The Inequality of Privilege

black and white photo depicting things not being equal between the working class and man
Illustration by Wes Bausmith (Los Angeles Times/MCT 2012)

We hear a lot about privilege in the modern world. It’s been worn by overuse from bloggers and hipsters, thrown against weary ears, until the sharp sting that ought to accompany a word signifying a distinct lack of opportunity for others becomes nothing more than indifference. That is what privilege means. To have special rights and advantages in this world than those of one’s peers.

It exists in tangent with “inequality.” It just sounds prettier.

Those who are without the privileges of this society must be supported and aided until they obtain those same rights and those same privileges, until the word ‘privileged’ just means ‘human’.

CSUN has undergone recent investigations into the racial opportunity gap within our classes, which are then made available to professors so that they might alter their curriculum appropriately. However, this division in grades received between the traditionally privileged demographics of students and those from traditionally underserved communities creates a troubling question: Is this trend, visible in every college in the university, the fault of our professors or the lower education received by these students?

Is it racial, displaying subtle and mostly unconscious prejudices in the minds of professors, or is it cultural, displaying insecurities in the minds of students due to social expectations and a lack of extensive precedence? Yet that can not be true for all, for each person exists within their own mentality.

If these discrepancies are due to a failing of high school curriculum, then why are these divisions so heavily racially based when there should be more outliers amongst those who fit into those demographics yet attended high quality high schools? Although class divisions are still often tied to race, due to inherited social and economic status, this is not a constant and therefore cannot be solely to blame.

Neither answer fully explains this troubling trend, for both present the opportunity for outliers which would make the consistency of inequality across campus unlikely.

Unfortunately, the racial segregation that was once commonplace in this country has at most faded and is still far from vanishing. It echoes, into the present, through the actions and cultural mindsets of each generation. We have healed, yes, but we are still in the hospital bed.

Those of us with privilege must come to see that privilege not as a right, but as an injustice to those without. And those without must know that a lack of opportunity is not their burden, but rather an injustice.

With the answer to this so heavily buried beneath a thousand causes, it is difficult to find a single solution. One might say that the greatest way to combat the past and its terrible consequences is to shine light on those scars, to hold them before the eyes of the deniers and force the realization that our society’s wounds are still healing.

By making these gaps public, this university has served to remind us all that they are but a reflection of society, where gaps in opportunity exist like scars against the abused. Each small victory, each open mind, each higher grade, moves us all closer to freeing ourselves from the terrible consequences of privilege.