He explains why and how we deny the power of systems of privilege, why this trouble is everyones problem, and how we can work toward a more equal society by speaking out against oppression and promoting alternatives to the path of least resistance.
If you read the first 2 chapters, you don't even have to read the rest of the book because it's the exact same ideas in more or less the exact same words.
He embeds relevant and powerful historical and contemporary examples into his discussions of these concepts and accessibly acknowledges people's resistance to truly reflecting on ourselves and our own participation in patterns of indifference or oppression. So, instead of talking about the sexism and racism that plague people's lives, the focus is on 'diversity' and 'tolerance' and 'appreciating difference,' all good things to talk about, but not at all the same as the isms and the trouble they're connected to" (10). I have no doubt that nearly every reader of this review and anyone who has worked in schools or organizations with "diversity programs" has experienced this. Here's what really packs a punch for so many people in positions of authority: "The position of white people and men in the world leaves them ill equipped to know what their female and minority subordinates, coworkers, and colleagues are up against as they try to make their way in organizations. The path of least resistance is, for those in a privileged position, to see little or no reason to examine themselves in relation to the oppression that damages so many people's lives, to come to terms with how living in a world organized around privilege has shaped them, and how they see other people and themselves. but this approach pretends that racism and sexism do not exist beyond conscious awareness and personal intentions, and makes it easier for them to feel unconnected to the trouble. It makes even the possibility of diminishing that dysfunction and vulnerability -- for, say, a while male to mentor white women and people of color -- everything *but a path of least resistance. It also does not serve the needs of people on the outside looking in" (57) "If the person in power does not talk about or acknowledge privilege and oppression, the subordinate trying to learn the ropes and get along is unlikely to risk making powerful people uncomfortable by bringing it up. As a result, people do not learn what they need to know. And that is something that needs to be changed, not healed" (59) Appealing to healing "feeds on the desperate illusion that if we ignore it long enough or try to replace it with good intentions, it will go away" (59). 1-4 "Another problem with acting from a sense of principle or virtue is that part of its appeal is the good feeling it gives people when they do it, which usually works only as long as the feeling lasts. He has great ones, such as one on "what privilege looks like in everyday life" adapted from McIntosh's essay (27-31), why dominant groups don't see privilege as a problem (61-62), and a list of questions that reveal worldview differences (136).
An excellent introduction to sociological perspectives on race, gender, and class differences. Johnson's book deserves a read by anyone interested in understanding issues regarding privilege, race and gender difference, and class conflict.
It seems that Johnson's main goals in this book are to help the reader understand how privilege and oppression work in relation to society, but also in their own life.
This is one of the books that I picked to read for research on this project and it is VERY good.
Striking out on his own after not receiving tenure, he spent a year writing short stories before the necessity to earn a living took him back to nonfiction writing and part-time college teaching. By the late 1990s he was writing and speaking widely about issues of privilege and oppression, and he had finally returned to his roots as a fiction writer with the start of his first novel, The First Thing and the Last, a story of healing and redemption in the aftermath of domestic violence. His second novel, Nothing Left to Lose, the story of a family in crisis during the Vietnam War, was published in 2011.