Sociology: Privilege


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1. (a) Privilege is defined as a favor or right granted to some people, but not to everyone.
(b) Power is defined as strength, ability, or a driving force. (c) Difference is defined as the way in which two things are not the same. (d) According to MacIntosh there are two types of privileges. The first is based on what she calls “unearned entitlements,” which are things that all people should have. Some examples are feeling safe in a public place or working in a place where they feel that they belong and are valued for what they can contribute. The other type of privilege is what MacIntosh calls “unearned advantage,” and occurs when “unearned entitlements” are restricted to certain groups. An example would be a white person feeling out of place at a downtown nightclub. (e) The paradox in privilege is that individuals are the one’s who experience privilege or the lack of it, but individuals are not what are actually privileged. Instead, privilege is defined in relation to a group or a social category. For example, race privilege is more about white people than it is about white people. Privileges are only granted in society when people identify the individual as belonging to a specific category, race, gender, or cultural background. By saying that oppression is the flip side of privilege the author means that for every social category that is privileged, one or more other categories are oppressed in relation to it. Oppression points toward the social forces that “press” upon people and hold them back, thus blocking their pursuit of a good life.
2. (a) Capitalism is defined as an economic system based on ownership of resources by individuals or companies and not by the state. Capitalism as it relates to sociology has to do with the fact that it not only produces enormous amounts of wealth, but that it creates extreme levels of inequality among social classes and societies. Capitalism also has made the rich richer and the poor poorer and has opened the gap in the U.S. class system. The matrix of domination says that each particular form of privilege, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion, or ethnicity, exists only as a much larger system of privilege. It works by simplifying and clarifying the gray areas that we encounter in privilege. It allows us to see that each form of privilege exists only in relation to all the rest and keeps us from trying to figure out which is the worst or most oppressive.

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It states that usually we are both oppressed and not oppressed, privileged and not privileged.
3. (a) Privilege works and exists through social systems and individuals that participate in them. They are dominated by privileged groups, identified with privilege groups, and centered on privileged groups. For example, race privilege happens through systems that are white-dominated, white-identified, and white-centered. (b) Rejection is used in the system of privilege by social groups shunning other social groups. For example, realtors steering blacks away from white neighborhoods and by bankers refusing loans to potential black homebuyers. (c) Exclusion is used in the system of privilege by leaving particular social groups out of events, conversations, and the like. For example, always picking the fat kid last in a game of kickball. (d) Avoidance is used in the system of privilege when people do not acknowledge the presence of another person because of his or her race, gender, social class, economic status, and the like. For example, ignoring some dork at your school when he says hi to you first. (e) Devaluing is used in the system of privilege by not giving someone the credit they deserve for an accomplishment, educational status, or ability. For example, when Asian Americans are treated like “computer geeks” to be managed for their talents but never allowed to manage themselves or others. And then ultimately to be envied and resented when they excel at particular tasks. (f) Privilege affects people by forcing those trapped in dominant groups to try and fulfill the expectations set forth by their social class. For example, men often will deny their own personal needs, not ask for help, live with chronic fear, anxiety, isolation, and loneliness while trying to live up to the mainstream standards of masculinity. (g) Privilege affects organizations, communities, and societies in that it goes virtually undetected and is among our worst kept secrets. It is only every so often that when a scandal explodes onto the front pages of the newspaper that the talk of racial behavior, gender harassment, or any harassment for that matter is even addressed. Most of the time people manage to act as if nothing is wrong and that we are one big happy family. Most organizations fail in the area of diversity because they deal with it badly or not at all, unless a crisis forces the issue. And even then, they only deal with it enough to make it go away. The same goes for communities and societies.
4. Dominant groups do not see privilege as a problem because positions of power tend to be occupied by members of that group.
5. (a) The myth that “everything is someone’s fault” stems from our individualistic society that encourages us to think that the social world begins and ends with individuals. For example if we use individualism to explain sexism, it leads us to believe that sexism only exists because men are sexist-have sexist feelings, beliefs, means, and motivations that lead them to behave in sexist ways. Thus, if sexism produces evil consequences it is because men are evil toward women. Therefore everything bad in the world is seen as somebody’s fault because they helped to create that image. (b) The “path of least resistance” refers to the path that a person chooses to take in a given situation or setting that will cause the least amount of attention to be directed at them and will cause the least amount of tension among those present. For example, there are a number of options one could pursue while sitting in a movie theater such as screaming and yelling, undressing, taking out a flashlight and reading the newspaper, or watching the movie silently. All of these except for watching the movie silently would probably cause a scene and eventually some problems with other patrons, therefore most people will take the path of least resistance and sit quietly.
6. (a) Dominant classes get off the hook of racism and classism by saying that they can’t talk about it if they can’t use the words. The dominant class often blames the victim for racism and classism. (b) Dominant classes choose not to talk about racism and classism. They often discredit words such as privilege, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, classism, dominance, subordination, oppression, and patriarchy, and twist their meaning or turn them into a phobia all the while trying to make them invisible.



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