People in positions of privilege and especially white people love to harp on the concept of fairness. It is one of many code words that reveals how little they care about the legacy of racism. This is going to be a sloppy attempt to decipher some of this code.
Evolution and thus I am the fittest.
The pop-culture reference to Darwin is broadly understood as “survival of the fittest”. It frames evolution as a series of competitions in which the winner is deemed to have the superior and most advantageous qualities. With this logic, the paradigm becomes that those in our society who are the most successful must also have traits deemed “more fit”. I cannot synthesize Darwin’s actual theory, but at a minimum, it does not equate the colorful plumage of birds to the need for a $40,000 Rolex watch. His cousin, Francis Galton, took Darwin’s scientific study of birds and used it to create a form of the thinking that could justify extreme inequality amongst humans and go so far as to advocate for killing those deemed inferior – eugenics.
Today it would be hard to find people who openly identify as a supporter of eugenics, but it has held a place in our national subconscious. When people justify their choices, what is sneakingly said is, “The fact that I can do it, and other people cannot is evidence enough that I deserve it.” So why do CEOs of companies deserve million-dollar salaries – because if everyone could do it then we would; they must have some traits that make them more successful and thus they deserve to survive better than other people. What is wrong with universal income or even just welfare – well it encourages people to be lazy, rewarding them for their inferior traits. Why are you moving your family to the suburbs – well the schools are better and although I get that urban public schools are good enough for those kids, I have to choose what is best for my own kids.
While I was attending my competitive exam school in Boston, there were two lawsuits brought by a white father to challenge the 30 year affirmative action policy. Loud arose the yells of what is fair and who is deserving. Those kids didn’t score as high on the entrance exam, so why do they deserve a spot…If this school is supposed to be for the best, then race shouldn’t be a factor. And that common belief “survival of the fittest” was used to justify a racist grab for power and privilege,
The myth of meritocracy, of fairness, of some kind of objective measurement in a void of history and context – these are all part of the cipher that white people and privilege people use to justify their subjugation of other people. Listen closely, because many a declared “I’m not a racist” “good liberal” “social justice warrior” will use this logic all in the name of fairness.