In chapter 6, “What It Has to Do with Us” I have found Johnson’s thesis to be “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.” (76) His main purpose of this thesis is that people as a whole are the problem and its not just individual people. So, until we are ready as a group to speak up about the problems which exist, they will not go away.
Johnson begins this chapter by talking about the differences between individualism and the idea that society has put into our heads that whatever happens is our own fault. In all actuality individuals are not the problem for not being able to speak up regarding certain issues instead it is society’s fault as to why we can’t do this. Johnson states how “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.” (77) It is because of this that we as people or individualistic thinkers “leave no room to see, much less consider the role of privilege.” (77) It is only when we put ourselves in these types of mind settings do we make hard for us to talk about certain issues because we are somewhat part of the problem. For example, Johnson speaks about the paths of least resistance and how it affects the way we think. “The first process of socialization through which we learn to participate in social life… in short, from just about every direction we are exposed to ideas and images of the world and who we are in relation to it and other people.” (78) What Johnson is saying here is that we are the way we are because of the way we were brought up. This is not just speaking of how our parents raised up but also the things we observed on television or just simply from society. We learn how things are suppose to be, how we are suppose to act and also how we are suppose to feel about certain groups of people or just those who weren’t/aren’t like us. He also states “the second way we are shaped as individuals by participating in social systems is through what I call “paths of least resistance.”’ (80) This social system is one we do everyday because it is part of the norm. Johnson talks about how he tested this theory in an elevator. Normally upon entering an elevator people turn around and face the door. Johnson decided to have his back to the door and face the wall. He says he felt people looking at him and more than likely questioning within themselves what he was doing and what was wrong with him. This is an example of a path of least resistance which Johnson says “is there all the time— it’s built in to riding the elevator as a social situation— but the path wasn’t clear until [he] stepped onto a different one and felt the greater resistance rise up against it.” (80) We follow this path of least resistance everyday but until we are put into a situation where we find ourselves on a different path we do not notice that it exists. Johnson uses this in reference as well to privileges. Until we are put into a different situation or being compared to others do we realize the privileges we have.
Johnsons views arises one question, if we learn how to be and act from what we observe as we grow up, will the path of least resistance ever change? The answer I believe to be true is no. People have found it to be easier to sit back and say nothing rather than speak up and same something. So, if no one ever speaks up then nothing will ever change. Johnson made mention of how “people know alternative paths exists, but they stick to the path of least resistance anyway, because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t.” (81) So until we are ready to voice our opinions aloud in hopes that others feel the same and will join like the four African American students in Greensboro in 1960. Then nothing will ever change and we continue to have the same mentality we have now.
There were some things in this chapter I found to be very interesting that Johnson made mention to. Johnson has caused me to question my behavior in certain situations and has made me want to become more aware of how I act and how people react to it. Also, I almost want to go out and do my own “tests” and see what the results will become. Johnson is one of the few authors when told to read something for a class that I actually find a slight enjoyment in reading. I know I am bound to learn something new or at least analyze something I do or something that society does more in-depth.