The Privilege of Indifference

If you’re reading this article, you have privilege. That shouldn’t be something new.  


The privilege of indifference, however, surprised me. 


During a usual Spanish class, a boy I had never spoken to about anything other than Spanish was asked to comment on the struggle for social justice. In his usual heavily-accented Spanish, he responded, “I think that I am the type of person to only worry about things that concern me. I don’t mind if others fight for social issues, but it’s not something that I personally do.” 


In the seat in front of him, I was shocked. I immediately raised my hand and proceeded to passive-aggressively slaughter him in my sloppy Spanish, hoping that he would understand exactly what I thought of such careless indifference. For the rest of the day, his words echoed in my mind. 


I didn’t know that boy. We had only ever exchanged questions about class and occasional smiles when passing each other on campus. Yet, with only one sentence, my impression of that boy had been destroyed. That is when he taught me about the privilege of indifference.  


The privilege of indifference is reserved for a group of people who are privileged enough that the fight for “racial equality” and “feminism” are, in their eyes, a hobby for people who have nothing else to do. 


Of course the boy was not worried about social issues; he is a white, cisgender, presumably straight male. Based on society’s structure, he benefits the most off of injustice. He makes the dollar to every woman’s 87 cents; he is not the last one to be sat next to on the bus; he buys Valentine’s Day cards for his significant other without a thought. Even if he wishes no ill-will upon the marginalized, it does not erase centuries of injustice that more than just linger in society today.  


He can afford to be indifferent whereas others cannot. 


He doesn’t cling onto a whistle in fear when walking alone at night. He doesn’t worry about being suddenly pulled over and shot by the cops. He doesn’t pray that he is not kicked out of his own house for falling in love with someone else. 


I have argued with women who don’t think feminism is important because they don’t think sexism is an issue; I have dealt with people of color who say “all lives matter” instead of “black lives matter”; but for the first time, I saw the self-interestedness of a person who had no ability to empathize with the marginalized, and I was disgusted.