The Death of Privilege

One thing that’s been blowing up the internets recently is Gawker’s “Privilege Tournament.” According to the description:

“Privilege: so sweet to have. But even sweeter to not have. Privilege has its benefits, but the lack of privilege confers that sweet, sweet moral superiority. With that in mind, we have decided to determine who, exactly, has the least privilege of all.

These days, teary privilege confessionals pour forth from the lips of college students in equal proportion to the fiery critiques of our grossly unjust world that pour forth from the unprivileged masses. None of it, however, is very scientific. This is the privilege bracket. It is like an NCAA bracket, but without the privileged assumption that you know about sports, which are an inherently masculine-dominated, ability-privileged activity. Here, we will pit eight categories of non-privilege against one another, tournament-style. Each round, the least privileged will advance. At the end, only a single category of non-privilege will be left standing. Or, more likely, unable to stand.”

Modern “social justice” theory defines privilege as “the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because” of features such as class, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.” For example, white people are privileged in that they aren’t viewed as possible criminals as much a people of color. Straight people are privileged because they can get married anywhere in the country. Rich people are privileged because, well, they’re rich.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this idea of privilege. It is a good way of trying to understand people who are different than oneself and allows us to see where we can make a difference when it comes to equality. However, this concept has been twisted and manipulated into something that is meant evoke guilt and to legitimize opposing points of view.

Privilege has become the modern version of original sin. You have it the minute you are born and you are told that you must spend the rest of your life feeling guilty because of it. Modern social justice theory is the church where you can find salvation, but only if you subscribe to the church’s teachings. Heresy and apostasy are not tolerated and those who deviate from the dogma are excommunicated without a second thought.

“Check your privilege” is the battle cry of many self-proclaimed social justice warriors (SJW) and can heard far and wide from the depths of Tumblr to the typical college campus. But rather than being a call for self-introspection, it has been used to basically say “Because you are not (gay/black/transgender/poor/disabled), you don’t get to have an opinion on this issue.”  On the flip side, this leads to the belief that the less privilege you have, the more valid and important your ideas are. This inevitably leads to something called the “Oppression Olympics,” where people try to duke it out to see who is the most oppressed and therefore has the moral high ground.

What the concept of privilege does is create an “us versus them” mentality. There are those who have privilege (the oppressors) and those who don’t (the oppressed). This is a bad thing because it begets confrontation and animosity for both groups, thus making it more difficult to solve the underlying inequalities. Because when these two groups are fighting each other, the privileged always win. Always.

The only way true and lasting equality is achieved is through dialogue and mutual respect. This is a long and difficult process, but unfortunately there literally is no other way. Humans by our nature are imperfect, so if you want to make any positive impact on the world you must first accept reality on its own terms.


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