I am part of the problem. I know I am. And I haven’t even taken the ‘How privileged are you’ test yet. I am part of the problem, not only because I am what these days is referred to as a CIS gender white male, but also because I refuse to recognise the concept of ‘privilege’ as a defining social construct that is supposedly responsible for a plethora of perceived injustices.
I could determine my privilege by answering questions such as if I have ever been mocked for my accent, if I have a student loan, if have ever been called a terrorist or been told I would ‘burn in hell’ for my sexual orientation. If I don’t feel nervous in airport lines and do not have an eating disorder, I may have privilege and should recognize the benefits I reap hereof. But of course the first, the most important, the all-defining question is the ubiquitous ‘Are you white?’. I am. I am not sure if I am supposed to apologize.
This nonsense can be used to rank people in order of their degree of victimhood. Armed with this, left-leaning sociology students can spend their time categorizing people based on their innate and social characteristics – all in the name of equality, of course.
Recently, Piers Morgan got on the wrong side of the SJW crowd when he refused to accept responsibility for institutionalizing racism, even though he is clearly white, obviously male and apparently heterosexual. He even had the audacity to accuse transgender model Munroe Bergdorf of ‘playing the victim’ when she, after getting fired for espousing racist views on Twitter, unsurprisingly played the victim of racism. According to the warped logic ‘this is a common strategy of privileged people who feel threatened when their position, and entitlement to it, is challenged’, as some nutjob ‘journalist’ from a left-wing publication put it. Morgan apparently felt that his position on top of a racist patriarchy was being threatened and went on the attack.
Believers in this new religion of identity politics are quick to point out that having privilege doesn’t mean you have no problems. What it does means is: you may have problems, but your problems might be your own fault, ours is someone else’s fault.
As one ‘journalist’ puts it (in a very 2017 article called ‘Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People’): ‘It feels counterintuitive to suggest that straight black men as a whole possess any sort of privilege. In America, we are near or at the bottom in every relevant metric determining quality of life.’ This is the essence of the ‘privilege’ debate: The concept is designed to absolve the individual from personal responsibility: your quality of life is determined by your degree of privilege, not effort or talent. The piece continues with a list of plights suffered by African Americans, which implicitly are blamed on society, not the individual: ‘[Black] arrest and incarceration rates, our likelihood of dying a violent death, our likelihood of graduating high school and attending college, our employment rates, our average net worth, our likelihood of surviving past 70’.
This plays well with traditional left-wing thinking of the working class as oppressed victims and capitalists as abusive oppressors. Harking back to Marx’ theory of labor exploitation, the justification for income redistribution is precisely the unearned nature of wealth. Similarly, the (lack of) privilege can be used to justify all manner of government intervention such as affirmative action, female quotas on company boards, preferential university access for minorities or the now ubiquitous suppression of free speech rights of the ‘privileged’.
Of course, rejecting the privilege non-sense doesn’t mean refusing to recognize that racism or sexism exists. What it does mean, however, is not recognizing that these various ‘ism’s’ define our society. It means not chasing ghosts, and dealing with cases of ‘ism’s’ on their individual merits. It means not automatically blaming an ‘ism’ for the failure of a less privileged individual. It means refusing to recognize that groups of people are defined by their degree of victimhood and deserve special treatment to compensate for their plight. Such artificial creation of victims does nobody any favours. It absolves whoever qualifies as a victim from personal responsibility and lends them an excuse for blaming their problems on others.
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, they say – implying that if I do not acknowledge their warped view of the world, I am perpetuation the subjugation of the less privileged. The problem is, it is their categorizing of people into oppressors and oppressed that is perpetuating divisions and prevents a world where people take responsibility for their own lives and happiness. In this case, I guess I would rather remain part of the problem.