Johnson’s thesis in this article is “To do something about the trouble surrounding privilege, power, and difference, we have to talk about it, but most of the time we don’t because it feels too risky. This is true for just about everyone, but especially for people with privilege” (p.76).
This article is about Individual and Social Systems, and how they change people’s behaviors according to the given situation. According to Johnson, “individualistic thinking also makes us blind to the very existence of privilege, because privilege, by definition, has nothing to do with individuals, only with the social categories we wind up in” (p.77). Basically, Johnson is saying that people who are in the privileged group tend to make generalizations about others, such as racism, sexism, and ableism. Those in that group who don’t agree with the others will not speak out, because the consequence of them following the “more resistant” path may attract attention to themselves and may in turn be ridiculed for thinking differently. Therefore, the “good people” who think against the popular belief within their own privileged group as opposed to others would rather smile, nod, and keep silent rather than speak up. This is taken in as an agreement by others in the privileged group. The individuals and the systems or groups they belong in are mutually linked. Given this, the personality or actions that a person is perceived in each situation may be different, even though that they are in fact the same person. Johnson’s example in the article about how he acquires a rather greedy personality while playing a Monopoly game verses his actual laid-back personality reflects this. Not only is this link visible in a simple Monopoly game, but it actually present within the social world. What we experience “as social life happens through a complex dynamic between systems- families, schools, workplaces, communities, entire societies- and the choices people make as they participate in them and help make them happen. How we experience the world and ourselves, our sense of other people, and the ongoing reality of the systems themselves all arise, take shape, and happen through this dynamic” (p.84).
Johnson states that “we are always participating in something larger than ourselves- what sociologist call social systems- and systems are not collections of people” (p.78). I agree with Johnson on this statement. Sociologically speaking, both the individual and the social system they are part of both have a direct affect on each other. Johnson presents an excellent example to explain this. “A university is a social system, and people participate in it. But the people aren’t the university, and the university isn’t the people. This means that to understand what happens in it, we have to look at both the university and how individual people participate in it” (p.78). Basically, the students and faculty are part of the university social system. Outside of the university, they are their own different individuals, with no specific role to follow. Though, when these types of people are gathered in a university setting, they begin to act in response to one another as a student would to a professor, and vice versa. These multiple roles people take are the same for any social system.
I think that this article was very informative in the sociological views of showing how some privileged thinking is related with the social systems, and that not everybody of a certain privileged group thinks alike. There are dominant thoughts that most people in that group would agree too, and others just follow along in order to avoid being targeted as going against the “normal” beliefs of a certain group. I also liked the monopoly example in order to relate different personality changes and how it is directly related to the circumstantial environment or setting. Overall, I thought that the article was interesting in explaining the individuals and systems, and how they are intertwined and affect each other depending on the situation.