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Friday, June 26, 2015

Why I hate the terms "white privilege" and "male privilidge"

No, it's not because I am a white male...

Well, it is and it isn't.

I hate the term because it does NOT reflect actual meaning of the word.

noun: privilege; plural noun: privileges
a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
"education is a right, not a privilege"
As a middle class, white male with nearly crippling student debt that I am putting off by acquiring more I can tell you that I am NOT awarded any special rights. My life has been a life that I would consider the baseline of what EVERYONE should be able to have: I had two parents that cared for me; I had enough food to eat; I was warm enough in the winter; I was able to get a good public education; I had a dog; etc. These basics are NOT a privileged state in this country: they are the baseline of what SHOULD be.

Tangential side note: EVERYONE in this country is privileged compared to the world baseline.

Is there privilege in this country? Yes, absolutely. But it is NOT tied directly to skin color or gender. It's tied to cash. Is that cash tied to skin color and gender? In most cases it is because it has been accumulated and handed down.

I am NOT among the elite few who have privilege. I am the "zero line."
Therefore, everyone below "my station" is actually something else: they're oppressed.

noun: oppression; plural noun: oppressions
  1. prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.
    "a region shattered by oppression and killing"

    synonyms:persecution, abuse, maltreatment, ill-treatment, tyranny, despotism, repression, suppression, subjection, subjugation; More
    "the young people in this country have known nothing but oppression"
    antonyms:freedom, democracy
This is where my real hatred of the terms comes into play.
By calling ME privileged we, as a society, are actually deemphasizing the true problem; we're taking away from the seriousness of what our society is doing to a rather large segment of the population. We're devaluing them even more by applying a false label to "my station" in life.

Anyone who lacked the meager, but sufficient, financial resources that I had in my youth is being oppressed.
Anyone who gains additional scrutiny from law enforcement because of their skin color is being oppressed.
Anyone who has more trouble finding a job because of their gender or race is being oppressed.

Privilege is not the problem: oppression is.

A lot of white people are uncomfortable with the term "white privilege" because it makes them feel "white guilt" but some feel angry at it for reasons they cannot label. I believe that they see the explanation I am laying out but have not found the words to apply to it. Meanwhile, those who support the term "privilege" would prefer to attack those who dislike the term rather than actually examine the situation as what it really is.

Some minimal research indicates that the term "white privilege" appeared in academia when people where studying the differences in the racial profiles in this country. This, in itself, tells me all I need to know about why the term was selected. Academia is controlled by older white men. The farther back in time you go the more true this is. Everyone likes privileges. To write academic papers that outlines that white men are privileged to be such would, at first, make those in charge of funding and grants very happy. They are, in the eyes of their researchers, the elite of the elite.

Why do we keep the term?
There is no proof on why the term is kept, except that momentum is hard to change.
My thoughts, however, are that keeping the term is beneficial to those who are truly privileged.
The rich are the only ones who carry legitimate privilege and extra rights. They have their way paved for them on a road of money.

I'm not the only one who sees this; there are many comics that highlight this reality. Here is one that does it exceptionally well:

This is a FANTASTIC explanation on how the little things that shape our lives change them. The comic calls it Privilege it partly is; but, it is also highlighting the oppression in our society. Even though I disagree with the terminology being used the way it is I think EVERYONE needs to read it.

But, I will now tear it apart; not for the content but to show where our terminology is terribly misguided. The yellow annotations indicate what I consider to be a regular baseline circumstance that EVERYONE should experience. The green is where actual privilege is being bestowed and, correspondingly, the red demonstrates where oppression is occurring; the orange is partway between active oppression and a normal experience that everyone should have. The blue is clearly labeled.

[Please pardon my terrible annotation on these graphics.... the only tool I have available as I write this is MS Paint]

The way we're using the term "Privilege" is an illusion. It is a smokescreen that allows those with the real privilege to go unnoticed. It's another tool to pit the "lower classes" against each other rather than having the bottom 99.9% see who the real enemy is. The usage of the word, is a tool to further the "class warfare" that is being applied to all of us; the very process of crushing the middle class and systematically oppressing the poor is a state that keeps the rich in their position (up to the very collapse of a financial society.... but that is another topic).

If you use the term "privilege" in this way you are not only being a foot soldier against the oppressed people but, also, against yourself.
I would love to see us change this pattern and start acknowledging that our system OPPRESSES women and all of the races other than white. The system crushes them systematically.

I am not privileged; I merely escaped the oppression engine so that I can struggle through this life.

If I were privileged I could use this:

To avoid this:

But, given that I had to move home after college and I have a year's salary in student loan debt I'd say I haven't been able to avoid this last picture.

That's NOT privilege; it's merely NOT being totally oppressed.

The more I think about this the more I believe it to be true.
If one examines the roots of culture in European-centric countries (e.g. countries, like the United States of America, which were colonized by Caucasian Europeans) it becomes apparent that there is a base expectation of barely sustainable, almost-poverty among the peasant classes. A level of economic freedom to be able to sustain oneself but not enough to "rise above one's station."
This is the baseline expectation that was brought to the colonies. The idea of an aristocracy that is better than the peasantry was an inherent part of the cultures that the colonists all brought with them.
This also included the idea that women are property rather than people.
Stack onto this the idea of slavery, which existed in much of the "civilized" world into the 19th century (and exists still in some parts of the world) and an idea of property is applied to anyone with a different skin color from those in the aristocracy.
The abject poverty of the minorities reinforces the perception that they are less than human. Their inability to escape the poverty reinforces the idea that they are all criminals because crime and poverty are linked. Desperate people do desperate things JUST TO SURVIVE.
Anyone who is having to turn to crime to survive their society is oppressed by that society.
When entire groups of people are stuck in poverty and the system makes it nearly impossible to escape they are as surely enslaved as if they were still considered property.

To call being recognized as an individual with individual rights and freedoms "privileged" is to declare that being considered property and/or worthless and/or trash is an acceptable NORM.

I reject this idea.

No one is property. No one is trash by default. No one is worthless unless they make themselves that way.

The oppression is systemic and reaches all the way back to indisputable oppression.

So why are we choosing to change the name, and the perspective, of this system now to make the people struggling to barely live the "American Dream" the enemy by calling them privileged when there are people of true privilege sustaining the overall system with their greed?