Over the past few days, I’ve had a chance to interact with a certain section of the crowd, one that is overwhelmingly popular amongst the confines of my college. After some detailed midnight conversations with a few of these people, their ideology and their way of life has started to seem a lot clearer.
These people, who I am about to describe in this piece, are the ones who do realize the existence of the problem but struggle to grasp the cause of the problem, which ironically, in this case, might just be the solution too.
These problems that I try to describe here, ranging from the country’s caste system to the deep-rooted lad culture prevalent in our hyper-masculine friend circles, to the existence of the blatant homophobia we so happily express every time a friend of ours does something masculine or feminine, all have one thing in common.
This typical entity that binds all these problems together is the existence of a social structure that perpetuates the belief about the normalization of these problems and that prevents sensitization across the masses, a structure that causes a rift in the basic practice of human unity and pitches one community against the other repeatedly.
This structure, mind you, isn’t the true cause of the problem either.
The real cause is the people who occupy it and more specifically, their indifference to the problem which continues to corrode more minds with every passing moment.
Now, one might ask if these occupants of power have anything in common. Well, the striking similarity is in their community’s continuously improving position in the social hierarchy. This position of inherent advantage, or privilege, if you may, is what has provided them with some very underrated boosts throughout their lifetime. I say underrated because this group of people, the ones who continue to effectively hold these seats of power, be it the supposed upper caste at an instant, or the male figure at another, fail to look at this undue advantage, this privilege as an important factor in their current standing.
In a lot of the conversations mentioned above, both online and offline, something stood out for me. Something that made me realize the reason behind this apparent blindness.
It was this intricate, yet very obvious fact that asking, or even requesting this class of power holders to consider their privilege as a contributor to their success would be seen as a straight arrow to their inherent sense of hard-work and worth.
They would have to question their entire upbringing as nothing but the consequence of a chance happening. They would have to look deep into themselves and accept the fact that they owe their current positions of authority and power to their being born into a particular family or as a particular gender, and this is where their reluctance to accept their unjustified supremacy surfaces.
As the title of this piece suggests, I view this concept of being blind to privilege as a subconscious dilemma to those in power, for they have been reaping the benefits of this skewed structure, yet fail to acknowledge its existence even in the most trivial of issues.
Having talked about the existence of this feature, let me try and explain how their privilege is both the cause and a future solution to the problem of unjustified power disparity.
The part about their sense of entitlement as the cause of the troubles is quite evident from history. The roots of the systemic oppression of every community can be traced to the establishment of an apparatus that put a certain community at a disadvantage, which resulted in hindrance to their progress, which in turn further deepened the reach of these roots. I’ll be specifically clear here and point out that there is no one group of people to be blamed for it.
The culprit is the system, which although majorly made of people from a certain group, is a separate entity in itself. The best example for the same is the problems faced by both males and females at the hands of the system of patriarchy. Where women continue to deal with a ton of social problems like the backward mindsets which inherently assume the males to be above them, the undue sense of pressure on the male to lead or to display traditionally masculine qualities is the effect of patriarchy that goes unseen in a war which pitches both the genders against one another. See?
The problem lies in the system which perpetuates expectations and obligations to a community without caring for its own needs.
Now, if the problem is with the system, how do we, as its mere tools, bring a change, right?
Here is where the existence of privilege can help us out of this mess. As much as the structure is to blame, the fact still remains that the people who hold positions of power in the same structure have their hands on the controls. By sensitizing themselves and their peers to the extent of their privilege and by realizing how they hold the ability to bring a change, these groups can work towards the betterment of the social conditions.
Moreover, execution of accurate legislations like affirmative action by the same privileged people can bring more of the underprivileged in the conversation, hence, giving us a fresher perspective on how to deal with certain issues.
The underlying assumption to all these means of bringing about a change is that those who hold positions of power challenge their privilege and call it out wherever necessary, be it the unequal treatment of a wage labourer around you, or the sexist undertones in your conversations with your friends, or the constant labelling of people as homosexuals based on skewed oppressive traits.
The first step is to accept this privilege and make your peers in the same power dynamic realise the importance of this perspective because it isn’t tough to see how people in a status same as yours would listen more keenly to you, than to someone from the community which is perceived to be below yours. The continuous calling out of behaviour which just amplifies the existing system and its continuous correction is the foremost agenda towards a better society and it is only us, the privileged who can do that because after all, it was us who gave this bent mindset the ammunition that it needed when it began.