3.10. Why “Double Standards” Are Fair Standards

When privileged people close ranks, they use their advantages to get even further ahead. When disadvantaged people come together, they fight back.

We all tend to take pride in the groups we belong to.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But when does it go too far?

In the previous video, I made the point that this form of ordinary group favoritism is not the same thing as racism, sexism, or other forms of systemic discrimination.

The big difference is that anybody, in any group, can have feelings of pride or superiority about their group. But systemic discrimination only goes one way.

You can’t be racist toward white people. You can’t be sexist toward men.

Because racism and sexism are about way more than mean thoughts and feelings. They’re about the whole setup of our society. They’re about which groups are systemically dominant—and which ones aren’t.

So, when it comes to those ordinary feelings of group pride—and when it’s healthy, and when it goes too far—we have to take the context of how privileged that group is into account.

If you belong to a privileged group—straight, white, male, American, Christian, educated, wealthy, English-speaking, able-bodied, mentally healthy, cisgendered, and so on—you have a lot less wiggle room here.

Identify too heavily, get too proud, start thinking you’re better than or excluding people in the other groups, hanging out with and giving preferential treatment to the people in your group…and you’re going to end up perpetuating the oppression of marginalized groups.

But it’s different if you belong to one of those marginalized groups.

People in those groups have been dumped on, told they’re inferior, and forced to swim against the tide their whole lives.

It’s necessary and empowering for them to come together, develop a strong group identity, and reclaim a sense of pride in who they are.

In fact, often marginalized people coming together and acting collectively is the only way those folks can speak out and earn the rights, liberties, and opportunities they’ve been denied.

When privileged people get together and close ranks, they use their advantages to get even further ahead.

When disadvantaged people get together, they collaborate, fight back, and compensate for some of their disadvantages through their numbers and solidarity.

In short, yes, there are double standards here. And there should be.

Tribalistic feelings, in privileged groups, end up reinforcing prejudices, discrimination, and oppression.

But similar feelings, in disadvantaged groups, can be really healthy and empowering—and even help to undo those unjust, discriminatory practices.

My hunch—and my hope—is that we can move past all forms of harmful, divisive tribalism.

Remember, people in disadvantaged groups have spent decades getting dumped on. The baggage that comes with that doesn’t just disappear overnight. There’s a lot of justified angst and anger to work through.

But I hope we can ultimately get to a point where advantaged and disadvantaged people are working together to end all forms of systemic discrimination and all forms of harmful, divisive tribalism.

Then we can truly be one global people. Then we can truly live in a just society.


This is the 54th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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