So, recently I’ve been getting really tired of the word “privilege” mostly because it’s being twisted to mean things it never meant.
I’d even be more or less okay with the idea that “white privilege” is not having to define yourself according to a race/ethnicity stereotypes. It’s a stupid idea, but it’s at least understandable how people got there.
They got there through a total lack of empathy, is how they got there. They assume that the pressures put on them to fit the pictures in people’s heads only exist because they tan an interesting color, have female parts or whatever.
This is a stunning lack of empathy because in fact, the pictures in people’s heads are there because they’re human and the subject they are examining must fall into a pattern of heuristics that allows them to make a quick decision.
In other words, particularly when evaluating other humans, everyone has prejudices.
I’ve told before the story of how my husband and I went car shopping and took along our best friends, both taller, blue eyed, and one of them blond. Inevitably, at whichever dealership we landed in (this was a lazy Saturday pursuit. You know what I mean) the salesman gravitated towards our friends who a) weren’t shopping for a car. b) were far less financially solvent than we were.
Racism? Oh, heck no, heuristics. Dan might or might not be as white as advertised, but outwardly he’s all white (nickname Count Dracula due to his inability to tan.) (Well, maybe the eyes give some clue to other genetic origins as in Portugal everyone assumes he’s from Macau and some level of cross breed. Meh.) And I can pass provided I haven’t been outside in a couple of weeks and don’t open my mouth. So, racism was highly unlikely. But we’re both short, overweight, dark haired, and were dressed almost terminally relaxed. Our friends fit the “double income” couple look better than we did, so salesmen gravitated to them.
Privilege? No. We got the chance to poke around at cars while our friends distracted pushy salespeople. BUT prejudice? You bet. Even though the two couples were superficially “white” you bet the sales people had an image of what “affluent” or relatively affluent (it was used dealerships) looked like, and it wasn’t Dan or I.
Flip it around. Imagine you were born tall, blond, blue eyed. Are people not going to judge you as you go anywhere? Ah! I’ve noted a tendency to assume such people are wealthy patricians (I blame the media, since if this was ever true in America it was in the nineteenth century at the latest.) And that comes with a degree of hostility from everyone who isn’t, a degree of expectations from people who truly are racists, etc. All of which can be really annoying if your blond hair and blue eyes came via Scots-Irish from Appalachia, right?
Oh, and let’s go to another branch of “white privilege.” I confess to a minor perversion, other than my liking mathematicians. Dan isn’t perfect because he doesn’t have a Southern US accent. I go weak at the knees when a Southern male starts talking. It’s the world’s sexiest accent.
However I’ve realized long ago that a white southern male opens his mouth and most people place him in “dumb hick.” This happens even when he has multiple graduate degrees. Some white privilege, right?
So people who think that “White privilege” is never having to conform to a stereotype or never being judged are totally lacking in empathy and imagination.
They are also rather strange, since all you need to acquire the privilege of not thinking how you should be based on your color/gender is DECIDE you’re not going to think about it. I’m here to tell you it works. I’m aware a lot of people will judge me based on stupid stereotypes (really stupid. An old boss for instance thought Portugal was a city in Mexico. Marshall’s kindergarten teacher thought I and Dan (???!!!!) were first generation Russian immigrants. A couple of people have thought we were immigrants from Israel) but I don’t let that control me. I’m me. Yeah, some people will act stupid around me. Some people act stupid around everyone. And there, with that decision I free myself. You know, most people don’t even make a mention of the horrible accent. I’m sure they notice it, and heaven knows what they think about it. But they don’t mention it.
The ones who mention it prove the “importance” I should give their opinions by agglutinating Dan or the kids to wherever they think the accent is from. I.e. they HEAR my U.S. born and bred sons and husband speaking with the same accent I have. The latest one asked Robert if HIS accent was from Poland. (Rolls eyes.)
What in heck should you care for such peoples’ opinions? What say do they have in your life?
Then there are the charming SJWs (no, it’s not an insult. They called themselves Social Justice Warriors. They don’t get to escape the name when it turns out everyone knows how stupid it is) in my field who call me a race and gender traitor. Children are confused like that. How can you be a traitor to an allegiance that doesn’t exist and which you never swore fealty to.
Doesn’t exist, you say? But race! Gender! Well, they SAY gender is a social construct and as for race, I know enough history (if they don’t) to know it’s a cultural construct. In the nineteenth century they talked of “the Portuguese race” and the “British race.” I understand that under the microscope, absent some kind of marker like sickle cell, you can’t tell anyone’s skin color. You can, interestingly enough, at the cellular level, tell the sex of the cells. But the SJWs tell us it’s a social construct, and they are honorable women and girly men.
Actually what is a social construct are the archetypes they push into those things: females and other races as archetypal oppressed races. As a Samoan e-friend put it, her people weren’t oppressed by whites. They didn’t care what whites were doing. The Portuguese might have been oppressed by the whiter parts of Europe, kind of sort of. I mean, at various times English Literature referred to them as a vile race, the French did whatever the French were doing, and the Germans tried to organize the study of Portuguese literature (among other things.) But in the end, the Portuguese were too busy fighting their eternal enemies, the Portuguese, and occasionally distracted enough to fight the Spaniards, to care overmuch about more remote European countries. They were rather busy not being eaten by Spain, as every other country in the Peninsula was. (Well, technically not being eaten by Castile, but…)
Here do I get oppressed by non-Latin people? Meh. I’d like to see the idiot with enough gumption to try to oppress me. Sometimes they stereotype me and are rude to me, but I ignore them and that works.
So who am I betraying by not conforming to the baneful Marxist stereotype of who I should be? Oh, right, the SJWs. That’s okay, I’m fine betraying them. Or at least fighting them. Hard to betray what you never belonged to. And, you know, most of them, even those with exotic names and claiming exotic identities (rolls eyes) are pasty-assed white people with real privilege as defined by having money and having attended the best universities and hanging out with all the “right” people and having the “right” (left) opinions. If they knew the meaning of the word privilege, they’d see it all over themselves.
But there are more egregious definitions of privilege. You see “check your privilege” is a tool of would-be elite whites to keep competition and challengers in check, while riding to glory by defining themselves as champions of the downtrodden. (It’s an old game, in place at least since the French revolution, but it’s the only one they have. Remember they lack both empathy and imagination. And since they have more or less overtaken the press, no one on the street realizes how old and tired this “clever” gambit is.)
However, when that hits academia, it becomes something even more poisonous.
Recently I heard someone talk about a difficult (as in very poor, with two working, Asian immigrant parents barely scrabbling to get by) childhood and say that as they always had books and were pushed to succeed they had “tons of white privilege.”
This person was a graduate of an ivy league school. So, of course, he had internalized the definitions of “white privilege” as meaning “doing that which brings success.”
This is sort of a self-defeating thing. If you want to have a voice in politics, you avoid “white privilege” which means if you want to have a voice in politics, you must not display those traits which logically lead to success in the culture. (You see how this is a tool of the white overclass to avoid competition from anyone else.)
This poisonous, totally unwarranted view of privilege serves only one purpose: to keep everyone else floundering and mute while these not-very-competent, credentialed, correctly-connected, politics-as-a-social good, lacking in empathy, totally devoid of imagination, largely white would-be-aristos lord it over us.
Sigh. Hey, guys, privy-lege means “private law.” You know, private law which allows your not-very-competent asses to hold on to positions you’re not qualified for just because you make the right noises. Private law which means your politicians don’t get even rebuked for incompetence and malice that would crucify any one else. Private law means you can enrich yourself while playing at caring for the downtrodden. Private law means you can be an old woman with no accomplishments to your name except marrying the “right” man and then claim to speak for women and youth. Private law means you can play life on the easiest setting, while rebuking everyone with your melanin content (or more) for doing the same, whether you know what they’ve overcome or not.
Privilege means arrogating to yourself the right to judge others, not on behavior, not on their choices, not on their competence or their intelligence, but simply on whether they disagree with you. And to scream “off with their heads” if they don’t.
Privilege means the right to tell people what they should think or feel, and telling people whom they should blame for their plight, even if the people themselves disagree.
Privilege means voting yourself accolades, awards, encomiums, and then relying on your buddies in the press to make you smell like a rose, despite the garbage you roll around in.
Privilege means destroying people and gutting the culture for the privilege (ah!) of standing on top the smoking pyre, being king of the dunghill.
Privilege means being aristos unaware the masses are in pain and – like Antoinette never said – telling them to eat cake.
It’s short lived, though, this sort of privilege, because it destroys that which it feeds upon. And it’s even more short lived in a time when technological change undermines you. For instance, I don’t think the press can shield these aristos much longer. It might last the bastions of the left until the present generation (older than I) retires. Those younger than I, though, banking on it are playing a mug’s game. (Or are simply stupid and as we’ve said, lack both empathy and imagination.)
Long before they inherit, the inheritance will be ashes in the wind.
And the rest of us, the ones who understand the cold equations of economics and culture, of knowledge and power? We’ll be here.