Structured Values, Inescapable Privileges

by Oscar Manzano

Despite social demand for equality and a society free from racism, prejudice and discrimination, it should come as no surprise that such things remain prevalent. Recently the topic of preference for lighter skin has been bothering me, irritating me, like a metallic screech in my brain that echoes within my skull. Why? Because I, like many others, cannot fathom how such overt discrimination over light skin and the privileges associated with it can still persist. Yet, even in a hypothetical world where preference for lighter skin is crumbled and demolished from our minds and society, the outcome, a society where we are judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character, as Martin Luther King Jr might have wanted, would not seem very different from the world of color. I think at this point my professor would advise me to give an example and go into detail in order to prove my position (and get a good grade).

Let us take an example of skin color and privilege, such as what is considered beautiful in society. In terms of physical beauty for women, many believe that those with lighter skin or with some type of European-associated characteristics, such as blue eyes, are considered to be attractive and beautiful. Women who have acquired these desired attributes can then trade them to find a romantic partner who has other desirable social resources, such as income. Privilege for ‘beautiful’ women may also extend to higher chances of employment. The point I wish to highlight with this example is that as a society we give certain features or social resources certain value that we deem precious and hand out privileges to those individuals who have attained that of value.

When members of society demand the end of discrimination based on race or color and the end of privileges associated with color or race, they demand that society should instead look towards other criteria to judge and handout rewards, for example education or skill. What we are really doing now is simply rearranging the worth and values of attributes or characteristics. We are not changing the framework of how society works we are simply using a new measuring tool. It is the same problem but with a different mask. This fact is what tears me apart. Making the switch from judging based on color to one based on ‘higher’ more moral qualifications does not eliminate discrimination or inequality at all. If we put a higher value on being short and round and see it as more beautiful, don’t we now discriminate against tall and thin people? Or how about handing out employment based on the most qualified and hardworking people? Aren`t we now imposing our definitions of qualified and hardworking to other people, who may or may not hold the same views? I believe that my frustration for all this stems from the fact that we as a society see the problems but don’t want to change the structure. Is there a way to make things fair without discrimination in some other way?

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