Privilege and Prejudice

Soon-to-be former Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s recent comments regarding African Americans and Magic Johnson’s HIV+ status demonstrate that brains don’t necessarily coincide with wealth and privilege. Yet it frequently comes as a surprise when those in our society with power say or do something that unearths their bias.

Collective shock seems, well, shocking to me. Certainly many who are privileged achieve status through something other than intellect and open-mindedness. History shows us that the rise to power routinely involves stepping over others and arrogantly dismissing the value of these underlings to society. As many a philosopher has noted, we define who we are by who we are not.

When planning the first Street Smarts event a few years back, a volunteer from the community, an educated and well-respected successful businesswoman, asked me if she would have to “touch” the homeless women we would be helping.

My response was that since we would be offering spa services, there would be a good chance that she might make physical contact with one or more of the women. The volunteer decided to serve behind the scenes instead. And she never came back.

Sometimes the most privileged among us are the most ignorant.


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