Empathy and the Beige Majority

Similarly, it is definitely racist, structurally or personally to assume international rugby star Maro Itoje is a shelf-stacker, when you see him in Tesco’s. (This happened to him, recently.). However, the insult relies on an acceptance of inequality – not just that black people are likely to be shelf-stackers, but also that international rugby players deserve respect, celebrity and money, whereas shelf-stackers are scum who should be ignored. Remove either of those assumptions and you remove the racism. 

So the solution to the problems of discrimination is to work for universal equality because we are all equally human and equally conscious. 

In the meantime, it may be necessary to put positive measures in place that give extra opportunities to marginalised groups, to ensure a more balanced and equitable society and erode the social assumptions that cement hegemonic power. (If people never meet black lawyers they won’t associate black people with the law professions, etc.) However, we mustn’t fall into the trap of thinking that the marginalised group that we are supporting are somehow more valuable than members of the majority who we are not. 

Social activists seem to be prone to this. They can be very dismissive of “the beige majority”, “the normies”, “the cis-gendered”, as lacking their moral enlightenment and clarity of vision. The majority have been wallowing in the sty of their ignorant and unconscious privilege, while the minority group have been elevated, morally and spiritually, by suffering. 

This is understandable: conservative people can be exasperatingly stubborn and narrow-minded. However, to generalise in this way, is to indulge in exactly the sort of thinking used by the dominant forces in our society. To make unfair generalisations about a group of people (defined by you) and then make groundless assumptions about an individual based on their membership of this group is the very essence of discrimination. Personalisation is persecution, even if the assumption is positive. 

The aim of any sort of positive discrimination is to make itself, eventually, obsolete. It is a temporary measure, a crude rebalancing, because it is at odds with our core principles of valuing every sentient human equally. 

And we shouldn’t assume the majority can’t understand our experiences. Empathy is a very powerful capacity of the human brain/mind. When I became severely anorexic, I completely lost this capacity. A whole depth of perception, a whole dimension was denied to me. My mental life was immensely impoverished by this, and immensely enriched when I recovered it. And your “White Privileged” majority all have this amazing capacity. Maybe they do understand.

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