Monday, January 5, 2015

I Did Check My Privilege... and You're Still Wrong!

I've spoken about this before, but I think its time to bring it up again.  The entire concept of privilege, as the word is used by the Social Justice Warriors, is bothersome, over-convenient, and, to be honest, a cop-out.

White privilege.  Male privilege.  Hetero-privilege.  The list just gets longer by the day.

These supposedly privileged groups of people are believed to have certain inherent advantages based on their ethnicity, their gender, their sexual orientation, and so on.  And because they supposedly all enjoy these bonuses in life, they have no right to hold opinions, or to express those opinions, when it comes to the issue-du-jour.

The truth is, the concept of privilege is just being used to stop meaningful discussion before it begins by shaming the so-called "privileged" person into silence.  The phrase "check your privilege" is an easy way to say, "I know more than you do, so shut the fuck up already."  Its a cheap attempt to make someone feel guilty about things they have no control over.

Not to mention, its utterly stupid.

Should women not have opinions on things that only affect men?  If I ever encounter a woman commenting on the Selective Service, or testicular cancer, or male disposability, should I tell her to "check her privilege" because, as a woman, she enjoys "female privilege" and thus isn't allowed to voice an opinion on these issues?

Seriously, guys... if we keep this sort of exclusionary bullshit up, we're never going to truly overcome racism and sexism.  The discussions about these problems have to include everyone's opinions, everyone's views.  
Everyone's views.  Even the views of people we disagree with.  If they don't include everyone, then they aren't actually discussions.  They're lectures.  And lectures don't convince people who feel they are being attacked for something they do not and cannot control.  Like the fact that they are men.  Or are white.

I think the worst part of the entire idea of privilege as its used by the Social Justice Warriors is that it creates preconceived opinions about people you really do not know.  Seriously, saying that I (for example) benefit from "white male privilege" in response to something that I say assumes that I (as the white male in question) have it easier than you do; that I don't have to struggle just as hard (if not harder) than you do just to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.

Perhaps before accusing me of "white male privilege" you should check your own prejudices and acknowledge that you do not know me well enough to make those sorts of judgments.  Have you ever considered the fact that I might be unemployed and on the edge of poverty?  Have you considered that I might be blind, or deaf, or in a wheelchair, and thus suffer from some limiting disability?  Have you considered that I might have terminal cancer and am slowly dying?  Maybe I've got crushing depression and constantly battle suicidal thoughts all day.

Just because I have a penis and my skin is a pale shade of peach does not automatically mean my life is easy.  It doesn't mean that at all.

You remember that old joke about what assuming things makes out of you and me, right?

The concept of "privilege" as the Social Justice Warriors use it puts people in individual boxes that are carefully labeled, and it insists we see these people, all of whom are just as multi-faceted as you are, and all of whom have lives as complex as you do, as nothing more than the labels attached to the boxes.  Someone needs to explain to me how seeing people as labels is a desirable thing.

Sorry, guys, but life doesn't work that way.  People are not labels.  People are way too complicated for that.  Sure, I might have some shared experiences with other white men, but I'm sure that if you compared me to any other randomly selected white guy you'd find plenty about our lives that was utterly different.  Different personalities, different likes and dislikes, different incomes, different cultural background, differences in intelligence and education, different life struggles, differences in political opinion.

Different advantages.  Different disadvantages.

Some people have told me that privilege exists because "all else being equal," certain people are inherently more privileged than other people.  But this is nonsense.  When, I ask you, are any two random people exactly the same except for one specific characteristic?  When?  When the hell does that ever happen in the real world?  This argument fails spectacularly because the way someone is treated depends on the situation.  In some cases, yes, being a white male might work to my advantage, but it could just as easily be a liability in other cases.

And the same goes for any other ethnicity-gender combination.

We can and should empathize with others.  I have no idea what its like to live as a black man or a gay woman.  But here's the thing:  I have no idea what its like to live as the randomly selected white guy I used in one of my previous examples, either.  And here's something else:  they have no fucking clue how it is to live as me.

Because no one on the face of the Earth is living a life identical to mine.  No one.

So anyway... I guess what I am trying to say here is that I think the world would be a better place if we stopped making arrogant assumptions about other people based on superficial classifications like skin color or what sort of genitalia they're carrying around.  Every individual faces different problems in their life, and no one else is really able to understand what they are going through completely.

Your background differs from mine.  Hell, your background differs from that of your siblings and your parents and your children.  And because of this, you should keep an open mind and recognize that communication is a two-way street.

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