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A question of privilege
blaisepascal
I am white.
I am male (in both phenotype and identity).
I was born in a 1st-world country (which is not a "developed country").
My parents both came from intact (non-divorced) families.
My father's parents were both college educated professionals.

According to some theories of social interaction, all of the above, individually and collectively, give me a tremendous amount of "privilege". Because of these things, I have a tremendous advantage in this culture over (e.g.) a black woman.

I can understand this theory, and I can understand examples of privilege that are brought up and described. As a man, I don't walk down the street afraid of being assaulted by strangers. I don't worry that my skin color will create a negative impression at a job interview. I know that even at the poorest I've ever been, I've had more than 70% of the people in the world. etc, etc, etc.

The problem I have is that "privilege" is often used as a bludgeon in conversation with a member of a less-"privileged" population. When conversations arise about matters of "privilege" I often feel attacked because I'm white, or a male.

I feel attacked because of things I admit to have benefited from, but cannot change.

Am I alone in this? And is there anything I can do about it?

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You're not alone. It's a bullshit prejudice like any other prejudice, and it's bothered me since I first heard of the concept. There's nothing you can do about people painting you with their broad brush, any more than anyone else can help any other prejudice that's applied to them based on who they are or where (geographically or culturally) they're from.

You might want to read http://community.livejournal.com/debunkingwhite/profile (not just the profiled - the community in general) I have mixed feelings on this, I get your defensiveness (I come from extreme privilege too), but this community I believe has helped me understand it better.

Also this: http://www.antiracistalliance.com/Unpacking.html
(and I did have to read this for a library science class of all things too)

This.

And also, bear in mind that It's Not About You. You aren't being attacked. Separating You from Your Privilege is bloody hard work, and I'm not sure it's entirely possible. Keeping in mind that It's Not About You (and not trying to make the conversation be About You) is important.

From what I've seem, you're pretty typical in the reaction, actually.

What I suggest you do about it is read, lots. Pick a racefail and dig into the links. Keep an ear out for outraged feminists and dig into what they're outraged by. There's lots of good material out there, and something in there may well help it click for you.

I did not come from a privileged family, I think I understand the...envy? sense of unjustice? that sometimes engenders. I am ashamed of the way I used to carry on about it. It wasn't until I met people and not categories that I realized what an ass I was. I still have trouble with this kind of thing, lawyer jokes are funny, until you need a lawyer, for instance.

I do not like being stuffed in a box by someone and having the box beaten. Some one or group decides you are "teh ebil" for something you are not or can not do anything about. Worse, I hate those who justify such behavior simply because "my group has been/is being discriminated against so it's ok, it's some kind of karmic justice, when it happens to you".

I don't know what you can do about it beyond what you are doing right now, being aware of it, talking about it. But you certainly aren't alone in this.

No, you're not alone. And I think we can come up with something to do about it. Next week?

best,

Joel

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