Blinded by PrivilegeAugust 1, 2014 1 Comment
University of California researcher, Paul Piff, and his colleagues have been studying privilege.
In one study, they set up a rigged game of monopoly. The players who had been randomly assigned to get more money and other advantages began to demonstrate some disturbing differences from the other players. They began to move their pieces around the board more loudly, displayed “signs of dominance and nonverbal displays of power and celebration,” ate more pretzels, and came “ruder, less and less sensitive to the plight of the poor players, and more likely to showcase how well they were doing.” After the game, the rich players attributed their success to their skills and strategy, not the systematic advantages they had over the other player, even though they knew the advantages were real and were randomly assigned.
In a rigged game of Monopoly, denial of unearned privilege has few consequences, but what about in the rigged game called life?
Acknowledging and dealing with unearned privilege – advantages conferred on people based on their identity rather than actions – turns out to be an important aspect of understanding structural inequities and facilitating social change. It’s often challenging to facilitate a clear-eyed examination of privilege that enables people to grapple with the implications of privilege for their self-concept. And, that examination turns out to be important for building commitment to social change and building agreement on strategies to address inequities.
For us, it’s a matter of emphasizing how the personal, internal work and the external work depend on one another. What do you find useful in helping individuals and groups to explore these issues?