The Quest for Privilege

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The subjects of white privilege and political correctness have come up a lot lately. I tend to find the subject of political correctness laughable without any real merit as a concept, so I won’t speak much of it here. However, the one aspect of it I find compelling is its relationship to privilege. In discussions of race and gender et al., there is often an attempt by people to create a myth around these identities to explain disparities in life. I don’t mean myth as in a made-up story, rather as a moral narrative that if one can get others to buy in to it, one can change their perceptions of what is acceptable behavior.

This especially seems true with the issues of race and gender. The discussion of them often centers around white privilege and male privilege (aka patriarchy) respectively. These types of privilege have a meaningful effect on the quality of life for people, but not nearly as much as people tend to think, and I don’t mean just in the minds of those that blame white or male privilege for injustices but also the people who deny that they do as well.

Privilege is kind of mythical beast in and of itself. We can fall to the temptation to define life by the various privileges we think it offers and whether we are partaking in them or not. Is that a good way to define life? No, as I argued in another post, I don’t believe it is. Doing so requires the exclusion of others for us to make any gains. It is a zero-sum point of view. My gain is your loss. Plain and simple. And amoral.

Yet the allure of privilege is strong. And it has reached some absurd levels. George Will recently argued that awareness efforts have created a new privileged class: sexual assault victims. Yes, he really made that assertion. In fact, a lot of people (politicians most often) in recent decades have made a habit of denouncing the privileges of victimhood. There really does seem to be a belief that attempts to help the downtrodden have created a new form of privilege that those excluded from it envy to a great degree. Even Feminism has inadvertently spawned the Men’s Rights movement which is populated by people who believe women have become the privileged gender.

So, let’s down-pedal the privilege talk. Not entirely but let us save it for when it’s especially relevant. And perhaps someday we can agree that progress benefits us all. Yeah, I know. I won’t hold my breath.

See Also:
Jonathan Chait
Anne Theriault
Alex Pareene
Bethany Spencer

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