Some thoughts about an important distinction between *rights* and *power*
Rights are granted by those with power. Often rights will be granted defensively, to stop new voices from gaining influence, power, or an actual seat at the table. When we look carefully, we can see that new “rights” often hide the deeper injustice that has not changed. This truth is that minorities are still at the mercy of the people or institutions in power, which in our country is predominantly made up of affluent, Christian, white, straight, males.
There are many examples of this:
- After Black people were freed from slavery, they were still under the power of white culture and politicians and power. They were granted limited freedom, but never power.
- When a company board creates a policy of paying women equally, this demonstrates that they still retain power over their female employees - they get to decide to pay them equally.
- When Black people are given the right to vote - those granting them this right represent those people and institutions that are actually in power. In this way, equal rights are not nearly enough.
- When LGBT are given the right to marriage, we reveal that they lack the power and representation needed to claim these obvious rights for themselves.
- Or similar - A company gives generously to charity while compensating many of their employees in a way that ensures perpetual poverty.
Currently, many new groups of people are saying, “let us have a seat at the table” - but - the established power group is responding with “trust us, we will treat you fair”.
Justice and equality require that we share power, rather than using our power to distribute rights and resources as those with power deem best. We must redistribute power so that women, people of color, LGBT, and other minorities are not waiting at the mercy of those currently entrenched with all the power to grant them more rights.
This lens is helpful for understanding the NFL protests. When the black athletes protest brutality by those in power, they are scolded for protesting incorrectly. Why? In part because those in power feel that POC should be grateful for all that they have already been given. I.E. “You have freedom and the right to vote, stay away from our power. Do what you are told or you will be punished. Obey the authority (again predominantly - affluent, Christian, white, straight, males).”