Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Johnson, Argument from Privilege, Power and Difference

Johnson discusses the significance of privilege and oppression relative to class status, race, sexuality, and gender in order to define how these concepts are relevant to each group variable.  He describes the reality of inequality as the "trouble we're in," speaking of the lack of collective unity toward changing the situation. 
This author argues that those who don't feel the power of oppression have little motivation to recognize the importance of enacting or at least attempting to change the system as it currently exists.  Johnson argues that in order to see change, it is first necessary for change of thought which will in turn lead to a change in action.  The change in individual actions can then broaden to greater participation of significant change. 
Oppression places those within groups of color, as well as homosexuals and females at an unfair disadvantage based on born characteristics.  The recognition of one's societal privilege is not always easily admitted, and can often bring on a sense of defensiveness.  The reality of discrimination and inequality due to stereotypes and assumptions leads to further separation in society through a consequent segregation.  This ultimately pits people against one another, making it less likely for people to work together or recognize their commonalities.  An issue is also identified in the mentality that as a white individual, the fact that you may not be directly oppressing another leaves you free of inclusion in the problem of inequality.  It is stated that one cannot be privileged without the necessity of another being oppressed.  This is the balance that is necessary for either to exist.  Though an individual may not directly act to oppress another, the simple reality of being privileged secures involvement in the issue.  It is necessary for those in a position of privilege to aid in the effort of change if there is to be any collective improvement.  Johnson discusses the "social construction" of reality which speaks of the group identifications of people as nothing more than names resulting from privilege and oppression.  These catagories are only significant within these constructs, and would otherwise hold little importance.  Privilege has little, if anything to do with what or who you are, and more to do with how we are catagorized by what people think we are.  The statement made by Harry Brod which says that privilege is not something taken but instead something society gives an individual is a concept I see directly related to a privileged person's detatchment from the issue of inequality.  As privilege isn't something a white male, for instance, can choose not to take, it may be an issue of believing that they have no involvement in inequality despite the reality that they receive privileges nonetheless.

I wasn't raised in a family of what I would classify even middle-class substance, and I myself haven't experienced any level of significant success.  I don't have any examples which I can identify which would classify as resulting from privilege.  This being said, I also see how my perception could be due to a level of blindness or detachment from oppression, as I can't identify any examples of oppression which I have had to endure either.


  1. you're doing good work trying to examine your life for priveledge, it will be easier we spend time in class fleshing out the article.
    is this your connection for class?

    great frist blog!

  2. Thanks, and yes, this is what I planned to use as a connection.

  3. Hello Shennen,

    I think I can understand what you mean. It is good that you are looking at possible reasons of why your perception of racial differences may be blurred. Your concluding statement reminds me of the saying , " Its sum is greater than its parts." Not everyone may have been exposed to situations where they actually see people getting treated differently than others simply because of their race. To tell you the truth I didn't notice these things until after high school because my schools always had a mix of White, African -American, and Hispanics. Maybe we'll discuss more of this situation in class.