Group Identities Matter Whether We Like It or Not

In an ideal world, we are all just individuals and nobody cares about our skin color, religion, sexual orientation, heritage, nationality or whatever. However we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world. People are going to judge each other based on group labels they stick on each other.

There is no such thing, as “white privilege”.White people do not have lesser tax rates, grocery stores without queues, or VIP access to sports events, because they are white.

This was literally what my whole story was about. Why we should not be talking about white privilege. It makes more sense to talk about disadvantages of those who are not white. We should not seek to take away privilege from whites but to raise up everybody else.

What people mean, when they talk about white privilege is that whites tend to have a relative advantage over non-whites in most societies. To be fair to those who speak of white privilege, I think you have profoundly misunderstood if you think they are suggesting that whites have special VIP access or dedicated lines in the grocery store.

It has more to do with the attitudes and dispositions other people will have towards you based on your skin color. This isn’t just some subjective opinion. People have actually researched this. There are numerous studies confirming the relative advantage of looking white. E.g. all things being equal, a white person is more likely to be called into a job interview than e.g. a black person. It is easy to test this hypothesis. Researchers submit similar CVs to different companies. Sometimes they put a picture of a black person and sometimes they put a picture of a white person. The same can be observed about a general advantage of males over females. Authors with male names will be greatly preferred over those with female names. This is something that is quite easy to have a controlled study of. So we know this is objectively true.

One has tests where people are asked to judge whether a person is holding a gun or not. Controlled experiments demonstrate, that people are more likely to believe a black person is holding a gun, when he holds say a cell phone. This is also reflected in police shooting statistics. A higher frequency of unarmed blacks are shot.

I am a person raised in environment, where nobody cares about race — it is nothing but a set of physical traits, and matters only in areas, where physical appearance matters.

I would say I am fairly lucky in that regard as well. But there is no denying that it matters a lot in many areas of the world. It also matters how different you look.

If you tell me that your race is not cared about enough, then I will say “and why do you care? It is 2019, not XIX”

It ought to not be an issue in 2019, but we got to deal with reality. Some groups of people still get discriminated based on their looks, ethnicity or heritage. I think people belonging to a marginalized group, whether that is Native-American, Sami or Tibetans have a right to protest their treatment and ask that society try to help them.

and all that cannons armed and aimed at white privilege, will just hit white. Reducing taxes for black people would be as racist, as reducing them for white people, just pointed at another race.

I think what you are trying to challenge is what we call positive-discrimination or affirmative action. The idea is about evening the playingfield for groups of people who are at a disadvantage.

This can go in all directions. A pre-school, may chose to give an extra advantage to males, to strengthen the recruitment of men in pre-school, to get a better gender balance. Depends on your values, but I think diversity is often a benefit, and something we should encourage.

To take some personal experiences. Norwegian pre-schools have far more men working in them, than when I went to pre-school. I see that as an advantage. I can clearly see how it benefits the children. The guys are often more childish and get more involved in the play of the children. They get them into kicking balls, snowboarding etc.

Likewise I have seen many advantages of having more women in my profession. On of the benefits for me working in the oil and gas industry is that you get to work with a very diverse set of people. Not just many different nationalities but also different professions: physicist, engineers, geologists, computer scientists etc.

Of course I don’t want this to be the only thing that matters. When I was in politics briefly, I almost got the impression that the qualifications was the last thing that mattered. So many other concernes came first: gender, age, minority, part of the country, language group or whatever. One can definitely overdo this ;-)

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store