THE BLOG

Check What Privilege? How 'More Or Less' Equal Is the Same As Unequal and Why It Matters That Everyone Understands

29/01/2016 10:37 GMT | Updated 28/01/2017 10:12 GMT

In the midst of the 'Oscars Diversity Debate' sides are being taken and opinions are being voiced. I won't be covering the contents of the debate, or making any statement about it in any specific way, but rather I want to talk about talking about it.

On such topics as this - race, gender, disability, sexuality to name a few - the conversation is crucial. When something is questionable in terms of equality, fairness and justice, such as the disproportionate representation of one group as compared to another, having a conversation about it starts the path to improving the situation by exposing misconceptions and helping to unveil the facts of the matter.

In this instance one actress made a comment - amongst many others - saying that 'these days everyone is more or less accepted'. In a sentence, this encapsulates the issue. Most people feel this way - the statement is not anomalous. Lots of people would agree that these days, in the current age, in most of our modern world, everyone is 'more or less accepted'. Compared to years ago, all of us are protected in a sort of way: we have rights, we have legal recourse, we have recognition. The problem with this is that while there are some objective measures in place, the implementation and enforcement of equality and justice is not so objective. The existence of a law is not the same as people following it, and one piece of policy or legislation does not equality make.

But the real crux of the matter is the idea that everyone is 'more or less' accepted. A seemingly innocuous statement - and that's the problem. In fact, it makes for an excellent opportunity to explain the problem. When people are being accepted to more or less of a degree than others, we are presented with inequality. It shouldn't be acceptable that someone is more likely to get a job based on extraneous characteristics, or less likely. Or that someone is more or less likely to be stopped in an airport, or more or less likely to get harassed. The issue is exactly that people are more or less accepted - we should all be equally accepted and when something warrants a judgement call that judgement should be based only on the pertinent factors - factors like competency, or qualification, or experience.

So when a statement like 'these days everyone is more or less accepted' is made, it can be a great opportunity to take a step back and think about what that means. And to help people making statements like that to see it isn't an appropriate justification of the way things are, but that it is instead the very issue with the way things are. While it may be a gut reaction to tell people who don't see the effect of quantifiers on subjects like equality, rights and acceptance to 'check their privilege' it's an instruction that doesn't make any sense to the person who cant even locate the problem. If nobody explains then these opinions don't change or disappear, they just don't get voiced. And while that might seem 'more or less' like progress, I hope I've shown that it isn't equal to it.