If you know me, you know that I’m part of the majority class, and if you don’t, you can probably assume that from my picture. I’m a white cis hetrosexual guy, leaving only “capitalist” off the list for majority class there, so I have a completely different perspective on things involving said class and classes because I’m on the inside trying to fight – which will eventually lead me to being known as a class traitor and all that fun stuff, I’m sure.
However, in all the discussions of privelege i’ve encountered, there’s one that seems to be missing, and that’s the one i’m going to present a case for today (or this month, depending on whether you only read me on the blog or know me elsewhere). The ability to declare oneself as an individual, or to declare that a representative of your class is an individual is an inherent privilege of the majority class.
Consider it. Every time white people or white cis people are grouped together in a discussion, we immediately state that we’re individuals. You can see it in the hashtags, #NotAllMen, for example, is guys saying that they’re individuals and not part of the group of All Men. When a white guy commits terrorism, we immediately condemn him, but in our condemnation we make it clear that he was an individual and not representative of the whole of White Guys. Contrast that with discussion points coming from White People about individuals of Other Groups, where we’re more than happy to point out their associations with larger groups. Muslim Terrorists indicts all Muslims, and we repeatedly call upon all Muslims to denounce those acts, even though it’s fairly clear that the 1.3 billion and growing Muslims in the world are not Daesh, Boko Haram, or the deluded guy with the car bomb.
More to the point, I have never, in my life, thought that my actions or actions I’m considering reflect on anything more than me as a person. Most white people I’ve asked think that would be absurd as well. But I’ve been told that there’s plenty of that question in the minds of Others. The idea of one’s actions being reflected on a group they belong to is sometimes constant for some groups. Black people have often changed directions or wondered if they should change directions because, from their perspective, they are representative of All Black People. Even when you look at women and their actions and ideas, they have a tendency to consider the impact of their actions across the spectrum of All Women.
However, this is bigger than single people’s thoughts and actions. The average person with Individuality Privilege has no issues aligning themselves with groups at will, and distancing themselves as well. They can join or leave anything they want to, they can include or ostracize anyone at will, because the world revolves around their own individuality. If identified as a member of a group, they can instantly and without repercussion disavow that link. They can also immediately accept and adopt that link without having to do any work to gain that link.
Why does any of this matter? You already actually know all of this without putting words to it, that’s why all the conversations in which some majority person blithely shifts blame off themselves to others of their class are so frustrating. It’s why you have to scream and cry whenever some guy says he’s not like Those Guys, but does nothing to make sure he really isn’t or that Those Guys aren’t as much of a threat in the future. It’s why nothing changes for the majority class until they lose their majority or until change is forced on them. But it matters for the same reason we identify all other privileges. Because identifying them makes them real and means that we can actually deconstruct them and work to understand them. This blog post isn’t enough to highlight or discuss the issue, it’s basically a start though, and hopefully the idea propagates and we can figure out how to combat it.
Where else it matters? It gives excellent context for a lot of what’s going on in political spheres. It’s literally the difference between coverage of Micah Xavier and Robert Bowers. In fact, if you go look up their terrorist acts on wikipedia, Micah Xavier is mentioned prominently in the summary introduction while Bowers, the guy who actually walked into a synagogue and then later gave himself up to police as the shooter, is still listed as a suspect and isn’t even mentioned until the end of the article. It’s not just racism in action there, Bowers is treated as a unique individual who has the right to innocence until proven guilty while Xavier is a black man who is dead and has no rights. In the immediate aftermath of right-wing terrorism, the entirety of the conservative community unquestionably has the right and ability to say that the terrorist doesn’t represent them while they hold entire communities and ethnicities to blame for the acts of people in their ranks. In our response to that, we claim that the right wing terrorists ostensibly belong to these groups after decrying earlier statements that paint all members of non-majority groups as part of the problem when terrorism arises from a linked group or person. As white people, the majority in the US, we are completely blind to that kind of scale switching and use it constantly, even and especially when it applies to ourselves. When people are decrying violent actions against violent groups of white people, they’re afraid that they’ll be mistaken for those groups simply because they’re standing near them. When one is arguing against punching Nazis and urging civility, it’s probably because they’re at the same rally and are afraid people won’t realize one’s individuality and that they’re not a Nazi. That realization really blew my mind, to be honest, because generally my response to “you shouldn’t punch nazis” was “then don’t be a nazi and you won’t be punched,” and the argument would continue. I legitimately thought that the “don’t be a nazi” would be a good final point and that there was nothing more to put there, so I had to figure out why people wouldn’t see that as the solution to the problem. So, the sudden realization that being grouped with people due to appearance, position, and relative distance was abhorrent to them was when I realized the individuality connection.
It even affects me. I, the white cis het man, have no problems being a feminist and never really think that I’m a representative of the white cis het men. I sit around and decry the actions of the SQGs (Status Quo Guardians) while assuming that my words are enough to show that I’m special, I’m different. And it wasn’t really until I started noticing that white people’s arguments often serve to exclude them from groups that are fucked up that I really started to think about it. My reaction? To insist that I was an individual and not part of those groups that are fucked up. My thoughts have been swirling since that realization and I hope at some point we get to sit down and figure out how to deal with all this, because this may or may not be huge to understanding social problems.
I’d like to thank my Patrons, as usual, for supporting me bashing my brain into a keyboard until I get something legible out, and remind you that if you like this and think I should continue doing it, a patronage can be yours for as little as a dollar a month, with access to… well, not much else, to be honest. I put short blogs on the Patreon accessible only to Patrons occasionally, but not often enough to really call it a feature. I poll Patrons for ideas occasionally too, but if you really want my thoughts on some issue, the best method is to Patron up and ask me.