I have occasionally (quit giggling) been known to rant about privilege on HoA. Racism, sexism, cis sexism, hetero sexism, and so many other forms of oppression affect us in ways, both large and small, in our daily lives. We all also know that there are far too many people who like to keep it that way. Their privilege gives them advantages that they do not want to let go of. They denounce any attempt to create an equitable society and love to trot out that now tired notion of reverse oppression. Social justice warriors are ready, willing and more than able to deal with those who fight openly to shore up the cultural and institutional barriers that face the oppressed. We are somewhat less ready, willing, or able, to deal with those who claim to be on our side, but then turn around to cry that they do not enjoy privilege.
I think there are few things more destructive to the progressive cause than having in our midst a straight, white, cis-male who is not only unwilling to acknowledge his privilege, but actively complains that he is experiencing oppression from an oppressed group. I have had to sit through a young man (who will remain nameless to keep our mutual friends from being dragged into this) shouting that “Obama should drill Michelle instead of NY” at an anti-fracking rally. When I challenged him on the sexism and rape culturey nastiness of this, rather than saying “wow, I hadn’t thought about that” he went about defending his comment. More recently this same individual claimed being called worthless by a PoC meant he understood the sting of racism. I did not bother to comment on that. I am now convinced this person is never going to even want to address his privilege.
This would be bad enough coming from cultural conservatives who make it clear that they have a strong ideological motivation to keep privilege alive and well. Coming from self-professed social justice warriors it tears into the fabric our movement. They are a distraction to be sure, but worse, they are actively supporting the structures we are working to tear down.
In the battle for economic justice they are perpetuating systems of oppression that hurt those without privilege but also make it easier for the economic elite to take advantage of us all when they create a an artificially inflated demand for work when there are groups more desperate for employment due to discrimination. That failure on their part strengthens the same economic elites who are also devastating our environment. So in their dismissive attitude toward “identity politics,” in their refusal to give up their privilege, they are not only failing in the basic human decency department, but failing in those “important” causes they hold so dear.
I have another friend (who shall also remain nameless, but this time b/c I don’t want to use his name without asking) who rightfully points out that just limiting the definition of racism to that used in Critical Race Theory (and the variations of sexism et al that grow from it) may turn off some of those we are trying to reach. I agree, to a point, but still think we can differentiate between bigotry and the CRT definition of racism without rejecting the latter. That, though, is besides the point. The point here, today, is that there are too many young men out there that understand the intersections of oppression and are more than willing to use them to beat the opposition over the head with, when it suits them. The moment they have to walk the walk though they stumble, and then blame the rest of us for their failure. That has to stop, and the only way it will is by our refusing to give them a pass anymore.
- Privilege: An Exploration of an Important Social Phenomenon (sanromero.wordpress.com)
- Sexism in tech is everyone’s problem (venturebeat.com)
- At The Crossroads: Intersecting Identities (queerunionarquive.wordpress.com)
- Acknowledging Privilege, Surrendering Struggle (blogs.forward.com)