On Discrimination, on Prejudice, on Apathy
To understand why that is, you have to look at a few things that factor into it. To do that, you have to look at what it is that operates here.
When persons in a state or condition of power express the sentiment that they are being discriminated against in a manner similar to those who are historically oppressed, they rely on the assertion that they are being attacked overall on the same basis, because they see that axis of oppression as being a substantive issue related to feeling attacked even if there is no justification for it.
Ok, yeah, you could argue they are wrong and all that, but better yet, ask them a few questions.
When dealing with Racism, is the larger social space they live in filled with active, hostile stigma associated with being that race. That is, are white people blamed for high crime rates because they are white? Do women of color cross the street to avoid white men because all white men are dangerous predators? Do white men in their country go to jail for longer periods of time and more frequently than men of other racial backgrounds? Do they see white men portrayed consistently on TV or in commercials or in films as the source of problems while the persons of color are held up as without any blemish or fault?
Just a few questions. You can get the idea for those questions from reading both Stigma and Privilege here. It is important to understand both, because Stigma is the antithesis of Privilege — you cannot experience both along the same axis of oppression or prejudice and be honest in doing so.
Which might puzzle a few people, so next let’s look at the difference between Discrimination and Prejudice.
Discrimination — and in this case, we mean the kind of thing where someone actively denies access to a service or space on the basis of some characteristic that isn’t welcome. A White person in a room of Black people. A man in a room full of women. A Mexican American in a White supremacist club.
Entering that space as a full on outsider might be challenging – the solitary individual will likely not feel very welcomed, very comfortable, etc. They might go to the bar to get a drink and be told to get on out of there, and not be served.
No, let’s presume that the last one isn’t part of the examples, since it is intentionally chosen to mess with people. A women’s Knitting Club meets every week. The gals chat and goof and knit one and purl two or whatever for a few hours, have a blast, no kids, no men, it is a space they have created for themselves. They know each other. It is not a public domain.
A man being denied entry is basic discrimination. It is not necessarily a bad thing.
Discrimination combined with stigma and Privilege, though…
Women do not, in the US at any rate, have privilege along the axis of men and women. They do, however, experience stigma along that axis. This is not about them individually, but them as a class of persons. Individually, only some of those women experience that stigma — the rest just go along to get along. They do not actively confront or have cause to run up against the limitations placed on them.
(example, haters, example)
This means that we are adding stigma to discrimination, and what we get there is Prejudice.
Now, I have already pointed out that Discrimination is based in the expression of Anxiety, Aversion, and/or Animus, singly or in any combination, where it applies to a group based on a characteristic. By adding the power of stigma to that, we up it a notch.
Black people deal with stigma. Trans people deal with stigma. Women deal with stigma. Disabled people deal with stigma. Overweight people deal with stigma (hell, the term overweight itself is stigmatizing).
White, Cis, Men who are able bodied and fit do not deal with stigma along any of those lines of oppression. They experience privileges along all of them — even if they happen to be poor, uneducated, and work as a ditch digger. Because they do experience stigma for being something other than middle class or wealthy, for being uneducated, and for working a job that “decent people wouldn’t do”.
So right there, I want you to note that white cis men can, in fact, experience prejudice even in a social system that benefits them. This is important to recognize and be clear about — but they do not experience it along the lines of being white, cis, men who are able bodied and fit.
That feeling of being left out, of being blamed for something they don’t see themselves as contributing to, that sense of fragility and that very idea of being anxious and aversive to being labeled as some sort of oppressor are all part of that whole thing of trying to understand how it is that they cannot magically prejudiced against along lines that others are.
Because no one wants to be told they are being jerks, and really, that’s what discrimination comes down to in most of the big issue cases — being a jerk.
Now, Prejudice, then, is the addition of Stigma to Aversion, Anxiety, and/or animus.
So why am I recently adding Apathy. A fourth A.
Because doing nothing when you encounter it — even if you are not aware of it, unfortunately — contributes to and adds to the furtherance of it.
It almost always comes from anxiety itself — i don’t want to get involved, or I don’t want to put my own job or position or status at risk. Who knows what could happen to you, right? I mean, you speak out against the manager who is being a jerk to all the women under him, and you could be the one who gets treated like crap, and we don’t want that.
So you stay quiet and stay out.
Now, having thoroughly broken down what it is that makes up prejudice and discrimination, the challenge we have is identifying the kinds of power that are involved here, the ways in which someone has power over others, and breaking that down to show how intent is still present even when folks are not overtly aware of their own intent — often by employing that stigma in a given moment, such as in language.
And to prove that, note that within this very post, I employed a form a stigma that people do not always realize they are engaged in. I even point it out at least once.
Remember the use of the term “overweight”? Why did I use the term “fit” as an opposite to it? How many of you didn’t even see the use of those two terms the way I did here as an example of this very issue — how many of you did see it but didn’t want to get involved because you didn’t think this was a battle you wanted to get into?
How many of you are thinking “well, it isn’t like that’s a problem…”
That’s how prejudice operates. That is how stigma is used. That is why Apathy is included.
Oh, yeah, I am back. Mostly on the old people’s social media platform of choice (facebook), where stuff like this pops up often, but once in a while I will revisit.
I mean, I am paying for the server. I oughta at least get some value out of it, huh?