Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On Social Justice

To those who feel underprivileged,
I understand your plight. You want to be able to do what you want to do without worrying about conditions that are beyond your control. It is a reasonable enough thing. You have every right to pursue it. But I’d like to offer a word of warning.
I am a middle-class, white, male raised protestant in a healthy two parent household with a stay-at-home mother. I attended public school but took advanced classes, academics always came easy to me because my parents cultivated an environment of introspection, creativity, and literacy. My parents are also helping me pay for college. I have never had trouble finding employment.
I am the essence of middle-class privilege. And I have spent the last five years largely alone and miserable. It does not matter that I can choose whatever career I want - the system of privileged you bemoan has not made me happy or content.
You look at your life and you see very real boundaries, and you think that if you could somehow get past these you would be content with your place in the world. Maybe you would. Maybe you are a woman who wants to be a high powered executive and you struggle with never being taken seriously. Maybe you are an immigrant and you want to hold high office but you know that if nothing else the difficulty English-speakers have pronouncing your name will bare you from it. Maybe you are gay and you know that even within the liberal urban culture that claims to be accepting you have been pigeonholed as a curiosity. Whatever manner in which you feel underprivileged, you believe that if you could become privileged, or if the system of privilege could be dismantled, your life would be appreciably better. Again, maybe it would.
I don’t know you, I don’t know your life. But as someone who does not feel underprivileged, I can tell you that it doesn’t make your life wonderful. It is nice being the ethnic majority and the gender that traditionally wields power, but I cannot think of a time in my life that this has made any appreciable difference to me.
One day things may be different and whatever you are that causes you to feel underprivileged will privilege you. But you still won’t be able to do whatever you want or be whoever you want. You still will not be able to control your life. You will still have to accept your place in the order of things.
So fight your fight, battle the forces of injustice and tyranny. But first think very carefully about what you want, because if it is happiness there is no guarantee you will find it in victory.

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