cannot control.