Column: Lets talk about privilege
In a country that has been rapidly deteriorating since a racist, misogynistic Cheeto walked on the scene, talk about privilege has been rampant.
White privilege, male privilege and wealth privilege are the main targets of the conversation. Wealthy white males are generally perceived as being impervious to economic or social oppression. This is true, in many cases. The vile president, for example, is the obvious, perfect example of the wealthy, white male using his privilege in abhorrent ways.
However, when unification across every social and economic class is literally vital for survival—as it now is—we must stop using “he’s just privileged” as a way to shut down conversations. There is a very accusatory implication when you call someone “privileged.” The labeler feels as if the labeled cannot understand the situation, while the labeled feels that the labeler is just lashing out due to their potentially more unfavorable circumstances. Both parties can be partially correct in their assumptions, but there are also many faults in allowing these conventions to even exist.
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The original purpose of creating the concept of privilege was to provide clarity regarding how different issues affect different people, depending on their respective circumstances. Yet now, “privilege” has devolved into an insult strong enough to halt all conversation.
A parallel can be drawn between the downward spiral of “privilege” talk and the downward spiral of PC culture—both originally evolved for the purpose of improving cross-class understanding, support and respect.
PC culture is now so extreme (in certain respects) that people are afraid to speak up, afraid to challenge unfair practices and afraid to point out certain wrongs due to fear of being unfairly labeled as racists, homophobes, Islamophobes, etc. Sometimes things are just innocent observations or requests, sans malice, but PC culture has billowed into a monster that keeps people hushed far too often.
Similarly, calling someone “privileged” now halts conversation, rather than starting it, the way it was first intended to do. The world is painfully complicated right now, so it is more important than ever that we don’t overcomplicate things further. The privileged ought to be offered clarity, not disdain, from the less-privileged, and the less-privileged ought to be offered support for change by the privileged who can use their place in society to incite revolutionary action.
Misunderstanding proliferates across classes when conversation is bitterly shut down by both the privileged and the less-privileged. I’m not proposing that every privileged person is going to be willing to help every less-privileged person; I am merely saying that the first step to enacting change is unification. Unification is not going to come from both sides dismissing everything with “you just don’t understand.” It’s true, many of us do not understand the other side of the spectrum, but without open and honest conversation, this will never improve.
Many activists preach the importance of people of different races and religions coming together. While this is imperative, we should be encouraging the stigma against “privilege” to subside a bit, so as to allow for communication that will lead to change.
If one is born into privilege, that’s not something she or he has any control over. If one works to reach a privileged position, then she or he obtained that level through perseverance and ought to be respected for his or her success, not regarded with contempt. In either case, a privileged person is often in the most apt position to enact change, but they cannot do so until they understand the dilemmas facing other members of society.
So, the next time your distant middle-aged, white relative comments on your Facebook status proclaiming that “we need the wall,” or something of the like, don’t dismiss him by saying he is “just privileged.”
Open that conversation.Discuss what is going on, and explain how people are feeling. Forget PC-ness, forget using “privilege” as an insult and just converse. There is a lot to be learned from both sides, and as aforementioned, our country needs cross-class support and understanding more than ever.
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