Posts Tagged ‘Sanction of the Victim’

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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