Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cognitive Dissonance (or The Real and Dark Reason Otherwise Nice People Will Not Admit to White Privilege)

Imagine that you have a bank account.  Now, imagine that every month of your life, an extra $50 is put into it.  You don't know where it comes from; it's just always been there.  It's yours to do with as you please.  Sometimes, you have really depended upon it to get you through those tight times.  Sometimes, you have used it to get something you need or want. And sometimes, you just save it up for something big.  But you always know it will be there, month after month.

You talk to your friends and you find out that some of them also have this additional $50 every month.  Then, you talk to others and find out that their account are missing $50 every month. It doesn't take long before you put two and two together and realize that you get this gift every month at the expense of someone else.  They lose every time you gain. 

Now, you didn't set this account up, and neither did your parents.  It's just been always there.  But, damn, it's been helpful.  That time you were short one month?  The $50 helped you to make it.  That time you wanted to go on a vacation?  It happened sooner and you were able to take a longer vacation because you had a bit extra.  And that time you got sick?  You were able to get the expensive medicine you needed.

You start to think about one of your friends who had $50 taken from their account every month.  You remember how they had to take a second job when time were a bit tight.  You recall that another friend got sick, but couldn't afford the treatment and got worse, missing months of work.  You think back to when you heard about when that same friend lost their job due to missing so much work.  And their house.  You sent them a casserole.

But your $50?  You've come to depend on it.  It's part of your budget.  If you were to give it back, that would mean giving things up, things that you've gotten used to having, like a nice house, a nice car, and being able know that those things are stable.  Surely, you should not have to give up your nice life for a mistake that wasn't even yours to begin with?  Besides, you still work hard.  You still deserve all your have...right?

But, the problem is, now you know.  You know where it comes from.  You know that you didn't earn it, even though it has been such a fixture it your life that you cannot help but still think of it as yours.  The rational part of you tries to think of the reason you think this $50 is yours, but some inner part of you just keeps repeating, "Because it always has been!"  And when you ask that inner part of you, but WHY has it always been and doesn't the money really belong to the person whose account it came from?  That inner part just reminds you that you'd really like that new smartphone next month and your budget won't handle it without that $50. 

You don't ask again.

And that's why some white people won't admit that white privilege exists.