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The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

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The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  Cuduggan2K2 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:38 pm

This article is quite a nice discussion of the problem with privilege checking.

It links to this discussion of the use of "check your privilege" et al as bullying.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  scott1328 on Wed Dec 19, 2012 1:01 am

Cuduggan2K2 wrote:This article is quite a nice discussion of the problem with privilege checking.

It links to this discussion of the use of "check your privilege" et al as bullying.

That article should be required reading Smile for this forum.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  piginthecity on Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:18 am

Amen to that brother !

Ariel Meadow Stallings' article is even better than the New Statesman one.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  nullnvoid on Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:34 pm

Wow! Brilliant blog post there. Thanks for the link.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  wind on Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:38 am

I don't totally or even mostly agree with that article.
I don't agree with saying "check your privilege" (I'm pretty sure I've never said nor typed those words in my life) any time someone says something you dislike, but after much contemplation a long time ago, I did have to agree that white privilege is a very very real thing.

At 75% of the places I've worked at, the resumes/applications of black applicants were thrown in the trash before even being viewed. A lot of my white "friends" have been shitty to black workers with a southern black dialect at fast food places, banks, etc, and then they claimed reverse racism when the worker gave attitude back in response.

I live in a neighborhood where we are the ONLY white family (there was a white biker gang a block down, before their meth lab exploded, killing several of them, and there was a white brothel a few blocks down, but they got closed down) and a few times I was so freaked out over money, I couldn't do anything but do a lot of crying. And my black (and later also hispanic) neighbors just brought us food. No judgment laid upon us.

This is not a simple subject. It's all horribly complicated. I only know how I've seen things work in Memphis. Memphis is something like 60% black. 20-30% "other". And with the exception of one asshole woman who worked at...wait for it...Circle K...pretty cool to white folks.

I was essentially orphaned at 15 and thrown to the wolves here in Memphis. But black folks in general and Latinos have overall been kind and helpful, not hateful, to me.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  nullnvoid on Tue Jan 22, 2013 11:25 am

Wind - I agree with you on the existence of privilege. I didn't read the blog as questioning the existence of privilege. This privilege absolutely exists on multiple axes. The original blog post was calling into question the use of the term "check your privilege" as a form of 'discussion'. I get a sense that you also note that it's problematic.

There are some significant problems with the concept of privilege - which relate specifically to identity. The idea that people with privilege may be blind to their own bias is an extension of the concept of subjectivity/objectivity in science and other academic disciplines. There is no issue there. We all have subjective viewpoints (which means that people without privilege also have a subjective viewpoint). The problems with the concept of privilege start when there is an assumption made that people within a particular social group, race or class have specific characteristics/identities that can be summed up in a single word. People are extremely difficult to pin down on a chart. Doing so does them a disservice.

So when I hear the "check your privilege" statement flung at me, I read it as "I don't value your opinion because of who you are". The exception to this would be if they went on to explain what they mean. This happens too rarely in my opinion. I saw the blog post as a call to progressives to stop dismissing the opposing viewpoints and get into the discussion about why you believe those views are actually wrong. That is what I hope for this site to do. Discuss the issues from a rational secular perspective.

Your story sounds rough - I'm glad you're able to talk about it. I can't imagine what it would be like to be orphaned at 15. I know what it's like to have my already distant father leave home at about the same age. We all deal with different pains.

I live in Australia where we have a group of terribly disadvantaged people who struggle in small communities, in a way similar to Native Americans in your country. We can only combat these problems if we take them on. Over the years I've been involved in literacy tutoring, employment and outreach programs and other projects intended to assist people from these communities. But you never feel like you've done enough when you constantly hear logic like:

"Those bloody Aboriginals [actually they're more likely to use a racist slur] get more benefits than us whites...there's no way I would employ one of those lazy fuckers."

I'm reminded of something that Germaine Greer said about the aboriginal problem in Australia. "We don't have an aboriginal problem in Australia - they have an us problem." It's not a situation that will be solved overnight. But people who say things like the above need more than "check your privilege". From me they get confronted - at times to the point where I've been physically attacked. But it's important to say this stuff. If I saw someone putting a resume in the bin - you can bet there would be commotion.

(And I just remembered being in a situation 6 years ago where my manager was hiring someone to work alongside me. He said "We don't want this guy...he's a born again christian." He knew my thoughts on religion and expected a comradely response in agreement. My response was "Well now that you've said that shit you pretty much have to give that person a serious interview." I don't like this shit being pulled in particular because I have a passion for labour issues.)

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  Atheist Dude on Tue Jan 22, 2013 12:06 pm

wind wrote:I don't totally or even mostly agree with that article.
I don't agree with saying "check your privilege" (I'm pretty sure I've never said nor typed those words in my life) any time someone says something you dislike, but after much contemplation a long time ago, I did have to agree that white privilege is a very very real thing.

At 75% of the places I've worked at, the resumes/applications of black applicants were thrown in the trash before even being viewed. A lot of my white "friends" have been shitty to black workers with a southern black dialect at fast food places, banks, etc, and then they claimed reverse racism when the worker gave attitude back in response.

I live in a neighborhood where we are the ONLY white family (there was a white biker gang a block down, before their meth lab exploded, killing several of them, and there was a white brothel a few blocks down, but they got closed down) and a few times I was so freaked out over money, I couldn't do anything but do a lot of crying. And my black (and later also hispanic) neighbors just brought us food. No judgment laid upon us.

This is not a simple subject. It's all horribly complicated. I only know how I've seen things work in Memphis. Memphis is something like 60% black. 20-30% "other". And with the exception of one asshole woman who worked at...wait for it...Circle K...pretty cool to white folks.

I was essentially orphaned at 15 and thrown to the wolves here in Memphis. But black folks in general and Latinos have overall been kind and helpful, not hateful, to me.

Welcome to the forum wind, sorry to see how you were treated at that other forum.

I agree with the concept of privilege, but not with how it's being used. "Check your privilege" seems to be used as a way to negate the validity of those that don't agree with them.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  wind on Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:46 pm

Again, I don't think I've ever uttered or typed the words "Check your privilege." At least, outside of here, and only discussing those who do. I HAVE both irl and online "called people out" on their white privilege. I've argued about this for years with irl people close to me, and have only in the past year been able to convince folks that it actually is real.

As a kid, I was "protected" from playing with little black girls on playgrounds.
As an adult, I've seen the resumes/applications of black folks thrown in the trash before being looked at.
There are a lot more examples outside of those.

But I'm not sure what to make of this or how to deal with it online, and irl, stuff is even more complicated. Ugh.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  uncrystal on Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:57 pm

No matter where it might lead, if you feel it important to tell someone when/how they're being offensive then do it. Although, if you're going to engage with someone like that I think you need to be wiling able to have a meaningful discussion with them, or your point may well be lost and have almost an opposite effect of what you intend.

I'll admit I've never heard "check your privilege" uttered in real life. I've seen it thrown around many many times online and used nearly exclusively as a snarky retort with very little followup. I don't see how this is terribly helpful, no matter how many blogs you link to that define and dissect theories on unchecked privilege.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  scott1328 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:12 pm

I am currently in an argument on rEvolutionist's RationalForum with a straight dude who thinks transgendered people are broken but thinks sex reassignment surgery is too brutal; he prefers that their brain defect be fixed in order to restore them to their correct gender.

I have never before been so tempted to type "FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU" in large bold red letters before. His posts just oozes with privilege that I want to call him out on, but that would only derail the conversation, so I restrain myself.

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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

Post  arpie on Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:38 am

Well done Scott. The word fuck has become so overused and trite I generally try and avoid using it. Saying "have a nice day" would have far more impact. Passive aggression works much better than overt.

@wind: Was touched by your story. When I worked in LA from '86-2000 on the couple occasions my old truck overheated again it was only the Latinos who would stop and ask if I needed help.

My primary residence for the last 25 years and only one for the last 13 is a old 10' trailer, yet I'm painfully aware of just what a privileged life I've had. I won the generational lotto, and was raised in a country at the top of the pyramid. I had a functional alcoholic, extremely abusive father, but also had the full support of my mother and sister and 0 economic concerns. Nice house in the burbs and all. We all knew that HE was the one with the problem, and that we were his victims. This is far cry from what so many others experienced. And while my chosen lifestyle looks Spartan in the US, it would be viewed with immeasurable envy for at least half the world's population.

TBH I don't really see much hope that things will change much. We are all so different. The complexity of the problems that confront us, as you mentioned, is daunting. Might it be that for each child we save from starvation in the fourth and fifth worlds it will just mean an additional 20 at some future point? And how do we tell them the environment won't survive their all having car and fridges and such? Question Crying or Very sad


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Re: The problem with Privilege - New Statesman

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