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Privilege, Power & Difference Allan G. Johnson

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1 Privilege, Power & Difference Allan G. Johnson
Chapters 1 - 3

2 Rodney King’s Question
Can’t we all just get along? No. Use of words like racism, white, and white racism cause people to feel “put off”, offended Our goal is to soften and shift the emotional weight of concepts like “privilege”, “white racism” Why aren’t we all getting along? Human nature doesn’t cut it. (p2,3

3 We’re in Trouble Imagine a school or a workplace where all kinds of people feel comfortable showing up. valued, accepted, supported, appreciated, respected belonging. Something very powerful keeps this from us. The truth of this powerful forces is everywhere, but we don’t know how to talk about it and so we act as though it doesn’t exist

4 The proverbial elephant
Everyone pretends not to notice it ”…but the “elephant: is a society and its people for whom a decent and productive social life that is true to the best of our essential humanity continues to be elusive”

5 What is the trouble we’re in?
The trouble we’re in privileges some groups at the expense of others. It creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health and quality of life. It promotes fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment, and violence. p9

6 “We”that’s in trouble is all of us
Not just straight white middle and upper-class males It is not just a problem of being black, Chinese, Sioux or Mexican because there is no way to separate the “problem of being, say, black from the “problem of not being white. We can’t separate this from “being white”

7 Privilege Is always at someone else’s expense and always exacts a cost. Everything that’s done to receive or maintain it, however passive and unconscious – results in suffering and deprivation for someone. Our society attaches privilege to being white and male and heterosexual regards of your social class.

8 What is the most powerful barrier to change?
The trouble we’re in can’t be solved unless the “privileged” make the problem of privilege their problem and do something about it. The fact that it’s so easy for me and other people in dominant groups not to do this is the single most powerful barrier to change. Understanding how to bring dominant groups into the conversation is the challenge.

9 We can’t talk about it if we can’t use the words
Privilege, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, classism, dominance, subordination, oppression and patriarchy & all the isms Naming something draws attention to it & makes you more likely to notice it a something significant. P11/12

10 The bottom line A trouble we can’t talk about is one we can’t do anything about. We have to reclaim these lost and discredited words so that we can use them to name and make sense of the truth of what’s going on. Reclaiming these words begins with seeing that they rarely mean what most people think they mean.

11 Reclaiming the words Racist isn’t another word for “bad white people
Patriarchy isn’t another nasty code of “men” Oppression and dominance name social realities that we can participate in without being oppressive or dominating people. Feminism isn’t an ideology organized around being lesbian or hating men.

12 The Trouble We’re In Privilege, Power & Difference
Difference is not the problem The real illusion connected to difference is the popular assumption that people are naturally afraid of what they don’t know or understand. It is inevitable that you’ll fear and distrust people who aren’t like you spite of good intentions you can’t get along with them.

13 A cultural myth That everyone is naturally frightened by difference (despite its popularity) This justifies keeping outsiders on the outside There is ample evidence that the “unknown” has always been an attraction i.e. scientists, philosophers, explorers, children, etc. Our real fear is what we think we do know, or ideas about what we don’t know. p17

14 The Diversity Wheel The trouble around diversity, then, isn’t just that people differ from one another. The trouble is produced by a world organized in ways that encourage people to use difference to include or exclude, reward or punish, credit or discredit, elevate or oppress, value or devalue, leave alone or harass.

15 The Social Construction of Difference
Most of what we experience as “real” is a cultural creation. It is made up, even though we don’t experience it that way. Consider the “black woman” in Africa who has not experienced white racism and does not identify herself as a “black woman”. African, a woman, but not black.

16 Socially Constructed Reality
She only became “black” when she came to the U.S. where privilege is organized according to race, where she is assigned to a social category that bears that name and she is treated differently as a result. Baldwin: Race and all its categories have no significance outside of systems of privilege and oppression, “social construction of reality”

17 What is Privilege? Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. P23 Privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth.

18 “The luxury of obliviousness”
Awareness requires effort and commitment. Being able to command the attention of lower-status individuals without having to give it in return is a key aspect of privilege. Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them. “To be white in American means not having to think about it”

19 Two Types of Privilege 1. “Unearned entitlements” – things that all people should have like feeling safe in public, being accepted, valued for what they can contribute. When unearned entitlement is restricted to certain groups, however, it becomes a form of privilege McIntosh calls “unearned advantage”. p25

20 Two Types of Privilege 2. “Conferred dominance” goes a step further by giving one group power over another. i.e. men controlling conversations with women is grounded in the cultural assumption that men are supposed to dominate women. Reluctance to come to terms with more serious and entrenched forms of privilege is why most diversity programs produce limited results. p27

21 What Privilege Looks Like in Everyday Life
Pg. 27 Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgments about others and to have those judgments stick. It allows people to define reality and have prevailing definitions of reality fit their experience. Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriously, receives attention, etc.

22 Privilege as Paradox Individuals aren’t what is actually privileged
Privilege is defined in relation to a group or social category. In other words, race privilege is more about white people than it is about white people. Whiteness is privileged in this society and one has access to that privilege only when identified as belonging to that category.

23 The Paradox of Privilege
Being privileged without feeling privileged Privilege is more about social categories than who people are. Privilege doesn’t necessarily make you happy p 38

24 Oppression: The Flip Side of Privilege
Social forces tend to “press” upon people and hold them down, hem them in and block their pursuit of a good life. Belonging to a privileged category that has an oppressive relationship with another isn’t the same as being an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways. P 41

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