Individualism is a story line that creates, communicates, reproduces, and reinforces the concept that each of us is a unique individual and that our group memberships, such as race, class, or gender, are irrelevant to our opportunities. Individualism claims that there are no intrinsic barriers to individual success and that failure is not a consequence of social structures but comes from individual character. According to the ideology of individualism, race is irrelevant. Of course, we do occupy distinct race, gender, class, and other positions that profoundly shape our life chances in ways that are not natural, voluntary, or random: opportunity is not equally distributed across race, class, and gender. On some level, we know that Bill Gates’s son was born into a set of opportunities that will benefit him throughout his life, whether he is mediocre or exceptional. Yet even though Gates’s son has clearly been handed unearned advantage, we cling tightly to the ideology of individualism when asked to consider our own unearned advantage.
From “White Fragility: What It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo – Beacon Press