Calling out people for being clueless about privilege – usually their White, male privilege – is common these days. Doing so often provokes puzzlement and/or an angry if not furious response, which leads to a frustrated counter-response. Dialogue, much less actually learning something about oneself or society, becomes impossible.
But, understanding what is and is not meant by “check your privilege” is important, whether or not you think there is much to it. Arguably, disagreement about who is privileged today and who has a right to feel aggrieved was one of the biggest factors in Donald Trump’s shocking from reality TV star to the President-elect. Based on my reading and personal experience, I think that Trump’s election was, well, personal to White American men in a way no other election result in my lifetime has been. A lot of people are saying that this man became president out of nowhere represents either a –
- Restoration of a White, male-dominated social order, or an
- Angry reaction to the false accusations of racism and of White, male privilege.
Tough stuff. Aaron L. suggested that Civilized Conversation might be one of the few venues in which people could discuss this awkward topic in a reasonably productive way. Certainly, we can try.
I think the key to civility on this topic is understanding what the assertion of White privilege (and gender privilege) means and what it does not mean. The articles below, especially the first two, explain the term. Spoiler and key point: Crying “privilege” is not an accusation of racist intent or of a personal failing of character. It’s an observation about one’s relative place in a social order, and the advantages (big and small, lifelong and day-to-day) that some people have because of it and others don’t have.
My idea for our meeting is ambitious. I hope we can explore what White, male, privilege means to people that use the term, and what it means to people that feel so offended by its use. We also can get into the actual evidence that White male privilege still is a potent force in our society and the implications for public policy and personal behavior.
We should have a new topic list of Feb – May to hand out on Monday, thanks to Rich and Aaron (The Elder, not Aaron L., Son of Bruce) . It will be Trumptastic.
SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –
What is “White male privilege?”
- The meaning of Whiteness and White privilege. (PsychToday). Recommended.
- The limits of color blindness. Recommended.
- Why it’s so hard to talk to White people about their privilege.
- What is male privilege?
Evidence and Rebuttals –
- The staggering differences in Black/White achievement.
- Black poverty is different from White poverty, and the result of structural White privilege. A must-read.
- The Jan. 21 Women’s March to protest Trump’s inauguration has
splitseen conflict over White privilege rhetoric.
- But: Progressives overuse “check your privilege” rhetoric. Recommended.
- Conservative POV:
Trump and White male privilege –
- Trump reflects White, male frailty. Short.
- Longer, better: Eroding White male privilege created Trump.
NEXT WEEK: President Trump’s Priorities.