Understanding Favoritism

Repeatedly we have come to find ourselves caught up in the webbings of favoritism, sometimes plain and simple, and sometimes in one of its many forms, such as tribalism, nepotism, ethnocentrism, cronyism, etc. Sometimes it is rewarding and we drink to it, and sometimes it is heartbreaking and we sulk in it.You have perhaps experienced and/or witnessed a situation where a person of power gives unmerited and preferential treatment to an individual or group, at the expense of a more deserving party. This could come to play in a lot of scenes, ranging from cataclysmic nation altering scenarios such as political favors, contract awards, job promotions, down to seemingly inconsequential scenarios such as giving a friend or sibling a pen, even though someone else asked first.

Either way, favoritism has proven to be an undying infection and we simply cannot rid ourselves of it. Should we then condemn and convict ourselves for indulging in this dark art that is favoritism? Should we hold ourselves by the tails and hit our devil bottoms repeatedly for not being immune to this wicked act? Will we, condemned and convicted, with our devil bottoms fresh hot from the spankings, feel and be better persons? Will we ever stop to consider that there is a reason this thing has refused to leave us? Will we ever think to stop and reassess and check our angles in all and in everything?

The intention of this piece is neither to condone nor condemn favoritism, rather, it stands to elucidate and acknowledge the fundamentals of the existence of favoritism, because really, how does one fight what is not there?

In a world where our conviction in the moment and in our surroundings is the major guarantee of the certainty of our next breath, where every action we take stands first on faith, where very phony people are so quick to tell us what we need to do to be ‘real’, trust might just be the most expensive commodity. A large proportion of our growth and progress thereby becomes a factor of whom we allow near us, of whom we involve in us, and of whom we chase away. Trust, thus, becomes an integral part of our existence. A necessary question becomes “How do we know whom to trust?” To which I will reply: we don’t. Trust is a gamble.

We’re always looking to find reasons to get out of a bad gamble. We are more interested in the risks of a gamble than in the compensations. A 50/50 gamble is not a safe gamble–one odd and we will dash out of this booth; better safe than sorry. And for this, trust is easier lost than gained.

Trust however remains invaluable. We are social beings and cannot do without assistance from one another. To gamble or not to gamble becomes not a question of choice, but a question of ‘how best?’ To this question there have not been a lot of answers, because we do not all have a specific behavioral pattern that we can rely on to repeat in varying situations. We have different motives and different destinations, from which and to which there are changing routes. Some fortunately align with some, while some simply cut through others. So since we can neither read minds nor look into the future, we have but one almost foolproof, as well as default option; Family.

The context of Family here, isn’t limited to immediate family or blood relatives, it extrapolates to anyone who so accurately fits into the description of a selfless guardian or ward who places as much value in ones wellbeing as they do in theirs, and on some occasions, more. Who better to trust than family who raised and took care of you when you were completely naïve and defenseless? Family will give you with no expectation of being paid back. Family will support you and expect not much (I wouldn’t dare say ‘nothing’) in return. Family will rather share than compete, and for the many seen and unseen reasons, family has been and will continue to be the default option when we are faced with the question of who best to trust.

By extension, we would trust the extensions of family. These extensions are often stretched and extended to the immediate community. There our trust will lay simple and undoubting, on our kinsmen and on our father’s life-long associates, on our cousins and on our mother’s networks, and whoever stands outside this circle, like a snake in a baby’s room, poses a threat.

Maybe the next time you find yourself alone amongst foreigners, you will realize that the tension in your shoulders is not you being a condemnatory devil, but that it is the loyalty you have for wherever you came from weighing down on you, that it is your insides waking up, begging you not to misplace its invaluable trust. That it is your survival instinct kicking on, because favoritism, dear reader, is instinct.
Do you understand favoritism now?

Written by Chiemelie Gerald Olibie (@now_pokerfaced)

Co-written by Chinweike Okeke (@chinweikejb)


17 thoughts on “Understanding Favoritism

  1. “It is not you being a condemnatory devil, but that it is the loyalty you have for wherever you came from weighing down on you, that it is your insides waking up, begging you not to misplace its invaluable trust.” – This part I loved. The realisation that dawns. Human protective instinct; Me and Mine, before any person outside that circle. Its natural. Loved the piece.

  2. This is not the absolute, infallible reason for favoritism. When a teacher, in school, displays favoritism towards a student he shares neither romantic, tribal, familial (or similar) connections with, what then do we say of that? Sometimes it’s simply an issue of the student being a ‘rare gem’ (in the teacher’s books), thus engendering the teacher’s soft side.

    Take the political situation you mentioned, for example. Strip it bare of the more obvious nepotistic and gregarious proclivities of the game, and you’d find that sometimes it is not an issue of ‘loyalty’ or ‘comfort’ but something of a necessity. When you realize that the realization of your political interests rest on the mutual realization of some other person’s, you’d deliberately try to make them rise (which, in every sense of the word, is basically favoritism). Favoritism here is borne out of the simple ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ without complex and unnecessary recourse to loyalty, trust, bonding, etc ad nauseum.

    While this explanation works in several cases of favoritism, it doesn’t work in ALL cases.


    • Selah I’d like you to notice the part where it says ‘unmerited and preferential treatment’, emphasis on ‘unmerited’.
      While you are completely right, it does vary.
      Nevertheless, thank you Selah, for your awesomeness and for many more 🙂

      • Well, I am speaking for ‘merited’ favoritism. Perhaps you should have changed your title to ‘Understanding Merited Favoritism?’ .

        But then again, ‘merited’ isn’t the word. If it is, however, some things we consider to be favoritism may not actually be so. There may be a backstory the world can’t see that makes someone choosing someone before others sound like favoritism.

        I didn’t say this before: I like your scholarly ‘dissertation’ on the matter.

        Be fruitful. Multiply.

  3. Contraty to your statement of not condoning or condeming favouritism, you tilted more towards condoning and justifying it. Agreed, being loyal to people of like backgrounds is inherent and almost difficult to extinguish completly but the negative reparcussions of some of these sentimental favours should come to mind too. Nevertheless, A very interesting write up, I particularly liked this part (A necessary question becomes “How do we know whom to trust?” To which I will reply: we don’t. Trust is a gamble) you did an amazing job here 🙂

    • Well, we try and try and we try but we never really do get it. Perfection always manages to elude us somehow. But we try still. Thank you Chidimma. You’re amazing and I am grateful. Thank you 🙂

  4. Favouratism is sewn in every fabric of human existence. And I agree with Justin, it isn’t always inherent on familial ties. And its only fun when you’re on the receiving end of that preferential treatment. Try being the obvious better choice of a position. Or the candidate supposedly on equal footing with another. And finding yourself shunted off simply because the other one has an advantage of the oga-at-the-top’s favour. It stings. Lol
    Good piece though. Really enlightening.

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