Don't Understand Societal Privilege? Get a Doll

Equality in society won't happen until we learn how to share.

It all started with Dolly. My daughter has become so attached to this little, pink doll that we bought two more as backups. Which means she now has three Dollies--not similar, exactly the same. You'd think, then, that she would be satisfied with only one of them if some kids wanted to play with the others (like during her first birthday party this past weekend). Instead, she trolls those kids for having her dollies and whines that they had what she wanted: more of what she already had.

That's the problem with sharing. We like to think that so long as everyone has one of whatever it is, everyone will be happy. But watching just two kids playing will show you that sharing can't cure selfishness. And the sad part is we never grow out of that.

Take male privilege, for instance. Income inequality is a well-documented phenomenon in America, but for many men, they think the solution is for women to work harder. Likewise, some think that white privilege wouldn't be an issue if black people tried harder. And in both cases, white men have learned the uncomfortable truth that sharing means not having as much as you'd like.

That's because there isn't an unlimited supply of privilege. It didn't come through the sweat of a man's brow and a good day's labor; it came at the expense of others. The assumption that women were too emotional and baby crazy to be competent in the work place inflated male privilege just like the assumption that black people were more likely to be criminals benefited white privilege.

Look at it from a kid's perspective. Telling another demographic to go earn more privilege is like one child telling the other to go get their own doll. What if there isn't another doll or the other child can't afford one? It sounds pretty petty when it's a doll, but society is more like fighting over a water bottle in the Sahara. And if that society wants to provide equal opportunity to life's essentials, some people are going to have to lose some privilege.

You can already see that happening with Christianity. For decades, Christians have enjoyed special treatment in a nation supposedly dedicated to the non-establishment of state religion. Our money says "in God we trust," our churches and ministries get exclusive tax breaks, we swear our oaths on a Bible, even our pledge proclaims that we're "one nation, under God" (although not until 1954 and only for political reasons--sorry, Christian nation supporters).

But now, we're seeing story after story of citizens and politicians coming together to have monuments of the ten commandments removed from government buildings. The proponents of these actions are hoping it will increase equality and adherence to the First Amendment. So it's almost like a symbolic removal of Christian privilege in America. And Christians are fighting it tooth and nail. Because when people lose privilege, they think it's persecution.

Granted, it would have been better if our nation had actually started with greater fairness so certain groups wouldn't grow accustomed to their privileges. But fixing an unfair society is not persecution. And if you still don't think our society is unfair, tell that to the Muslim students at Duke University who won't be hearing a weekly call to prayer from the campus chapel tower because some powerful evangelicals threatened to have donors pull support. Equality means sharing. And sometimes equality in society means taking privilege from some to give to others.

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