We’re usually young when we learn about the concept of fairness. During childhood, fairness understanding may originate as some form of believing that we’re not getting our fair share of some material item; often something that we believe we’re entitled to have. Fast forward past childhood and our perceptions of fairness evolve to include how we view our share of social capital, educational and job opportunities, financial gains, etc.
The curious thing about fairness is that as our understanding of fairness evolved from childhood, our perception of what was ‘our fair share’ was influenced by all the material items, social capital, educational and job opportunities, financial gains, etc. that we possessed as we interpreted the concept of fairness.
For people who identify as white, we have unknowingly interpreted fairness through the lens of white social, educational, housing, employment, and financial privilege. Fairness, from a white perspective, is a scale tipped in favor of people who look like me, while rationalization and blame of others are used to demonstrate why inequality is ‘fair.’ Any attempt to tip the fairness scale to a more equitable setting, triggers white-people-pushback, as movement toward true fairness is perceived as jeopardizing one’s entitled share of the social, educational, employment, or financial pie.
When white privilege fairness feels threatened through equity measures, it’s been interpreted as loss, therefore seen as unfair. However, what we’re really losing is having an unearned advantage over others. When our perception of the word ‘fair’ has been skewed – in our favor – all along, a major paradigm shift is needed to see the truth about how we’ve defined fairness in multiple areas of our life.
Dismantling white privilege requires an acceptance of our flawed language acquisition, and how, when left unexamined, this flaw can trigger privilege denial pushback.
As a child, my privileged viewpoint skewed my first interpretations of fairness, but now it’s my responsibility to know better.