It is incredibly easy to form biases and assumptions. We humans are pattern-seeking creatures. We categorize the world into “like” groupings to simplify and condense the wealth of data points we encounter and the even greater expanse of data points we don’t.
In sixth grade, I had a very nice school principal. He was nice to me personally, which helped heal some of the damage from my previous school where I’d been bullied. He was a polio survivor and walked with a severe limp. From this sample size of one, I determined that polio survivors are nice people. In later years as I studied FDR in American history, I deduced he must also be a nice person, without consciously thinking about why I felt that way.
This is a bias I just realized I have today. Granted, it’s a positive stereotype. But you can see how a negative one could be formed just as easily. If my elementary school principal had been cruel, gruff, or simply too busy for students, I just as easily could have formed the negative stereotype that polio survivors are pricks.
Majority privilege (or one aspect of it) is basically never having to worry that you’re being the representative for an entire identity group – a class or race or gender or disability or sexual orientation. No one ever expects me to represent the white race. No one expected the first 43 white US presidents to be representatives for the white race. But Obama is most certainly held to a degree of racial scrutiny no white candidate has ever had to deal with. Love or hate his politics, recognize that if you’re white like me, you have a privilege that even the President of the United States of America doesn’t, because you and I had two white parents.
I don’t know the solution. For now, I’ll continue trying to question my assumptions, view people as individuals, and try to question my biases. If you have solution ideas, please share them in the comments.