Washington Post: The last thing on ‘privilege’ you’ll ever need to read

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I haven’t even read this yet but I am already thinking that the headline’s mouth is writing a check that its ass will not be able to cash.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater
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    says:

    “I’ve never quite sorted out by what mechanism awareness of privilege is meant to inspire a desire to shed oneself of it,”

    Huh. Maybe the title isn’t wrong afterall.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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      says:

      Depends on what is meant by “shed”. A common misunderstanding of attempts to address privileges is that the goal is to strip people of things. The reality is that the goal is more often than not to expand access to those things. The advantages of privilege are stripped by eliminating the advantage that comes from limiting access.

      So in schools we look at things like representation in books. It’s a form of privilege to not really have to think about if a book will tell a story that is identifiable to you because the overwhelming majority do just that. By offering a broader range of books, we can give all students a sense of confidence that their story is in the library. So privilege is shed by giving it to all.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        That is fine and good and should happen. To much of the use of the P word is mud slinging or calling out or just plain ol arguing. Privilege is perfectly reasonable concept that has been way over used as an insult or argumentative tool often by clueless people. To many people who throw around the word ignore all the ways in which people can be advantaged and also disadvantage.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        Depends on what is meant by “shed”.

        I think the context of the sentence is pretty clear that “shed” implies a voluntary action.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          Back when I lived in DC, we’d often frequent the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The main attraction in this part of town… at least among young people on weekend evenings… was a long strip of nightlife venues. They ran the gamut… divey bars, college bars, sports bars, clubs, lounges, unscale joints… everything. Even a hookah bar! And because of this diverse array of options for getting drunk, this area became one of the integrated parts of town in a city that was still very segregated at the time. This was especially true at closing time, when the patrons flooded the narrow sidewalks and jockeyed for walking space, cabs, and jumbo slices of godawful pizza.

          On one particular night, I was relatively sober. I just wasn’t really feeling it so I was more keenly aware of my surroundings as the night ended. As we walked down the straight and I watched my friends hoot, holler, scream, and bump into all things moving and not, I was initially appreciative and impressed by the cops who gave us a gentle reminder to quiet down and start to head home. Our collective behavior certainly could have justified a worse response. But as we continued on, I saw those same cops approach a group of young black men about our age, quietly eating their godawful pizza and leaning against a telephone pole. The cops demeanor was entirely different… aggressive, abrasive, telling the guys to get out of there and go home and stop causing trouble.

          I couldn’t help but think that the difference in treatment between these two groups was at least partially informed by our race. And if my assumptions are correct, I struggle to consider this situation an example in which I held privilege on account of being white. And not necessarily because I had something I shouldn’t have had but because I had access to something that others did not because of my race.

          The thing is… I don’t know how to shed that privilege. Should I have gone up to the cops and demanded that my friends and I be harassed? Should I have scolded the cops for their behavior? What would that have accomplished?

          Can I lobby for police reform? Yea, sure. I probably should be doing that in ways that place me definitively beyond the reach of the term “slacktivist”. But how effective am I likely to be?

          So, yea, I’m not sure what to do. But not knowing what to do doesn’t mean that series of events never took place. So when I find myself in conversations in which people are discussing crime stats, I often offer this story and note my privilege if only to say, “Hey, there is more to crime stats that crime.” When I hear people talk about how folks with criminal records should be banned from this thing or the other, I talk about how easily I could have found myself with a criminal record if I didn’t have privilege in so many different areas of life. “Would you want to exclude me? If not, why exclude a dude who is so much like me but for what happened when he was eating godawful pizza one night?” Maybe I can change these folks’ minds. Maybe I can make a difference there. Maybe not. I don’t know.

          So, yea, certain forms of privilege are really hard if not impossible to shed because often privilege is given or denied and you don’t really have a say in the matter. Acknowledging privilege is sometimes the first — and only — step in attempting to dismantle the various systems that bestow or restrict opportunities for all the wrong reasons.Report

          • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Kazzy
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            I had a buddy in my college gaming circle who was Hispanic and grew up in a not-too-great part of Hollywood. He was smart as a whip and the nicest guy in the world, but looked scuzzy. So he disappeared one day. At first we didn’t think anything of it, assuming he had gone home to visit his mother and hadn’t mentioned it. But that was kind of unusual–we were a pretty tight knit group, and generally knew each other’s comings and goings. A day or two later one of us called his mom. He wasn’t there. We started to get worried. One of the guys, a white guy with more street smarts than I would have guessed, had a hunch. He drove down to the sheriff’s station and asked for our buddy. They had him in a cell. What was the charge? There was none. Could white guy take him home? Sure. No problem.

            He had been picked up for being in too good a neighborhood for his physical appearance. It was obvious to me at the time that this was fucked up and grossly illegal, but I didn’t understand what had happened. In my sadder but wiser old age I think that once the police actually talked to him they figured out that he wasn’t some random gang banger. But at that point they had already crossed the line into illegal arrest on racial lines, and they didn’t know what to do with him. My guess is that it was something of a relief when white guy college student came to pick him up.

            He never really talked about the incident afterwards, and didn’t pursue it. I can’t blame him. He would have been opening himself for villification with little prospect of anything coming from it. There was a similar case around the same time of a black guy arrested in San Francisco for walking in a white neighborhood. It turned out that his father was a federal judge. He raised a stink afterwards, but his family gave him the social capital to make it stick. My buddy from a not-so-great neighborhood? Not so much.

            When I hear white people deny that this sort of thing goes on, this tells me that they don’t have any ethnic friends. They may think they do, but those are merely acquaintances at best.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Richard Hershberger
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              My wife likes to tell a similar story from when she was living in San Diego. One night she went out with some friends to see her boyfriend play some music in a pretty swanky part of town: her, two white guys and one black guy. Coming back from the show as they were walking to their car in the parking garage a cop shook them down. He demanded to know what the black guy had been up to. The black guy explained, but with resignation. The white folk on the other hand went ballistic: “How dare you? We’ve been at a show all night! What do you think you’re doing?” Things apparently got tense enough that the cop ended up pulling his gun, told ’em he was investigating a crime and that they needed to chill the fuck out with their hands on their heads facing the car. At that point, the black guy was already getting ready to be cuffed, the other two white guys did what the cop demanded and chilled with their hands on their heads, and my wife said to him “fuck this, I’m outa here” with her hands up and walked away.

              Nothing happened to her, of course. “Free to go”. The two white guys got cuffed and released before being taken to the station. And the black guy was taken downtown, booked, and then released the next day when they found the “right” black guy who committed the crime.

              Guilty til proven innocent!Report

          • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Kazzy
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            I think this gets to an important point–namely, that much (most? almost all?) examples of ‘privilege’ are actually just examples of not being discriminated against.

            I also think terminology matters, in that there are a number of reasons, both practical and theoretical, that we should use accurate terminology to discuss these issues. First, words have meaning; discrimination is prejudicial treatment based on membership in a group or category, privilege is an advantage or special right granted based on your relationship to a another person or group (according to my made up definitions). Conflating the two leads, in my experience, to people tuning out your message, or, at the least, needless disagreement.

            It’s hard to explain to people not up on their SJ lingo that not being harassed by the police is a privilege. It just sounds wrong. It also lumps large numbers of whites into a privilege which they don’t have (or at least feel they have). Cops harass them and their kids, the prosecutor and judge assume they are just as guilty as the young black kid (and just as unsympathetic), Nikki and Misty may not have the extreme negative employment effects of Latarsha, but they aren’t far off.

            I don’t mean to go after you personally, it’s just the overuse/misuse of Racist, White Supremacist, Privilege, etc, is a pet peeve of mine, and your story was a perfect example of discrimination being discussed as privilege.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gaelen
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              says:

              @gaelen

              I’ve understood discriminationand privilege as two sides of the same coin. But I also argue that privilege is relative and contextual. Which maybe helps thread that needle?

              Regardless, I try not to get tripped up on terms anymore. Call it whatever you want, I think most reasoned people should be able to look at the situation I described and see what’s wrong. And yet… that isn’t what happens.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                @kazzy, I understand where you’re coming from–people should be able to understand the point of your story on its merits. With that said, I would like to push back a bit.

                Regardless, I try not to get tripped up on terms anymore. Call it whatever you want, I think most reasoned people should be able to look at the situation I described and see what’s wrong. And yet… that isn’t what happens.

                I would say part of the reason is because words matter (and we are trying to convince people who are not already in agreement with us). If someone uses loaded or inflammatory words, or uses terms that have a established definition in the listeners mind in ways that don’t match that definition, they are going to have a much harder time getting the listener to understand and accept their point. We convince people to come around to our point of view by using arguments, analogies, and terms that are consistent with their worldview. Rightly or wrongly, challenging their world view will likely cause them to put up their guard.

                A common misunderstanding of attempts to address privileges is that the goal is to strip people of things. The reality is that the goal is more often than not to expand access to those things.

                But then why use the term privilege, which has connotations (and a definition) of an unearned right and advantage? Using it, especially if the word white is thrown in front of it, makes it an ill fitted, and over-inclusive, term.

                Acknowledging privilege is sometimes the first — and only — step in attempting to dismantle the various systems that bestow or restrict opportunities for all the wrong reasons.

                But look at your story and it’s moral. An black young man was harassed and discriminated against by police. You weren’t. This helps demonstrate your privilege. Why is this the first step in stopping police harassment and discrimination? Focusing on your ‘privilege’ puts the emphasis on the wrong aspect of this situation. The focus should be on the discrimination and how to stop it, recognizing that you don’t face that discrimination for a variety of reasons is, at best, tangential to that goal.

                Finally, I agree with you that it can be useful to think about and discuss privilege in all it’s forms. It’s just that it is, in my opinion, being overused in a way that inhibits discussion of the real issues.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Gaelen
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                says:

                @gaelen

                The problem with words is some people make it their point to assign, distort, and then debate meaning instead of engaging. So, okay, let’s talk about discrimination. How long before someone says, “No, THATS not what discrimination means!”

                As for discussing privilege (or whatever it’s called) vs discrimination, I think both are important and like the former because it can encourage reflection and empathy among those of us who tend to have it.

                I personally think very differently about discrimination because I also think about privilege.

                I’m also not a “Check your privilege!” type because I don’t think that’s an effective strategy. Generally when I speak about privilege, it’s acknowledging my own when involved with folks who don’t share it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kazzy
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        And that is fair and good but it doesn’t reveal the problems in discussing privilege and how they can be a form of social capital.

        As I said below, when I hear people talk about their privilege, it can be a lot like a humble brag. I often see this when people talk about how privileged they are for being able to maintain a middle-class lifestyle while starting a new business or being an artist because their spouse has a good paying job. These seem to come up sua sponte on social media. Maybe it is guilt, I don’t know.

        There is also the fact that privilege can lead to confusion among policy outcomes and what people want. From what I’ve read and observed, people who want government subsidized pre-K tend to be educated professionals who make decent to good livings but are still having childcare consume a lot of their post-tax income. On the other hand, working class moms would like to be able to quit their jobs and spend more time with their kids.

        So while working-class parents could benefit from government pre-K and daycare, it is not what they want. My guess is that this is the difference between having a psychologically fulfilling career and a job that just pays the bills.Report

    • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Stillwater
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      Yep. I just checked my privilege. It’s still a nice thing to have, same as the last time I checked…Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq
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    Saul had a post about elite private high school teaching about privilege and other aspects of social a couple of years ago I think. He also mentioned from his experience dealing with people who went into elite private high schools that being socially justice aware brings tremendous social capital. A lot of the the anti-Identity politics left is against what it sees as excessive focus on social justice issues because they believe the wealthy and powerful can co-opt them for their own benefit while taking focus away from more troublesome economic issues. This really shouldn’t be a surprise.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    I find this excerpt confusing because the review itself is critical of the book many times. Disclaiemer: Phobe Maltz Bovy is a friend of a friend.

    I go back and forth on the privilege thing. The concept itself has a lot of use. There are privileges that come from being Caucasian or Caucasian looking, being able to act middle class or above, heterosexual, etc. The problem is that what is a useful concept has gotten abused by too much internet Battle of the Somme culture war stuff and is no abused beyond all usefulness. I suppose this is inevitable.

    And as Lee points out there is a huge amount of social capital that can come from talking about how privileged you are. There are often times when I read people talking about their privilege and it sounds like a humble brag to me.Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    Privilege (or the personal awareness of it) has become a metric, and we all know what that means.Report

  6. Avatar veronica d
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    says:

    Oh bah. From the blurb:

    A new book argues that accusing people of unearned advantages does nothing to address inequality — and may only make things worse.

    Oh suuuuuurrrre.

    “Hey, X is unpleasant to hear. You should say X less. In fact, saying X hurts your case, I swear. See, people (meaning me) don’t like hearing X. It annoys me. Stop saying X! Stop saying X!”

    Privilege is real, and obviously so. We all have some in some ways, lack others in other ways. We tend to be ignorant of this stuff, in particular ignorant of how the power structures play out. Furthermore, this is a pleasant kind of ignorance. For most of us, we value some kind of equity. We like the notion of a meritocracy. We like to think that things are, on the whole, fair, even that we earned all that we have.

    To point out that, nope, your privileges give you a big leg up in the game of life, and that being (for example) black makes things twice as hard — not that some black people don’t win the game or some white people lose — bu the point is, the game is rigged. That’s an unpleasant truth.

    The question is, do you actually want to see the game unrigged? Be honest.

    The point is, few people want to face up to this. So they invent stories. Those stories are false.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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      Privilege means a couple of different things, though.

      Sometimes it means “unearned benefits”… sometimes it means “social capital”.

      And we want fewer unearned benefits. Privilege is bad.
      But, Jesus, we want more social capital. Tons more. Privilege is good.

      In conversations, it’s fascinating to see someone talk to someone who has social capital as if they have received an unearned benefit and use the word “privilege”.

      Few people who have weaponized the term “privilege” want to face up to this.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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        I remember the discussion we had a million years ago about this article: Is Having a Loving Family an Unfair Advantage?

        Swift provides the wonderful quotation:

        ‘I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,’ quips Swift.

        “Unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children”Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Yow. I forgot about that one. I don’t think I’d ever seen a Well that was Actually-ed quite so hard before…Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird
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          @jaybird — The question is, do we consider being black somehow a different kind of thing from having a bad upbringing.

          I think they are different, inasmuch as everything exist within a social frame. Simply, racism is different from having shitty parents, not that we shouldn’t encourage better families or have some sympathy for folks brought up in a bad home. But racism

          — and sexism, homophobia, etc.

          It is the existence of socially reinforced prejudice that singles out individuals for a lifetime of bullshit, for skin color or sexual preference or whatever else. And note, this also spreads through their families and communities, in a sense that having an abusive parent in a posh community (where abusive parents are less common) will be a very different experience from growing up with an abusive parent in a poor, minority community where such things seem normal.

          My mother suffered from mental illness. My father was distant.

          How often do I complain about these things? Have I even mentioned them before?

          I mean, it fucked with me some, but nowhere to the same degree as being trans fucks with me every day. Likewise, I went to a posh suburban school, I had posh suburban friends, I learned to speak “educated white girl” speech, such that my lack of college is invisible, unless I choose to say.

          My mom beat me with a two-by-four once. Whatever. I lived. At least I didn’t grow up poor.

          #####

          There seems to be a tendency to view racism as a “bad thing” and (for example) parental alcoholism as a “bad thing,” and then to decide that all “bad things” are bad in just the same way. But that is silly.

          We cannot have utopia. We cannot level things perfectly. However, we can notice the big injustices, those that effect millions, those that emerge from arbitrary categories, from deeply entrenched hate, from self-reinforcing, multi-generational patterns of exclusion, voicelessness, and bigotry. Those are different.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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            Oh, Veronica. I am 100% down with ending privilege as you describe it here.

            The problem is that there is a lot of “privilege” out there that is a different kind than the kind you describe here. There are a lot of people (like, a *LOT* a lot) out there talking about “privilege” that is the different kind instead of the privilege that you’re talking about here.

            And talking about privilege without acknowledging “privilege” is going to get people to assume that we’re talking about “privilege” rather than privilege.

            But, for what it’s worth, I agree with you that privilege is awful. We should do away with it.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              @jaybird

              Can you tell me how these statements differ:

              “Man, I was lucky… my mom read to me every night at bedtime.”
              “Man, I’m privileged… my mom read to me every night at bedtime.”

              I do not deny that they are different but I’m trying to make sense of just how they are different.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                How “privilege” is being used, it’s more like a dialog similar to this one:

                “My parents read to me. More parents should read to their own children.”

                “Check your privilege. Parents who read to their children are unfairly disadvantaging other children.”

                For the record, I don’t really have a particular problem with either one of the sentences you used… but “reading to children” is giving children Social Capital and Social Capital is something that we want a *LOT* more of.

                So when people start talking about “privilege” with regards to Social Capital, that’s where I start rolling my eyes.

                When we’re talking about how, when I get pulled over for speeding and I get away with a warning and when my boss gets pulled over for speeding and she gets a ticket, then I am experiencing the bad kind of privilege. We want less of the bad kind of privilege.

                But, I’ll say again, we want a hell of a lot more Social Capital and mixing up Social Capital with “privilege” is going to be toxic.

                (Here’s a quick way to distinguish. The good kind is wealth in its own right. The bad kind is solely a positional good or a system that maintains current positions and/or fights against redistribution of positional goods.)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Well that is why one way of dismantling privilege: INCREASING access.

                But if the term muddies the waters and makes fewer people read to their children as a result… that’s bad.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Jaybird
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                I think you’ve put your finger on the nub of the problem… we want to expand social capital…everywhere. Social capital is a (maybe, the) goal of all inequality programs.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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                I think we’re seeing a movement away from “Privilege”, as people finally, grudgingly agree that it’s ridiculous to talk about the “unearned privilege” of someone who grew up in a trailer. Instead, now, we have “Social Capital”, which is a nice alternate term for activists because it sounds like “Capitalism” which is icky and bad and we hates it, and also it sounds like something quantifiable which lets us bring in all that wealth-inequality stuff for extra hates.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to DensityDuck
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                Which is exactly why the meta game you and JB like to play is either useless or counterproductive.

                Unless your goal is merely to kick people in the box. If so, then keep it up!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                Well, the term “privilege” has become, itself, a form of self-parody. The movement away from it is merely looking for a term that works as well as “privilege” once did.

                I kinda like “Social Capital” as a term. It indicates something that is worth something in its own right. You are the means to your own production, or something.Report

              • Avatar Jesse in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I hate to break this to you, @jaybird, whatever nicer term the Left comes up will be turned into a slur by the Right.

                For instance, “whiny liberal feminist SJW’s complain about Social Capital while successful young conservatives worry about actual Capital that comes from actually having a job by not getting a worthless liberal arts degree.”

                The problem for the people who hate the term privilege isn’t the term, it’s the fact the argument is being brought up at all.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jesse
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                says:

                I didn’t say “nicer”.

                I said “a term that works as well”.

                “Effective” is the word that I would use.

                With that said, it’s not just “the right” that will turn it into a slur. Why? Because the term, if it is effective, will be a term that works against a gimungous chunk of students at Oberlin, Yale, CU Boulder, and so on. (#NotAllOberlinStudents)

                And as “the left” inoculates itself in such a way that “privileged” means “but not me… but that guy over there (who would *NEVER* have the opportunity to go to Oberlin, or Yale, or CU Boulder…)”, it will again undercut itself and this new term, whatever it is, will evolve as “privilege” evolved.

                But, for the 20 minutes that the term, whatever it eventually is, will work? It will *STING*.

                Then someone will remember that sting from the first 35 minutes of “Privilege” being an effective term and come up with “Hey, they’re just saying ‘privilege’!” and, once again, the inoculation will enter the population.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Although, in the same way that “privilege” retains some rhetorical value compared to its precedent “racism”, “social capital” will as well.

                Because, y’know, you can’t talk about redistribution of “privilege”, since in the language of class consciousness it’s inherent. You can’t not be a member of the Privileged White Race (just ask Rachael Dolezal.) But you can be expected to freely pass on some of your Unearned Gifted-At-Birth Social Capital to the less-fortunate among us, whose Social Capital Inequality will definitely lead to social problems if it isn’t corrected. (note: white cis het male introverts who play computer games already have plenty of social capital due to being white cis het males, they’re just idiots who don’t know how to spend it properly.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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                says:

                But when I talk about “Social Capital”, I’m talking about something close to “intangible wealth”.

                “The ability to read and write”, for example, is the sort of thing that I’m talking about. Before we snort and say “but everybody knows how to do that”, I’ll point out that my matrilineal grandmother could not. And, get this, it wasn’t *THAT* unheard of for the culture from which she came.

                Teaching everyone to read *DRAMATICALLY* increases the “Social Capital” of the society. But, get this, since it’s not a positional good, it’s easily dismissed because it’s something that everybody has.

                This intangible wealth that is not a positional good is something that, seriously, would benefit our society *DRAMATICALLY*.

                And the original example of Swift twisting this intangible thing of “having been read to” into a positional good (to the point where he said that doing this disadvantages *OTHER* children!!!) is… ah, I don’t feel like giving this rant again.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                “But when I talk about “Social Capital”, I’m talking about something close to “intangible wealth”.”

                Sure, “social capital wealth” is as intangible as “privilege”, but you can still criticize people for not doing the things that supposedly make up for an unearned surfeit of it. And the fact that it’s intangible means that there’s so much more of it that we can criticize you for not giving away.

                And you can indeed make an argument that the apparent bad effects of inequal distribution are more properly posed as a result of the lower end of the distribution having insufficient capital to function at all, and that raising the overall level of social capital would eliminate those bad effects without resorting to confiscation and redistribution, but that’s the same “rising tide lifts all boats” thing that people say about income and wealth, and we know how that discussion goes.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jesse
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                says:

                most SJW terms were created by the right.
                Your understanding of propaganda is lacking.Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              @jaybird — Well take the phrase “all lives matter.” It’s true, but who says it, and in what context they say it, does have bearing on what the statement actually means.

              You get that, right? This is how to do stuff with words 101.

              Which is to say, words almost never express merely their bare meaning.

              When a relatively privileged person complains about how “kids today” (who we are to imagine are all smug, over-educated, inexperienced, white-cis-str8 “coastal elites”) talk about privilege — well that’s very different from my experience talking about privilege with people who are poor, trans, and doing survival sex work. I interpret the former as someone who would rather not hear about privilege, because they are fine with the current state of social inequity.

              Or, at least, they want the conversation about social inequity to happen on lines they control. They want to shift the frame.

              This is a normal thing to do, but it’s a conversation quite outside the bare fact that sometimes people are rude on Twitter, or sometimes college kids act like dopes.

              My gender is debatable. Yours is not. That makes a huge difference in my life.

              Myself, I see attempts to shift the frame toward silly college kids and leftist “overreach” as an attempt to shift the frame away from real inequity.

              Which, of course people are going to fight over the frame.

              I don’t care very much about college kids acting like dopes. They’re often silly. Sometimes I shake my head. But there will always be some college kids somewhere doing something dumb, enough to fill 24/7 on Fox News. I cannot change that.

              On the other hand, privilege is real. Racism is America’s original sin. We remain steeped in it, at a scale that far eclipses whatever happens on some college campus (nowhere) near you. Likewise for sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. These remain deep currents of exclusion, voicelessness, and hate.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to veronica d
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                says:

                “Myself, I see attempts to shift the frame toward silly college kids and leftist “overreach” as an attempt to shift the frame away from real inequity.”

                The original article, “The Last Thing On Privilege You’ll Ever Need To Read”, is doing a good job of shifting the frame on a cultural level. That’s not an article from Fox News, mind. That’s the Warshington Post. Democracy Dies In Darkness.

                These dopey college students that you don’t care about are changing/have changed the privilege discussion. Looks like they’ve done so on a national level.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to veronica d
                Ignored
                says:

                v,
                All due respect, but I know other people whose gender is debatable. It doesn’t make a damn difference in their life. (So, occasionally on the telephone, someone calls them ma’am not sir? Whatever, right?)

                Choosing to care about what others think about you on this particular valence is a choice. (I care slightly that people know that I’m a Jew.)Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to veronica d
            Ignored
            says:

            What if being black in America was precisely equivalent to having bad parents?
            If, and I’ll grant you, this is a big If, we’re willing to say that racism against blacks is a Western Thing (*cough* European*cough*), and not a Cavalier Thing, then you should have something to explain the unequal outcomes between European blacks and American blacks.

            Biased selection (I can’t actually use self-selection, as American Blacks were brought here by force) is a decent explanation.

            But, of course, once you’re willing to say that we ain’t all identical fucking twins, and that some people/races/illnesses/etc deserve to have worse outcomes than others (regardless of whatever fucking cultural shit they’re dealing with — because that should be taken into account, but isn’t the only difference), then you have a far more interesting discussion.Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to veronica d
            Ignored
            says:

            How often do I complain about these things? Have I even mentioned them before?

            No i don’t think you’ve complained about those things. But you have complained about other things, over and over again.Report

          • Avatar Maribou in reply to veronica d
            Ignored
            says:

            @veronica-d You absolutely have the right to dismiss your own experiences of abuse as being way less important that systematic injustice, even on an individual level, but I’d be careful about doing that in the blanket way you seem to be here.

            What my father did to me is worse, on an individual level, than any of the systematic injustices I’ve been subject to outside of the home were for me (eg for being poor, for being not-straight, for being not-cis – all three of which I have both been known to be and been not known to be). My life was more threatened because of it – as weird as it seems to compare the various times in my life when I might actually have died. I have friends of color for whom the same is true (parental abuse > systematic oppression).

            And I’m pretty sure, from a couple of decades of research into it, that the big systematic injustices that end up affecting those who are repeatedly severely abused in childhood are, in fact, both arbitrary and deeply entrenched multi-generational patterns. And they certainly DO affect millions. If you look at, for example, “victims of traumatic childhood abuse” as a national group, there are hella patterns involved. And they transcend class differences (you’re oversimplifying class context as well). ACE scores are purely about childhood experiences, and yet high ACE scores are really simply tied to all kinds of miserable outcomes, including one we’re both familiar with for other reasons – increased risk of violent death as a teen or adult – in a way that isn’t able to be explained away by figuring out what kinds of systematic oppression the kid was also suffering.

            So yeah, OF COURSE the generic, vague, handwavy “having a bad childhood” is a different thing from systematic -isms. But in your rush to tell Jaybird why you think his example is dumb, please don’t decide for other abuse victims how important abuse is.

            I’d also point out to you and whoever else needs it (possibly including Jaybird) that it’s really stupid to equate “no one reads to the kid” with “my mother was mentally ill and beat me with a two-by-four once” (not saying that is a good summary of your experience, but it’s what you said here) with “I had a parent who ruled over the house by making sure we were all in fear for our lives” (the worst part of living with my father, moreso than any of the sexual abuse or physical abuse in and of itself) with “having a bad upbringing”. There are all kinds of reasons why good parents don’t read to kids. Some of which point to injustices the parents themselves are suffering. And none of those 4 things are really collapsible.

            If that’s part of the point you were trying to make, maybe be a little less in a hurry to blow off what other people go through, next time.Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to Maribou
              Ignored
              says:

              @maribou — Fair point. The issue is, the use of individual tragedy to erase the existence of social injustice. The fact is, I’m sure back in the 1830’s, that some subset of slave owners were severely abused people who lived rotten, tragic lives, but that doesn’t erase what slavery was, the scale of it.

              Having a good family matters. In fact, your story is not unfamiliar to me, in the sense that, had I discussed my romantic partners and other close friends, instead of my own life — well I won’t give details. But I’ve seen darkness.

              All the same, racism is a particular thing, as is sexism and homophobia and classism and all of that. And yes, the existence of familial abuse is terrible, and no doubt in some ways systematic, with the added bonus of being invisible.

              But still!

              I’m not trying to diminish the gravity of abuse. I am challenging a specific argument that goes like this:

              Privilege isn’t real because not every white person lives a radically better life than every black person. Because some percentage of white people experience (sometimes severe) hardship, and some percentage of black people manage to live visibly wonderful lives, therefore there is no white privilege, whiteness is not an advantage, and liberals are just trying to hurt our feelings.

              This is fucking hogwash. Being a member of a hated minority matters a lot.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d
                Ignored
                says:

                “The issue is, the use of individual tragedy to erase the existence of social injustice.”

                My individual tragedies being more immediate and relevant to me does not “erase the existence of social injustice”.

                The fact that your individual tragedies align with the particular aspect of social injustice that you’ve chosen as your cause does not give you the right to erase my individual tragedies.

                “And yes, the existence of familial abuse is terrible, and no doubt in some ways systematic, with the added bonus of being invisible.

                But still!”

                Oh look, it’s that “Yes But” rhetorical construction that, we are told, is only ever used to erase injustice.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to DensityDuck
                Ignored
                says:

                @densityduck — Tragedy is tragedy, but being a minority will raise the odds of tragedy. Furthermore, in many ways it compounds the magnitude of tragedy. Which is to say, being sick and wealthy is different from being sick and poor. Being white working class means you can learn to speak better, dress better, and “comport” yourself as the middle class does, if you choose, while a black person doesn’t quite have that choice.

                That said, class privilege is also real. Myself, raised middle class, I learned to “comport myself” for free. Thus I had an easier time moving into a technical field, despite not attending university. If I talked like a person from deep Appalachia, this would have been more difficult for me.

                Because, yes, white people can experience a variety of disprivileges as well, just not race.

                This is all to say, in the game of life there is much that can shift your odds. Some you can control. Some you cannot. This is true for everyone. Things such as race, class, and gender, however, are enormously important variables that change the entire game from tip to tail. They are not the only sources of injustice. That isn’t the argument. The argument is, they are major sources of injustice that stand in stark relief to others.

                In other words, “random misfortune” and “racism” both name bad things, but they are different kinds of bad things.

                Privilege names the fact that you can go through life and (almost) never experience some particular injustice. It does not imply your life will be perfect, nor that you’ll experience no injustice at all, inasmuch as society is not perfectible. It merely suggests that you won’t be a target of sustained, systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. This is a big deal.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to veronica d
                Ignored
                says:

                if your parents are poor enough, they probably can’t afford to have you quietly murdered and make it look like an accident.Report

    • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      Yeah, constantly whining about what you don’t got that others do?

      That gets real old….real real old.
      I turn the channel.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Damon
        Ignored
        says:

        @damon — I mean, that’s obvious. The notion of privilege is clearly true. That said, what you want to do about that is up to you.Report

        • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
          Ignored
          says:

          I’m not acknowledging “The notion of privilege is clearly true.” I’m simply saying that constant bitching about it, as well as many other things folks complain about, gets real old.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to Damon
            Ignored
            says:

            @damon — “I’m tried of hearing X” can mean various things, depending on what X is.Report

            • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
              Ignored
              says:

              That’s why X is the variable. It doesn’t matter what that X is.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Damon
                Ignored
                says:

                @damon — Of course it matters what X is, inasmuch as X might be a legitimate complaint, or it might not be a legitimate complaint. Saying “You’re steeping on my foot” is different from “I don’t like the color of your dress.”Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to veronica d
                Ignored
                says:

                Nope. It’s irrelevant if it’s legitimate or not. If you bitch about something so much that it turns people off you’ve set your own defeat.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to Damon
                Ignored
                says:

                @damon — How much is “too much”? Who decides?

                Again, this reflects your values.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to veronica d
                Ignored
                says:

                v,
                The discussion was about persuasion. In which case, your goals are the question, not your values.
                Do you want a solid core of supporters?
                Do you want to get everyone at least halfway okay with you?

                SJW isn’t effective, but that’s fucking intentional.
                Poisonous thoughts lead to poisonous actions.
                Even better, these are self perpetuating (via the actions of drama queens).

                Oh, let’s see what we can do that’ll work better than racism at dividing people. How about “Safe Spaces”? Seriously, they do work better.

                The more you know!Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d
      Ignored
      says:

      “not that some black people don’t win the game or some white people lose”

      This is the social justice version of “but some of my best friends are black!”

      “The question is, do you actually want to see the game unrigged? Be honest.”

      Didn’t we just have a big long conversation where you kept insisting that no really those guys over there weren’t losers of a rigged game, they were intentionally choosing to be miserable and they could totally turn things around if they wanted?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck
        Ignored
        says:

        DD,
        Oh, the game’s rigged alright. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the research, either.
        Not exactly an accident that Saul’s new love is from Singapore, now is it?

        Him: “I keep on getting turned down because of lack of chemistry”
        Me: “Here, read this article. Try more exotic people.”Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to DensityDuck
        Ignored
        says:

        Her argument was not that they were intentionally choosing to be miserable. Her argument was that, while she can feel some empathy for those who are miserable, she feels none when they try to justify hating others because they are miserable. Yet you refuse to acknowledge that.

        Apologies if my memory has failed me and i’ve misrepresented you, Veronica.Report

  7. Avatar Jesse
    Ignored
    says:

    Even though I didn’t know the word, I figured out privilege was when I was a teenager, the son of a single mother on SSI & death benefits along with her own issues on free/reduced lunch, but whom everybody assumed was normal because I was a smart white kid who didn’t ‘act’ poor.Report

  8. Avatar pillsy
    Ignored
    says:

    A lot of the time, if the training happened once I’d be fine with it. But for some reason we have to be reminded of the existence of the FCPA every year, and so on for everything from active shooters to sexual harassment.

    For some reason the “active shooter” training is particularly offensive to me.

    “Hide under your desk and bar the door. If that fails, throw your laptop at the homicidal maniac with the AR15.”Report

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