When Equality Feels Like Oppression

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”.

I’ve used this quote several times this week. The election has brought out the debater in me, and I always welcome a good, healthy, civil debate.

Two of the discussions I’ve had this week have been about black pride and same sex marriage. The quote above was useful in both of these conversations.

I made the comment, “People think black pride means hating other races, probably because that’s what white pride means”. That brought about many comments.

What is white pride? What is there to be proud of for being born white? I can’t think of anything. I mean, I’m proud that I’m Scottish. I’m proud of my Grandfather’s family for coming to America, checking in at Ellis Island, and looking for opportunity. That’s not me being proud of being white, though. Saying you are proud to be white usually means you’re happy you’re not black. Be honest.

What is black pride and why is it different? Have you seen the video where young children are being asked questions about faces they see on a sheet of paper? The faces are all the same except for skin color. Both black and white children were interviewed. When asked, “Who is the bad kid?”, they point to a black face. When asked, “Who is the good kid?”, they point to the white face. When asked, “Who is the pretty kid?”, they point to a white face. When asked, “Who is the ugly kid?”, they point to a black face. You get the point.

So, as the parent of a black child, wouldn’t you raise your child to be proud of being black instead of ashamed of it? I would hope so. Black children should be taught to be proud of who they are and should not feel inferior or less valued because of the color of their skin.

I’m willing to bet most of the time when children are taught to be proud of being black, they are not simultaneously taught that being black is superior to being white. That’s not what black pride is about. Black pride is NOT about claiming it is the superior race. No, people, that’s what white pride and white supremacy is. Please don’t get the two confused.

A young, white, privileged, straight man argued with me that black pride is racist. He doesn’t think we should tolerate any kind of Black Pride movement. He doesn’t think it’s “fair” that black people can be proud to be black but white people can’t be proud to be white. You see, he doesn’t get it. Why is he so afraid of equality? What does it take from a white man that a black man is proud to be black? He couldn’t answer that for me. Do some black people hate white people? Sure. Do you really think that type of racism is the same as systemic, institutional racism? (Please say no.)

This same young, white, privileged, straight man also opposes same sex marriage. He thinks same sex marriage makes a mockery out of “real” marriage. So, I tried the same approach. What does a same sex marriage take away from someone else’s “real” marriage? When my gay son gets married, how will his marriage harm mine? It won’t. Why in the world would someone think same sex marriage destroys the meaning of marriage? (I am speaking of legal marriage here. I’ve already addressed my thoughts on the sacrament of holy matrimony in the Catholic church, which I believe is a separate issue.)

Another young man told me that he thinks straight, white, upper middle class men are being “silenced” (oppressed?). So, because gay people and black people want equality and people are speaking up against racism, bigotry, and discrimination, he feels oppressed???? Really? I’m sorry that you no longer feel welcomed to make racial comments or belittle homosexuals. I’m sorry that you suddenly feel like you should keep those comments to yourself. I’m sorry that you are being asked to shut up and try to understand the plight of others. I’m sorry that I’m not really sorry that you feel silenced.

You see, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Equality is about bringing UP the people who have been oppressed. It is not about bringing DOWN those who are privileged.