Sometimes it’s difficult to see inequality. Particularly when it’s the structural kind. (Previously discussed in You might be acting like a bigot – and never mean to, The Cowardly Way To Address Racism (and other bigotry), and Structures of Power (Vignette Six).
In the hopes of closing the empathy gap just a little bit, I’d like to offer a simple analogy / argument that might help when it comes to that awkward after-dinner conversation.
When it comes to education (including affirmative action and the rest), right-wingers like to go on about “equality” and “merit”. And there’s something to both of those – but they’re missing (or ignoring) the pretty obvious counter-example: Not all education environments or education needs are equal.
Let’s say you’ve got two schools with equally talented students and teachers. One school has air-conditioning, computers, and the latest textbooks. The other school has none of those things. Which set of students do you think is going to do better?
And then, when the right-winger says something about individual students excelling regardless (because they will), ask this simple question: “Which of those schools would you want your child to go to?”
Then, if they continue to go on about “merit”, ask them if they’re in favor of banning glasses and contacts.
If you take their argument about “individual merit” to its logical endpoint, every student does not get assistance with their vision, so why should any? Therefore, they must believe that any student with glasses is getting an “unfair advantage”.
Be sure to use this one if they wear glasses themselves.