When the effects and impact of structural, institutionally embedded bias and discrimination, whether rooted in physical characteristics such as skin colour or sexuality, or more social constructs like ethnicity or religion, are demonstrated clearly to someone; when they see the impact that intrinsic bias has on the potential, lives and ultimately on happiness and wellbeing of a group, then people react in one of four distinct ways.
Consider a visceral example; a human being, enslaved, being beaten with a whip. Given the relative numbers involved, that’s most likely to be a black person of African origin, being whipped by a white person of European origin.
Faced with this unambiguous display of racist violence, the four reactions can be examined.
1) The first group denies that the problem exists, or plead exceptions – it happened long ago, it wasn’t their group that was responsible and so on; or even a bare denial of the evidence. In the context of the whipped, abused person, they will simply make excuses; it wasn’t that bad, these are isolated reports, people were just tougher then, it happened to everyone… and so on.
2) The second group acknowledges the bias and subsequent abuse, but insists that it is not an issue; not a problem to be resolved, rather, this is the natural order of things. Importantly, it is not only members of the dominant group in any particular frame of reference who feel this way; during the campaigns for women’s suffrage, there were a large number of female anti-suffragettes, who saw nothing wrong with the position they found themselves in. The group holding the whip constructs a paternalistic mythos about themselves – the “white burden”, the need to correct the ‘flaws’ of the ‘weaker’ group, ‘doing it for their own good’, whilst members of the subjugated group which adhere to this view construct justifications of their own; if they were ‘better’ or ‘behaved’ then beatings would not happen. If they only demonstrated their worth, then the bias would not be show against them.
3) A third group sees the injustice and seeks to end it. They wish to remove the bias, end the discrimination and provide a level platform for all. They seek to see a world without whips; no beatings, for any group. Their desire is to see the notion of distinct groups with perceived ‘worth’ removed. Importantly, adherents of this view resist the implementation of new forms of bias and discrimination, no matter how well intentioned. It is an uncomfortable fact that, in order for abuse, discrimination and bias to end, members of the dominant group in each context must be persuaded to hold this viewpoint, and act to surrender the privilege and advantage which this offers them personally, for the greater good. For women’s suffrage to become law, it required the dominant male legislators to pursue this path. For the slavery of black people to be ended required white ‘masters’ to put down the whip.
4) The Fourth and final group is composed solely of those members of the subjugated group in each frame of reference (sexuality, colour, ethnicity, class and so on). They see the injustice of the situation, but they perceive it differently; for them, the injustice is not that there is abuse, but rather that there is abuse of the group that they identify with. The problem with the beating is not the violence, not the suffering it causes – the issue that they see is that they are not the ones holding the whip. The world that they wish to see is not one without whips, not one of freedom from bias and discrimination; they simply want to see the roles reversed, and be in the positions of power.
The last group is sadly where we find a worrying portion of current writers about feminism and race issues; radical feminists who have no issue at all with bias and discrimination on the basis of gender, as long as it takes the form of a matriarchy rather than a patriarchy.
These people are as much the enemies of progress and personal freedom as the white supremacists and mysoginists who wish to see the current state of affairs continue for their own benefit.