Privilege, Erasure, Cognitive Dissonance

Privilege. Erasure. Cognitive Dissonance. These are just some of the big ideas bouncing around my Frontal Lobe this week.

I have three thoughts in particular that I want to share in this article. 

1. An under-recognized form of privilege is having a name that can immediately be pronounced correctly, not just by other people but by computers, too. “Andrew” has never been mispronounced by anyone. “Pegoda,” on the other hand, has been pronounced dozens of different ways by humans and by the machines they make. 

On the note of name, as I have written about before, that we are involuntary brought into this world and then involuntary assigned a name that is forever associated with us is peculiar. Even if we do a name change, the name we are Assigned At Birth is forever part of our bureaucratic identity.

When a person’s name cannot be pronounced “correctly,” it contributes to a kind of erasure of that person. While pronouncing various words can be very challenging depending on the words we grew up hearing and saying, making every effort to expand the mouth’s and brain’s ability to produce new sound is absolutely necessary.

(And “Pegoda” is mispelled all the time! Computers think the spelling is incorrect!)

2. I am often reminded that today’s college students are not absolutely or fully computer literate. People who continue espousing rhetoric about “young people who are born knowing how to use computers” are spreading misinformation. More likely, or in addition, they are blind to their privilege. Computers (whether an iPhone, iPad, or iMac) are expensive. Learning to use a computer takes money and time (and interest). People who have to work multiple jobs, for example, because they cannot afford food and water do not have time to learn how to use such machines. We can eliminate this kind of erasure by accepting that age does not correlate to computer literacy.

3. Some people practice interpretations of Christianity that prohibit the use of medication or medical practices, such as in the case of needing chemo or a heart transplant, because that would get in the way of their God’s “plan.” Such mores typically do not extend to prohibitions on modern bathrooms and sanitation practices, on soap, on filtered city or bottled water, or on the use of motor vehicles, to only name the first things that come to mind.

From the perspective of world history, filtered water is just as much “medicine” as chemo. Because of this, hostility toward medications is less about not interrupting their God’s “plan,” and more a fear of overt, explicit examples of science and expertise, perhaps. Regardless, such is a perfect example of cognitive dissonance and people having privilege. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda


White Privilege is also real.