Another day, another needlessly stupid feature in the media regarding race and privilege.
Most of the time it’s not even worth engaging with, but this particular incidence of foolery requires a little extra unpacking because it’s so egregious.
Right-wing US newspaper The Washington Examiner recently printed a helpful little diagram they labelled a “privilege pyramid”.
The graphic puts those at the top that it considers to have the most privilege and “power” in American society today.
Those at the bottom are the ones who apparently have the least “privilege”. But the Examiner’s definition of “privilege” appears to be majorly off. Quelle surprise!
At the bottom of its lil pyramid sit… white men.
Specifically the blocks read: “white”, “male”, “wealthy”, “college-educated”, “hetero”.
My heart bleeds.
At the top?
“Rape victim”, closely followed by “transsexual”.
The next row down is made up of blocks reading “queer” and “refugee”. Wonderful stuff.
Of course, the Examiner and the Eddie Scarry journalist who wrote the accompanying thinkpiece (a misnomer: clearly minimal thinking went into this) know that this is provocative.
In the article, Scarry argues that “social justice movements” are trying to “remake society from top to bottom”.
Aka he thinks the aim of movements like the campaign for trans rights or #MeToo are not to ensure a fairer a society for all – but instead to upend the entire social hierarchy so straight, wealthy white men are at the bottom.
It says a lot that Scarry can’t just imagine a fairer world but instead thinks someone always has to suffer.
But he also makes an even more damaging claim.
Who has the power in America’s culture now?
The social justice movement does.
If by “power” Scarry means “a small corner of the internet to organise but almost zero tangible real world authority” then, yes.
But if the “social justice movement” (which by the way, is a term broad enough to be useless, as it encompasses a huge swathe of groups with very different aims), had the power Scarry speaks of then, why are the people at the top of the pyramid still suffering to the degree they are?
Why are trans individuals being murdered at a disproportionate rate in the US?
Why do over half of trans male teens and non-binary individuals report attempting suicide?
Why do 0.7 per cent of reported rapes – nine out of 10 with women victims – not lead to a conviction?
Why are a third of rapes unreported in the US?
Why are anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes on the rise, according to the FBI?
Why is the US closing its borders to refugees (admitting only 18,000 and building a border wall) at a time when the global number of asylum seekers has rated the highest level since World War II?
I could go on, but the point is clear. If people belonging to these groups – who also can fit into more than one at once and are so much more than the one singular identity Eddie Scarry assigns to them – now have the power in the US, why aren’t they flexing it?
Simple answer: they don’t.
indy100 contacted the illustrator behind the piece, who said that he regrets making the illustration.
I would want to apologize to anyone who was hurt by it. I do regret making it.
I assumed many people would disagree with the opinions presented, but I didn’t appreciate just harmful that image could be, and how many people could feel hurt by it.
I think the image can shame people for having suffered, and might encourage resentment against social policies and movements that are intended to provide support for historically persecuted groups and individuals. Which, as it would with anyone, sits terribly with me.