Howdy, howdy! Any time something awful happens in the world, after the initial shock wears off, there seems to be an uptick in talk about “privilege” among my Interwebz friends. I don’t know why. Awful things happen because people suck, not because they’re privileged. But still, the debates arise. Normally, I avoid these conversations and keep my opinions to myself because, frankly, my opinion doesn’t really matter and doesn’t mesh with most of my friends’ opinions. So, instead of joining the debates on Facebook and Twitter (which almost always devolve into name calling), I thought I would share my thoughts about privilege and my experience with it here.
I actually really hate it when people start throwing around the word “privilege.” It’s not because I don’t believe it exists, but because I don’t believe it’s an insult to the people you’re calling privileged. Nor is it something to be ashamed of. A privilege is a good thing. According to the OED, a privilege is “a right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by an individual, corporation of individuals, etc., beyond the usual rights or advantages of others.” Why would anyone in their right mind be ashamed of that? Granted, not everyone has earned these benefits, but be honest… if you received some kind of special treatment from other people, would you feel guilty? I don’t, and I get a lot of special treatment (cripple privilege is very much a thing).
The word “privilege” is, however, an insult to everyone you’re not including in it. I’m white, which comes with its own set of privileges according to the people who bandy that word around. I’m also female, crippled, and not entirely heterosexual. All of which, according to these same people, make me somehow lesser in the eyes of others. Don’t get me wrong, these people will tell me that I’m just as good as everyone else, just as good as a straight, white, able bodied male, then they turn around and say that the male has more privilege (read: is treated, and thus viewed as, better by others) because of the way he was born. That’s a contradiction. I’ve had this conversation before (oddly enough, never with the straight, white, able males because I’ve never met one with the gall to insinuate I’m lesser to my face) and I really want to tell people to make up their damn minds. Are we equal or is he (the so-called privileged guy) better? You can’t have it both ways.
I also dislike calling people privileged just because they got certain genes, because it gives them a kind of power they don’t deserve. Everyone deserves respect and courtesy, but that’s because we’re all humans. Treat people the way you want to be treated until they give you a reason to treat them differently. Don’t give them special treatment then call them privileged, because at that point they’re just accepting what others are offering them. Now, if they demand to be treated better than everyone else, they’re entitled asshats. Entitlement is different from privilege. Entitlement means they’re assuming they’re special. Privilege means you’re assuming they’re special. At least, that’s how I feel about it.
I know this post will piss people off, but it’s just my own thoughts. “Privilege” isn’t something we should feel bad about having. It’s something that is given to us by other people and it can be taken away. All the word really does is reinforce the idea that some of us are lesser because of genetics, which is stupid and hurtful. I think a better phrase to describe people who think they’re privileged is to say they have an unhealthy “sense of entitlement.” That’s all.
Feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!