Dismantling Privilege: An Ethics of Accountability

Book, 2000, 180 pp
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Many white elites do not believe they are privileged. They feel they deserve what they have because they have worked hard for it. Yet this self-understanding, argues Christian ethicist Mary Elizabeth Hobgood, only perpetuates the barriers of sexism, racism, and classism that women, people of colour, and persons living in poverty still face.

Dismantling Privilege reminds us that the categories of gender, race, and class are not biological givens, but social constructs used to suppress some groups while giving power to others. Not only are these categories unjust to those who are oppressed, but by allowing some to flourish by dominating others, they diminish the lives of all human beings and forestall the potential for a better society.

These distinctions are perpetuated and exploited by the most powerful social group--white male elites--to maintain their privilege. Hobgood addresses these dynamics not only because they are unjust, but because they create isolation and spiritual impoverishment and promote cultural values that do harm to everyone irrespective of class, race, or gender. In Dismantling Privilege she identifies an ethical agenda for elites and seeks to persuade them that an agenda of justice and an ethics of accountability will be of primary benefit to them.

The solution, Hobgood asserts, is a politics of solidarity grounded in the realization that no one is free until all are free--and that only by being accountable for privilege and working together to establish equity for all can we truly be a just society.

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