In chapter 8, “Getting Off the Hook: Denial and Resistance” I have found Johnson’s thesis to be, “When you deny the reality of oppression, you also deny the reality of the privilege that underlies it which is just what it takes to get off the hook.”
Johnson begins Chapter 8 by stating that the way people find easiest to say or convince themselves they are not part of the problem is through denial. He tells how people in the “dominant groups practice this kind of denial, it rarely seems to occur to them that they’re in a poor position to know what they’re talking.” (109) People in this positions or rather those who are privileged have made up in their minds that they know more or better than the people who are actually experiencing the problems. Johnson uses the example of a child hurting themselves. Adults have the tendency to tell the child that it doesn’t really hurt that bad when in all actuality the adult has no idea what kind of pain the child is feeling. Johnson says this is because privileged people “are culturally authorized to interpret other people’s experience for them, to deny the validity of their own report, and to impose their views of reality.” (109) Also, privileged groups use this denial to makes those who are inferior to them seem as though they are “better off” than they are. Johnson also states that another way people get themselves off the hook is by blaming the actual individual or group of people as being the problem instead of themselves as having something to do with it. “The result of such thinking is that oppression is blamed on the people who suffer most from it, while privilege and those who benefit remains invisible and relatively untouched. And off the hook.” (111) Privileged people have convinced themselves through denial and calling privilege and oppression by other things that everyone including them are pleased with the way things are. But Johnson goes on to state how “the truth doesn’t matters because ideology isn’t about truth or accuracy. Rather, its purpose is to support and perpetuate the status quo by making it appear normal and legitimate.” (113) Johnson states that people normally do not see themselves as part of the problem as long as they had good intentions in the first place. Basically, since we are suppose to believe that if something goes wrong it is the individual whom is at fault and not society. “In other words, if something bad happens, someone’s conscious bad intentions must be behind it. A corollary is that if your intentions are good, they cannot result in something bad.” (114) People have a tendency of participating in the wrongs of the world without realizing they are doing it since that was not their conscious intention. We tend to cause harm to people without really acknowledging we did so and leave it so that the victim has to deal with the harm on their own. Even though many people may have good intentions and may be a good person but they are just as guilty as everyone else because of their lack of speaking out against the issues or problems which exist. Johnson speaks of himself as being a good person with good intentions but the reality of it all is that “my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of the everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member of the Klan.” (118) Because society has caused us to believe that we are individually responsible for our actions we become blinded by the fact that we are part of the problem. It is only when being in a social category benefits us do we want people to recognize us for it.
So, are people ever going to accept the responsibility of their actions as both an individual and as a social category? Based on what I have read from Johnson, I do not believe people will accept the responsibility and will continue to be in denial about the situations and issues which exist. “Trying to live off the hook puts members of the privilege groups inside a tight little circle that cuts them off from much of what it means to be alive.” (124) As long as privilege groups enjoy their treatment and not really come to terms as to their privileges things will continue to be the same. People are afraid of change. “The result of illusion and denial is to become like the person who loses the ability to feel pain and risks bleeding to death from a thousand tiny cuts that go unnoticed, untreated, and unhealed.” (124)
Once again I find Johnson to be a very interesting author with view points I have never thought about before. I knew of certain privileges which existed between blacks and whites but he put it into a different perspective. I find it that Johnson gives reasons to many peoples questions and observations about life. Although these are just his opinions or viewpoints rather, he is still supplying me with more than I started off with before reading this chapter.