Saturday, September 26, 2015

Do Powerful People With Lots of Rights Really Need More Help ProtectingThem?

Spoiler alert: I'm pretty sure the answer is no. But let me elaborate. 

Years ago, I was in the elevator of my law school building and I overheard a conversation between two students. One was saying to the other that she didn't want to take Labor Law with a particular professor because he was "pro labor" and she was "pro management." I thought to myself at the time, what does that even mean? How can you be "pro" the thing that is already the total and obvious winner? Does that entity really need a champion?

Then I thought about this more over the years, and it began making sense in other contexts. Men's rights activism. White supremacy. Evangelical nationalism. What are these "movements" really about? They're about power, and the threat of losing it. Which no one who has power likes to do. And again, they're about the collective versus the individual. 

Imagine a white man working for a black woman at some office in Anytown, U.S.A. Maybe a recent immigrant gains a promotion over him. Maybe he gets divorced, loses custody of his kids, and has to pay his ex a bunch of child support. Maybe even alimony. Maybe he tries dating and gets turned down a few times. Maybe he goes online and finds communities of people just like him. People who have black women and immigrants for bosses and ex-wives and no girlfriends and owe a bunch of child support. Maybe he starts feeling victimized. It's easy to see why. It's easy for that person to blame women, immigrants, black people, and the society that presumably stacks the deck in their favor--for all of his problems. He feels disempowered by them. And maybe he has been, at least directly.

But on the bigger stage--the stage of statistics--he's still winning. He--and I use "He" here as a stand-in--is still winning by a lot. Dollar for dollar, he's still making a lot more money. He's usually not being raped, or worrying about being raped. Everywhere he goes in public, he gets the benefit of the doubt. No one thinks he's stealing. No one assumes he's not a citizen. He has presumptive credibility. Basically, no one fucks with him at all.

Everyone else is just trying to catch up. On an individual level, some shit might have happened that leads him to believe otherwise, but the truth is that he's not losing this race. So maybe he doesn't really need as much help from society as he thinks he does, and maybe it's OK if he loses a little bit of power in the interest of elevating those who in reality, don't have very much at all.



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