a203-11f-16-NaturalizingInequality

The ideology of equal opportunity meritocracy level

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the ideology of equal opportunity, meritocracy, level playing field - that is, acknowledging white privilege exposes a contradiction between our real and our ideal culture - ideal culture: - equal opportunity - level playing field - whites have personally earned whatever they have - real culture: - whites have unearned advantages - opportunities are not equal - the playing field is not level - some of what whites have is due to their social race, not only their own efforts - contradictions like this cause cognitive dissonance: - discomfort, irritation due to encountering that some of ones beliefs are not compatible with each other - by analogy to musical dissonance: two tones that don’t form a pleasant chord (harmony), but instead class irritatingly (dissonance) - recognizing white privilege causes cognitive dissonance because two things we believe cannot both be true at once - as in a white American thinking: - “I do not participate in racism” - “White privilege is real, so I benefit from racism” - Uh-oh… these are contradictory… one of them must be false…
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Intro to Cultural Anthro F 2011 / Owen: Naturalizing inequality… p. 4 - Ouch! Cognitive dissonance! - People tend to try to avoid cognitive dissonance - often by learning ways of thinking that permit us to avoid the dissonance - deny the problem - “what BS, that’s just liberals being politically correct!” - “that’s just stuff the professor said in class, it does not apply to my real life!” - “forget that, what are you doing this weekend?” - get irritated when someone points it out - ignore or avoid it by not thinking about the issue - use ways of thinking and speaking that hide the dissonant (conflicting) ideas - the tendency to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance is probably one reason why people tend to deny that racism exists in the US - One way of thinking and speaking that can hide a hierarchy, preventing cognitive dissonance, involves the use of… - marked and unmarked terms for categories - a natural, harmless linguistic structure - but one that often conveniently hides underlying assumptions - unmarked category : the default category, assumed unless specified otherwise - often because it is the most common form - marked category : a variant form that must be specified (marked) as different from the default - consider the word “pig” - if you picture a pig, you probably think of a full-grown pig - to specify a baby pig, you have to indicate the age specifically by adding further detail, “marking” the term as a baby: - pig + let = “piglet” - pig + baby = “baby pig” - “pig” includes adults and infants, but we assume adult unless otherwise specified - so adult pig is the unmarked category: “adult” is assumed unless the phrase is marked to indicate otherwise - piglet or baby pig is the marked category: it must be specified as being different from the default, unmarked category - if someone says “prime minister”, you probably think of a man - it is necessary to say “female prime minister” to bring that image to mind -
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