The prejudice deadlock
Psychologist and author Adam Grant is very public about his thoughts and research on social networks, and some of the reactions he draws can be aggressive. He explains how these comments, which at first he found offensive, contain useful lessons.
Challenged over his status as an Ivy League white male, Grant initially felt obliged to justify himself by arguing that his background wasn’t so privileged and he had worked hard to get where he was. Subsequently, as an astute psychologist, he pondered what had made him react and the inadequacy of his response; seeking to justify his social status was not relevant. Debating ideas was the better option.
To start with, the woman leaving the comment missed out on an opportunity to have her point of view changed – assuming Grant enjoyed a privileged status resulted in two negative consequences:
- She lumped him in with a vast category of privileged people, stripping him of responsibility for his comments by making them merely a reflection of his socio-economic position.
- In her battle against one form of privilege, she alienates those who, like Grant, might support her cause.
Watch out for your natural tendency to generalize; it deprives you of a healthy debate about ideas, and potential allies.
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