To being with, it is my privilege to address you today. No, seriously. I’m typing this on a piece of equipment that would have made the Golden Age writers go weak at the knees, and posting it over an electronic network that would have made ME go weak at the knees 20 years ago. As in when I read in Friday of the net she used for research, I thought I’d trade everything I owned plus years of life for the right to use that.
Now I have it, and I can type my thoughts and post them for the world [Sometimes half-baked. Apologies again to Abyss and Apex. I’m in the middle of moving, and things are… confusing.]
And you can read them without even the effort of going to the corner and buying a paper off the paper-seller, as my dad had to do for his share of news of the world early morning.
I’m doing this in my PJs, in a comfy heated office (filled with cardboard boxes) sitting at the black glass desk of Evil command. I’m drinking a beverage grown on another continent and transported by tech and human power across the world, so I can enjoy it.
I’m privileged. We are privileged beyond the dreams of kings and queens of past centuries.
Unfortunately when they tell you to “check your privilege” that’s not what they mean.
This is a phrase increasingly deployed by people (usually women – rolls eyes) with an academic background and its meaning is … liberal squid ink. If you’re telling them that Welfare was a disaster for black families (it was) and that affirmative action not only has been a disaster for many organizations, but corrodes the soul (you never know why you were hired. I have friends in that position) and institutes birth-privilege based on who your ancestors were (aka nobility) they will say “check your privilege.” This really doesn’t mean a heck of a lot. It can’t, because they have no idea who you are, or indeed if you have ever received any privilege growing up.
What it is base don is the idea that our society is so inherently racist/sexist/homophobic that just by being straight, white and male someone receives better treatment than someone else who isn’t one or more of those things.
Like most lunatic ravings of the left, it has a point, except for the “male” thing.
Is there some sort of automatic boost you get for being a member of the majority (which women are, despite being accorded minority status.) Of course. You’re a known quantity. Just by virtue of people having interacted with someone like you, you’re going to get “helpful” treatment, even if you are supposedly a minority.
Take me, for instance (well, don’t, Dan would be upset.) Suppose I meet a stranger on the street. Portuguese. What the heck do you make of Portuguese? If you are in a region like Boston that has Portuguese gangs (I had a cousin in one) it might carry a negative connotation. Anywhere else in the country (sorry) most people will think “South America” and have a vague idea I should be herding llamas and wearing colorfully woven stuff.
For a long time, the answer to “Portuguese” was “April in Portugal” or “Portuguese Washerwoman” because of songs.
Now suppose I was from Mexico. Meeting me would be fraught with a lot of stereotypes, but those would be both negative and positive. I mean people would go “illegal?” but then there would come the “Plucky immigrant” and “family values.” On the whole people would treat me better than neutral, trying to make up for their momentary bad-thought flinch.
Same applies, for instance, to being a race other than white that is fairly well known. Even Indian. And if you are a woman, you get the negative stereotype of all the pretty-pretty vacuous women yeah (when I was young and pretty, people assumed I was an idiot.) But you also get the strong push we’ve been seeing from media and even commercials of “women save the day.” On the whole, people will treat you slightly better, because, well, they feel bad for that first flinch.
OTOH white male? Unless you’re upper class, well dressed, etc, people are going to assume you’re a doofus, just like in all the commercials. Because of all the propaganda about how you dominate the world, if you’re not successful, people will think you’re an idiot.
This sort of unconscious evaluation is human, can’t be helped, and will always exist.
Several years ago, Dan and I were shopping for a car. Our friends Alan and Becky went with us. To the eye we all present as white (unless I’ve been in the sun a bit, but even then, I could be Italian.) All of us were casually dressed. Alan, however, was tall, blond, blue eyed. Becky is tall and blue/grey eyed. She was also slim.
Dan and I are both short, and were both rather overweight at the time. We were the ones looking for a car, and we had the cash to buy it outright. They – for various reasons – didn’t. The salesmen swarmed them and fairly ignored us.
Micro aggression? Privilege? Oh, sure. No, not really. It amused us greatly, but at first scanning (and there were more details I don’t remember now) our friends presented as “having more money” so they got the attention. Fine. We still looked at cars.
This is the sort of privilege they’re talking about. In the long run, it really doesn’t mean much. What matters is what you make of it. The first glance might make salesmen run from us, but once we start talking about what we want, and how much we’re willing to pay (no, not now. That car is 17 years old, but you get the point) they’ll come back and (duh) sell us a car. The difference? We don’t go away in a huff when they make a mistake. And we don’t take unreasonable insult from a reasonable assumption.
The reason so many academic liberals deploy it as a war cry, though, is because they are mostly academics from – da – privileged backgrounds. This sort of “insult” is the worst they’ve ever suffered. They’ve never been low man on the totem pole with sh*t flowing downhill for things you couldn’t even vaguely control.
So they imagine these casual slights are the worst thing ever.
It’s sort of like kids who always got all the candy they wanted, feeling crushed because you said “no chocolate before breakfast.” It’s the worst thing ever, because it’s the worst they’ve ever experienced.
They also find it useful to shut up opponents because well… if they say it, any normal rational people thinks of my opening to this post. They think “Well, I am unusually blessed, maybe—”
Don’t. Just don’t. Most of the people who use “check your privilege” could buy you and sell you outright. The real “downtrodden” battling to get to the top will often have the same reaction YOU have.
The point is, we’re all equal under the law. Human discrimination is not something you can stop, but it’s also not something that is triggered to the Marxist categories of race, orientation or even class. It’s usually more subtle. I might discriminate against someone because something about him bothers me: accent, gestures, something. I might not even know why. It might be unjust.
It’s just a result of humans not being perfect. No human society can get rid of it. Giving people the power to point and cry privilege to shut others up will just privilege a bunch of academics and bureaucrats who will use it to their advantage.
When told to check your privilege, I suggest you answer “it’s fine, thank you. How about yours? A bit overlarge, no?”