Understanding the Most Important Phrase in Social Justice

By Steven Kessler:

The most important phrase in the social justice lexicon is “predicated on power structure.” You’ve likely heard that racism, privilege, and cultural appropriation – the big three of social justice – are predicated on power structure. The origin of this power structure is societal. According to social justice scholarship, society is an arbitrary social construct – meaning that society is a complete nonsensical fabrication – that is inequitably structured to favor white, male, able-bodied, cisgendered heterosexuals. The theory assumes that these people are successful in life because society is structured to favor them, and they use the inequitable structure of society to socially advance by stepping on the heads and shoulders of “people of color” or “others.” These others are unsuccessful because white men are stepping on their heads and shoulders to get ahead. Should we fix the inequitable structure of society, we will restore the natural equity of the world. In theory, those at the bottom will rise to the top, and those at the top will sink to a lower social status.

To the social justice scholar, racism, privilege, and cultural appropriation are based on a simple formula: racism, privilege, cultural appropriation equals prejudice plus power structure. Therefore, only those benefiting from societal power structure – i.e., white men (and, to a lesser extent, those with any of the aforementioned demographic characteristics), are capable of having privilege, being racist, or appropriating culture.

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