Posts Tagged ‘CCLT’


CCLT: Six Degrees of Majority Privilege

   Posted by: Robert    in Philosophy

Identity-based privilege is a concept which is deeply entangled with structural identityism.  Indeed, although the focus is different, the two concepts are essentially the same thing.  The main difference between them is their focus and the contours of what each one seeks to describe.  The concept of privilege is relatively unknown in conservative circles other than to the extent it gets used by the left to shut out people and opinions from debate.  But, like the identityisms, when the term isn’t being used as a weapon, it provides a helpful and widely applicable framework for understanding the world.

The easiest way to illustrate privilege is with the story of two children, Alice and Bob.  Alice lives on a family farm in Iowa with her parents and siblings, while Bob lives with his father in an affluent neighborhood in California.  Alice and Bob have little in common other than that they’re five years old, and both think that it would be the greatest thing in the world to have lunch with Kevin Bacon.

Bob’s father is a wealthy man with an important job in the entertainment industry that keeps him out of the house much of the time.  He frequents a country club not too far from his home that, coincidentally, often has on its lawn none other than Kevin Bacon.  Bob’s father and Kevin have spoken many times and even shared the odd round of golf.  Bob isn’t in school yet, but will start at a private academy next fall.  Kevin has seen pictures of Bob and Bob knows that his dad knows Kevin.

Alice’s family has owned their farm for generations and they still tell stories about the blood and sweat her grandfather put into their land.  As independent farmers, times have been tough with the rise of corporate farms, but a can-do attitude and quality livestock have allowed them to keep their farm.  Her father works from dawn until dusk tending the field and repairing as much of his equipment as he can.  Her mother tends to the animals.  Alice is just now old enough to join her siblings at school in a town about 15 miles away.  Alice’s father thinks “Kevin’s Bacon” is a breakfast food.

To have lunch with Kevin Bacon, Alice and Bob face wildly different challenges.  For Bob, all he needs to do is ask his dad.  For Alice… well… yeah.  She could send him a letter which one of his assistants would read and probably discard.  She could take up acting — no need to imagine your audience wearing chicken suits if your audience is nothing but actual chickens — but most people aren’t good enough to act for Hollywood.  Even if she were that good, she would still need to be discovered in the middle of nowhere, Iowa.  Even if she got discovered, she would still need to track down Kevin Bacon and offer up some reason why he and she should share lunch.  After years of personal effort, sacrifice, and luck, it’s possible that Alice could win what Bob was able to get in the course of a ten second conversation.

That, in a nutshell, is privilege.

Three things about this illustration are critical to note.  The first is that Alice and Bob were differently situated through no fault of their own.  Bob never did anything to injure Alice, and Alice was never injured by Bob.  Neither one chose the lives that were given to them.  The second is that with hard work and determination, it’s possible for Alice to, one day, have lunch with Kevin.  The third is that it could take Alice years and, despite her best effort, it might not happen at all.

Of course, lunch with Kevin Bacon is a metaphor for any of a number of different good things a person may want.  It could be wealth, power, or fame.  It could be a good education, a good job, or a good family.  It could be feeling accepted by society, by your peers, or by your friends.  It could even be the absence of being surrounded by negative messages or not being a victim of structural identityism.

Because it is such a wide-ranging concept, the idea of privilege manifests in a number of important ways.  It certainly shapes our domestic politics, as it forms the foundation of what we call “class warfare.”  It also likely affects our foreign policy in ways which go well beyond President Obama’s frequent apologies to the world.  But even beyond that, privilege (or the lack thereof) affects individuals in the way they live their lives and understand themselves.

Privilege is not a concept about which conservatives need to be afraid.  Indeed, conservatism holds many keys to fight the problems of privilege.  But as with identityism, we’ve committed so strongly to the world as it ought to be that we’ve lost sight of the world as it actually exists.  This is an area where we need to improve.

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Racism, Sexism, Classism, etc.

   Posted by: Robert    in Philosophy

Racism.  Few words in the English language have the power to destroy all chance at intelligent conversation between the left and the right.  In too many places at too many times, charges of racism have been used as weapons by the left to silence the right about a myriad of subjects about which the two sides might disagree.  Weaponized charges of racism, however, are not what this post is about.  What this post is about is how racism, sexism, classism, and so forth (let’s group those under the word “identityism”) remain viable topics for discussion about which conservatives need to become more engaged.

Identityism comes in two basic forms.  The overt form of identityism is the type that most people are familiar with and is what conservatives typically think about when we hear the term.  Overt identityism is slavery, it’s Jim Crow, it’s women being unable to vote, and it’s the invectives that get spewed at people who look or act differently.  Overt identityism, in other words, is the awful stuff that we more or less knowingly do to people because of some identifiable difference.  The systemic form of identityism is less known, particularly in conservative circles.  Systemic identityism is girls staying out of science and math, it’s black people sitting as a group at lunch, it’s inner city poverty, and it’s the difficulty people who have been laid off have finding another job.    In other words, systemic identityism is any condition in our society which causes harm to an identifiable group of people and which perpetuates itself with little or no conscious effort from anybody.

As a society, we’ve made great strides against identityism during the past 60 years.  The landscape of racism, in particular, has changed dramatically since the 195os.  Overt racism has been largely eradicated and has become so stigmatized that whatever is left stays hidden mostly out of the public eye.  Success has varied with the other identityisms, but overt identityism in most of its forms is routinely discouraged.  Make no mistake, these are victories.

But while overt identityism is on the retreat, systemic identityism remains largely unaffected.  Systemic identityism is much harder to address because there is no particular individual, or even a particular group, which is responsible for its continuation.  The systemic problem includes a lot of inertia, where particular groups get trapped in situations because they simply don’t have the tools or experience to know how to get themselves out.  What’s more, some of the things that we see as problems may not actually be problems at all, but merely different outcomes than the ones that we are conditioned from birth to believe in.

The greatest problem that conservatives have with identityism is the belief that being identity blind is enough to create true equality.  Systemic identityism doesn’t work that way.  It doesn’t matter, for instance, how sex-blind NASA is; NASA will have trouble hiring women because women won’t apply to NASA, because they never learned math or science, because their teachers didn’t teach them math or science, because we “know” women aren’t good at math or science, because NASA has trouble finding women to hire.  The only way out is to notice the closed logic loop and to then actively do something about it.

Of course, what must be actively done is a complicated subject for many other days.  The key for now is to realize that identityism, particularly in its systemic form, remains alive and well in America.  We have an opportunity to offer real solutions — the left offers only to replace one oppressive system with another, but they have at least noticed that there’s a conversation going on that they need to be a part of.  It’s time for conservatives to join in.

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Conservative Conversations on the Left’s Terms

   Posted by: Robert    in Philosophy

Among the problems facing conservatives is an ongoing failure to be able to connect with or have meaningful conversations with minority groups.  During this last election, conservatives had significant problems with racial and ethnic minorities, women, the LGBT community, and pretty much everyone else who wasn’t a white Christian male.  There’s been a conventional wisdom developed on the right that this is because of liberal pandering to those groups; buying their votes with government programs, affirmative action handouts, amnesty, and all manner of other ways in which the left gives these groups something for free, implicitly in exchange for their votes.  This seems to work even though these groups mostly don’t appear better off despite the aid of their liberal benefactors.

If we assume that these groups are after actual improvement — not just free stuff — then that means there is something the left is doing that conservatives have missed.    One possibility which I think is likely is that liberals can connect with minority groups in a way that has, so far, eluded the right.  In fact, the left seems to have an entire vocabulary for having discussions with and about minorities; a vocabulary which conservatives either don’t know or are actually hostile toward.

This linguistic purity has left conservatives out of important conversations and has left the branding of conservatism entirely in the hands of its enemies.  It’s time for conservatives to engage.  If it’s safe to assume (as I think it is) that members of minority groups want the same things as the rest of us — liberty and freedom, fair pay for an honest day’s work, love, family, and above all to simply be treated aspeople — then conservatism surely has plenty to offer.

The first step in this journey is listening, and understanding what these people mean by their own words.  In the coming weeks, I’ll be offering up an encyclopedia, of sorts, to help break down what’s being said.  The key is to separate descriptive terms from prescriptive policies; we need to understand and use the former in order to influence and change the latter.  Making the separation won’t be easy, because the left has done a good job of blending them together, but the goal is essential.  A whole new conversation is about to begin.

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