Ellen Pao. Jay Z. Clarence Thomas. Damon Dash…these are four people who at ,various points of their relatively successful careers, fell victim to some degree of institutional bias.
However, do their very valid arguments of racial or gender base discrimination ever become mere and convenient counter arguments just for their own personal benefit? Can they legitimately claim principled opposition to a general and longstanding social injustice?
More specifically, does one need a proven record of public opposition to institutional obstacles in order for complaints against their own mistreatment to have any moral value?
Raging Against the Machine or Just in Rage?
Ellen Pao publically proved this year tohave been subjegated to systemic and institutional biases against women within the existing venture capitalist culture, despite her unfavorable judgment. But when did she realize this bias was a problem?
Was it only when she was affected financially? Did she ever speak up or crusade when she saw other females at her firm or in the industry being mistreated?
Damon Dash, the famous music executive, as far as I have learned, never launched a public crusade against corporate executives who manipulated and robbed independent creatives until these same creatives started contributing to his own professional misfortunes.
Speaking of Dash’s downfall, Jay Z’s B-sides concert attack against industry giants like Youtube, Spotify and Jimmy Iovine was full of class/raced-based gripes.
Many find this racially-based posture is very ironic since the multi-millionaire rapper and music executive has been publically accused by former artists at Def Jam of having sided with the power structure they had fought for so long against.
Clarence Thomas, the US Supreme Court justice who was once the center of a sexual harassment scandal, disqualified the charges of Anita Hill and Congressional Democrats as being part of a “hi-tech lynching.”
After becoming a chief justice Clarence Thomas has served as a dart board for critics who find much of his court opinions to be not only racially treacherous but principally disingenuous as he attacks many affirmative policies which they believe him to have personally benefited from.
Does one always have to pricipally and universally fight against something to be against it?
And yet, as logical as the claim of personal convenience may seem to be, it seems a bit unfair to these persons. For example: Can you rightly be skeptical of one for advocating for the rights of the physically disabled because they only gained a passion for the issue after they themselves became disabled? I don’t think so.
The fact is, as Bob Marley once said, “[s]he who feels it knows it.” Too often, humans are simply unable to be against something unless they themselves have endured a particular inconvenience or injustice... And it’s often better that way as they better understand the obstacle they’re combatting as a result of their subjugation.
However, in the case of these public figures, I think “we the people” simply want them to be honest that they once benefited from the status quo they are now crusading against.
By being genuine in their narrative and with the public, we’ll respect them all the more and they’ll even be more effective in combating the power structures they were once agents of.
Medvis Jackson is a web designer at Hindsite, curator at Kulchah and avid cricket fan. You can follow him @medvisjackson for his random thoughts.