We are all familiar with the phrase “affirmative action”, policies that try to roll back a history of discrimination against a disadvantaged group in terms of gender, age, race, ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. These policies permeated family law, hiring practices, job promotions, political representation, social norms, and sexual expression. Such policies were intended to bring fairness and equal opportunity to these previously disadvantaged groups by making it easier for them to reach positions of power that had held previously by predominantly old, white, Christian males.
However, many years have passed and these policies have outlived their utility for such disadvantaged groups. Yet a narrative continues to be perpetuated that such groups are still inherently disadvantaged when it comes to opportunity and societal freedom. In some cases, the disadvantaged group has an unfair advantage of being hired over the previously privileged group. Some examples are the favouring of compensation for the woman in divorce court and government department hiring practices.
I have dubbed the continuation of these practices as “affirmative privilege”, which project a new set of power relations that had originally striven to build a new meritocracy, but now provide a sense of self-entitlement and superiority at the expense of other qualified individuals. The new disadvantaged group, the one previously privileged, cannot fight the chimeras of this new power narrative without appearing themselves to be regressive.