April 24th Letter to the Editor
Regarding Noah Wingard’s opinion column questioning whether privilege can be ‘dismantled,’ I feel that his opinions completely miss the mark, at best, concerning why arguments concerning privilege are advanced. To start, I have never once heard of a social justice group or civil rights group advocating to strip a people—white Christians, as Noah suggests—of their privilege. Rather, they advance causes based on the idea of equality. If equality is the death of privilege, then I say that is a wonderful thing. Noah, however, seems to think that equality is an impossibility. If that is the case, then the ideals of equality enshrined in our Declaration of Independence are meaningless fluff and we should just give up on building a more perfect union. Furthermore, privilege is a symptom of societal ills such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. These forces, often in insidious ways, lead to systemic oppression of minority groups, whether it’s intentional or not. In short, privilege is inherent in every act of oppression. As such, arguments of concerning privilege are largely advanced to address bigoted remarks directed toward disenfranchised groups. For instance: ‘Black communities are impoverished because they are lazy’, or ‘there aren’t as many women in the sciences because they aren’t intelligent.’ I think the mistake Noah makes is in believing that equality is a zero sum game; that for one group to succeed, another must lose. Or in his words, “If Islam became the dominant religion in a Western nation, would we criticize them for dominating discussions of spiritual matters?” To say that simply because Islam was the majority, it would inherently undermine and disadvantage other faiths is a gross simplification and again relies on the zero sum mentality. But yes, any group oppressing another should rightly be criticized. Finally, if we ignore privilege, and the social ills that bred it, then we are opening the door to saying that it is right and normal that certain groups are superior to others; that it is okay to treat people as second class citizens; that it’s okay to blame them for being poor; that it’s okay to accuse them of taking jobs; that it is okay to send their children to dilapidated schools; that it’s okay to segregate them; that it’s okay to lynch them; that it’s okay to drag them behind trucks; and so on through history.