A second related ideology is that of equal opportunity. This is the idea

A second related ideology is that of equal opportunity. This is the idea


that in today’s world, people are no longer prejudiced, social injustice is in the past, and everyone has the same opportunities. In fact, many dominant group members believe that society has swung the needle past center to the opposite end and now unfairly privileges minoritized groups through “special” rights and programs that are denied dominant group members. From this perspective, there may occasionally be isolated cases of injustices, but these are explained away with the “bootstraps” myth—that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps or improve their lot in life by working harder and having the right attitude.

A third related ideology supporting the dominant group’s right to its position is individualism—the belief that we are each unique and outside the forces of socialization. Under individualism, group memberships are irrelevant and the social groups to which we belong don’t provide us with any more or fewer benefits. The ideology of individualism explains gaps between dominant and minoritized groups (in education, health, income, and net worth) as the result of individual strength or weakness. Therefore, those at the top are there because they are the best, brightest, and hardest working.

A fourth related ideology is the ideology of human nature. This ideology rationalizes privilege as natural—“it’s just human nature; someone has to be on top …”—and underpins ideas about civilized versus uncivilized societies. Through this ideology, some societies are seen as more “advanced” due to genetic superiority, cultural superiority (holding values and characteristics such as innovation and tenacity), and/or divine forces (such as Manifest Destiny or the Protestant work ethic). Because they are “advanced” societies, they often “help” less advanced societies. Concepts such as “First World versus Third World” illustrate how human societies are ranked and how these rankings are rationalized. Science and religion have historically been used to support this ideology. For example, science has been used to argue that it is biologically natural for women to be second to men, while religion has been used to argue that it is “God’s will.”

Ideologies such as “Someone has to be on top” further support these hierarchies—consider who is more likely to believe that someone has to be on top: those on the bottom or those on the top? Thus for scholars of critical social justice, because it is so difficult to separate ideas about nature from culture, the question moves from “Is this true?” to “Whom does this belief serve?”

With privilege rationalized through ideology, it follows that dominant groups are socialized to see their dominance as normal and/or earned.

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