Sunday, January 24, 2016

Privilege, Power, and Difference-Allan Johnson

Privilege, Power, and Difference
Allan G. Johnson

Johnson’s main goal in this excerpt is “to change how people think about issues of difference and privilege.” In the article he focuses on differences in the area of gender, race, social class and sexual orientation. One point I took away from the article is on page 3 when Johnson said, “People can’t help fearing the unfamiliar-including people of other races.” This quote makes me think about a blog that was recently posted on Huffington Post. In her blog Altaf Saadi, talks about how people form an opinion of her based on her race-Middle Eastern. Dr. Saadi is a well-educated doctor who attended Ivy League schools but when her patients look at her all they see is a Middle Eastern women and make comments toward her based on that one factor. People do not look at her and see her expertise, they see her skin color and based on that they form an impression that she is not qualified. In her blog Saadi talks about the prejudice seen in the medical profession-white male doctors versus female middle eastern doctors. They both have the same education but one is viewed completely different. This idea relates to the point Johnson made in the article on page 8 about how race and gender shape lives in different ways.   Dr. Saadi has to defend her expertise daily whereas her white male colleague does not.

Another thing I took away from the article is The Diversity Wheel he talks about that was developed by Loden and Rosener. In the article, Johnson poses to us to stop reading and look at ourselves through this wheel. When I look at myself according to the inner wheel I’m female, white, 29 years old, and heterosexual. In the outer ring, I’m single, I have a bachelor’s degree and am working on my master’s degree, I’ve lived in Cranston my whole life (minus the 4 semesters I lived on college campus in North Providence) and I don’t have strong religious beliefs. I agree with Johnson that the wheel does not say much about myself as an individual. These characteristics basically just puts me into categories based on race, gender, and sexual orientation…people form opinions just based on this information and not based on who the individual is. On page 21, Johnson talks about how these characteristics are very hard to change and can “profoundly affect our lives.” This makes me think back to Dr Saadi and how her race is something she cannot change and it affects her life every day when people doubt that she is a qualified doctor. Patients make an impression of her based on her race.

After reading the article I feel like Johnson achieved his purpose that he talked about on page 8 in the introduction. He wrote that he wanted to express his insight in a way that was clear, compelling, and useful. Even though by society definition he is a white privileged male he did a great job of explaining power and privilege without sounding condescending.  He provided insight in a way that appealed to all readers. Prior to writing my blog entry I went onto his website to read about him and I think his background helped him to convey his ideas in a way that was not condescending. He did a great job of explaining his understanding of power and privilege and not persuading people to his view. While on his site, I also found some other books of his that I would be interested in reading.


  1. Alicia, I agree with you about the article and how Johnson approaches the subject of Racism and all of the "Isms", and that he does a good job explaining about the different "Isms" as he says. However, I felt that he should of gone further into how to try to solve the problem and what we as a society can do to make everything fair and equitable for all people.

  2. Alicia, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Johnson's text. In particular, I thought your connection to Altaf Saadi was very poignant. Her experiences being judged based on her race made me revisit a point Johnson made in chapter 3. He mentions a point by Paul Kivel, "In the United States, a person is considered a member of the lowest status group from which they have any heritage" (3). To extend this idea, it seems that in Saadi's case, the class privilege she gained from becoming a doctor was--to put it dramatically--overshadowed by her Middle Eastern racial identity.

  3. The points you made about Altaf Saadi were very interested - especially bringing an educated and accomplished Middle Eastern woman into the mix. I know (probably "we") that women are often overlooked when it comes to their research and point of view. Adding to that her race and her career, it must be extremely difficult to avoid others' assumptions! The diversity wheel was also a great topic to mention - which, admittedly, I forgot all about until I read your blog.

  4. I absolutely loved that quote he wrote that people fear the unfamiliar! It's such a great way to think of it and explains a lot; I also blogged about that quote as well. I found myself also putting myself in categories on the diversity wheel while reading it as well, and while I find myself in almost the exact categories as you (even Cranston girl! Minus college) and I also think it does not say anything at all about us as individuals. I really like that you added the picture in of the book cover!