Posts Tagged ‘privilege’

Check Your Privilege

December 15, 2017

If you are straight, white, cis-gender, male, able-bodied or any combination of these, chances are you have heard (or will hear in the future) the phrase, “Check Your Privilege.”

This expression is used when you make an assumption about some social situation and have not, in the eyes of the opponent, properly addressed the plight of those who are marginalized in some way.

The expression can be meant to open up a real discussion, as if to say, “check your premises.”   However, more often than not, it is used to silence you by pointing out past oppression, slavery, or mistreatment by a group of people who look like you.

Embedded in the privilege discussion is that you haven’t worked as hard as someone else, or perhaps you didn’t earn all that you have.  It is implied that if you had been born under different circumstances, you would have not been so fortunate.

You may hang your head.  You don’t know about slavery, having never experienced it.  You may not have escaped the inner city to get your college degree.   You may have never experienced life from a wheel chair.

If you insist that you worked hard for you position and the things you have, you are a racist/homophobic/sexist/ablest jerk.  You may even find yourself with no defense to these statements.

Forget all of it.

The proper response to “Check Your Privilege” is “Or What?”

People don’t run around saying these things to actual Nazis or Klansmen or Terrorists.  Those people don’t care about being called a racist.  They don’t care whether their ancestors had slaves- they would have them today.

You are (hopefully) not one of these people.  You own no slaves, and want none.  You don’t actively say you won’t hire women.  You don’t beat people for being gay or how they dress or what gender they identify.  You don’t actively want life to be difficult for anyone for conditions to which they have no control.

When someone says “Check Your Privilege,” the only weapon they have is your own guilt.  Your own guilt for the very common thought, “I’m not good enough.”

Is it any wonder that these discussions occur in college classes, where most students and faculty suffer from “impostor syndrome”?  Impostor syndrome is when you constantly feel like you have risen above your competence level, and is experienced by practically everyone with an above average IQ.

Is it any wonder that, over the years, I’ve lost more former college students to suicide than car accidents?

But you have a defense.  Their only weapon is your own guilt.  Don’t give it to them.

By replying “Or What?” you acknowledge that their statement is an empty threat.  It is an unbacked attempt to silence you.  There will be no answer, at least no logical one.  They counted on your guilt, and you won’t have given it to them.  The best they can do is to resort to more obvious ad hominem attacks, such as calling you uneducated, backwards, etc.  You know, standard liberal drivel.

In Objectivism, this concept is called, “The Sanction of the Victim.”  It is best demonstrated in Atlas Shrugged, during Hank Reardon’s trial.  He goes before a panel of judges; they expect him to grovel and confess his sin- the sin of being a businessman.  Instead, he refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing.  To paraphrase, “it is bad enough to whip a man, but to force him to first manufacture the whip used against him is a special kind of evil.”

Don’t give it to them.  Don’t deliver them a weapon to use against you.

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NFL and the National Anthem

September 29, 2017

Currently, NFL players are protesting injustice by refusing to stand for the National Anthem at the beginning of the football games. The football players are claiming that the United States is unjust and that this protests the injustice. Therefore, kneeling at the National Anthem is part of their freedom of speech. Critics say that it is disrespectful to this country and its veterans, and that the football players should stand. President Trump has weighed in as well, stating that the NFL should fire such players.

This issue can (and will) be resolved by the free market and property rights.

First, the right to free speech extends only as far as your property. I may speak my mind, whatever I think, on my own property, using my own paper and my own broadcast equipment. I cannot force someone else to give me a platform from which to speak. I cannot demand a TV network use their property to spread my message. I cannot go to another person’s property and demand they listen to me. In fact, the only way an idea gets past my walls is if someone else allows me to speak in theirs.

Second, I certainly cannot expect my freedom of speech to include going to my place of employment (say my company owner’s property) and demand that he listen to and repeat my message.

The NFL players have signed contracts stating that they will stand for the National Anthem, with their hand over their hearts. If they refuse, their employer has every right to fire them, just like Walmart can fire the cart pusher for not pushing carts. It is not an issue of “freedom of speech” at all.

Personally, I think that a bunch of football players, making a small fortune are interesting folks to talk about “injustice” and “privilege.” They should stand in support of this country, its flag, and its veterans. They, of all people, should recognize the affluence afforded by this society that we can watch them play a game, and willingly throw money at them to do so. A less fortunate country would not have time for such unimportant activities as watching a sport.

Having said that, let’s let the free market decide. Yes, they have their freedom of speech to run their mouths, but the NFL can certainly request their dismissal, and the individual teams can fire the players.

From an informal examination of my Facebook friends, I think keeping these “protesting” players will do more harm than good for the NFL. My friends who have come out in support of the protest never watched football anyhow, and aren’t about to start, regardless of who is protesting. My friends who watch football are the ones who are angry and are boycotting football.

My bet is that the NFL will have a choice: continue to allow the protests, and watch their bottom line sink, or reprimand the players and salvage what will be a dreadful year for the organization. Perhaps baseball will be more popular next spring.

Thank you for reading my post.

The Racism of White Privilege

February 12, 2016

I am so sick of hearing about “privilege.”  And, of course, nobody cares, because I am a fat, white, cis-gendered, straight guy from a nuclear family.

The notion of privilege is rooted in determinism; where one’s entire being is set in stone by their birth conditions or conditions out of his or her control.   It is to give up on the idea that one controls his or her own future, and says to this person that to try to change one’s circumstances is useless.

Advocates of “privilege” point to mounds of statistics where all manner of people are divided into non-essentials (race, gender, sexuality, birth circumstances, etc.) and the economic and society status of each group.

This is detrimental to those of the “underprivileged” group.  It preaches the clear message that there is no escape; no matter how hard you work, it will never be as good as having been born differently.  Why work to improve your circumstances?  It won’t matter anyhow.  Furthermore, it teaches the underprivileged group to devalue the privileged group, increasing the social divide between these groups.

It is also detrimental to those of the “privileged” group.  First, it is detrimental because even the privileged group did not decide their birth circumstances.  A white person can no more “decide” to be white than a black person can “decide” to be black.  Second, it degrades those who are perceived as privileged, but perhaps aren’t.

Those advocates can say that the value of a person is not to be judged by non-essentials.  Great, I agree.  However, in the very next breath, the mention of “privilege” says, “because you are (white, straight, cis-gendered, male, etc.), you have it easier, and I can tell this because of non-essentials.”

On the surface, I am of the most privileged class.  My parents helped me afford college.  I was never hungry.  I was fortunate.  However, I have never NOT held a job.  I have worked multiple jobs at a time since I had my first work permit.  During my college days, I often went to school full time during the day, and then worked full time during the nights and weekends.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I graduated college in 2005.  Every internship and every opportunity was one that I made.  Yes, I made them.  They did not exist before I showed up and made it work.  I fell asleep with a textbook on my chest almost every single night starting my sophomore year.  I never cheated on a single assignment; every F was mine, as was every A.  Most of my lunch breaks at work were spent writing essays or working through math or physics problems.   I went to only a handful of football games (even though my school had a very good football team) and only a few parties.  I don’t drink, and never have.

And for all my hard work, all of the countless hours awake, all of the assignments, time spent studying, the balancing of jobs and work- is all lost every time someone brings up my race, gender, family background or some other nonessential.  It’s a way of dismissing the effort I’ve put into making my life the way it is.

Is it fair to assume that classes are magically easier because a person is Asian?  Isn’t that just an ugly stereotype?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that because I am white, that college was easy?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that if I get lower grades than an “underprivileged” counterpart, that I must be lazy?

This is also not to downplay what work an underprivileged student experiences.  I have known plenty of single mothers who work miracles every day to succeed at college while raising their children.  I know plenty of people from varying ethnic backgrounds who had neither the resources nor the mentors to succeed at college- and did anyway.

All I am asking is the recognition that each person is an individual, complete with their own struggles and hardships.  Instead of pointing the finger at “who has it easiest,” why don’t we instead work together to understand what struggles we each have?  Instead of demanding that the “privileged” service the “underprivileged” or vice versa, why don’t we spend our time dealing with what is possible in each others’ lives and how to make it so?

Thank you for reading my post.