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  #41  
Old 09 May 2014, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
Right. People also don't get that admitting that privilege exists doesn't negate everything that they've worked hard for. I guess because it feels like an attack on their identity and worth, it gets blown up into a complete "you don't deserve anything you have" or something like that.
And it rightly should be seen as an attack on their identity because, well, it is. Free will, if it exists at all, is much, much more fungible than a lot of people want to make it out to be. The realization that even your basic character traits only exist because when you were young you happened to have a loving parent or a good mentor is going to be too jarring for a number of people to accept. Believing that black people have it worse off because they deserve it is, frankly, less costly to a lot of people than accepting that at least 99% of the reason they are where they are is because of factors ultimately outside of their own control (and that even that concept of "control" is iffy).
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  #42  
Old 12 May 2014, 12:19 PM
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The 'But I worked hard to get where I am now!' straight white blokes also don't understand that having privilege doesn't mean they're handed everything by the Success Fairy. Privilege in this context isn't what you're given, it's all the obstacles you don't face. It's like running a race: you still have to be motivated and hard-working if you want to get to the finish line, but the fewer hurdles there are the easier it is. You probably won't notice the hurdles the other racers are jumping because, well, they're not your hurdles and you're focusing on your own course. If you're neck-and-neck with, say, a lesbian black woman, it might be because she was fortunate enough not to have any of the obstacles that she was more likely to face than a straight white bloke, or it might be just that she worked even harder than you did.

Another thing about privilege I would like to smash into people's heads with a cluehammer is the fact that privilege isn't something you either have or you don't. When called out on white privilege, for example, you don't get to say 'I can't be privileged because I'm poor/disabled/gay/female'. The privileges you have aren't rendered null and void by your other circumstances. Likewise, if you're a racial minority but also upper middle class with a costly education, you'll be flashing your privilege if you say things like 'I don't understand why all other [people of my race] can't just pull themselves up by their bootstraps!'.
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  #43  
Old 13 May 2014, 01:58 PM
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I will say one thing in partial defense of Fortgang: I do think it's fair to ask if the people saying "check your privilege" are simply using that as a one-size-fits-all excuse for rejecting the opinions of anyone they disagree with, without actually making any effort to defeat the other people's arguments. I've run into that plenty of times, usually from the same people who make blatantly racist or sexist comments and then argue that "I can't be racist/sexist 'cause I'm not a white male."

Of course, even if that is the case, he's still arguing that he doesn't have privilege just because his family has suffered injustice in the past, and yes, that's ridiculous. But his argument, while wrong, might have its roots in a legitimate complaint.
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  #44  
Old 13 May 2014, 02:14 PM
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I agree that "check your privilege" shouldn't mean "you're white/male/Christian/straight/financially secure etc. and therefore you don't get to voice your opinion." It should mean "Remember that just because you're white/male/Christian/straight/financially secure etc. doesn't mean everyone is, so be careful about generalizing based on your own experiences."
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  #45  
Old 13 May 2014, 02:19 PM
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It also can be, depending on how it's said, a rather nasty way of saying it. I think sometimes it's intended to just mean "shut up." Which, if you're debating with someone like Fortgang, might be pretty tempting, but it is still not nice or fair as a debate tactic.
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  #46  
Old 13 May 2014, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
I agree that "check your privilege" shouldn't mean "you're white/male/Christian/straight/financially secure etc. and therefore you don't get to voice your opinion." It should mean "Remember that just because you're white/male/Christian/straight/financially secure etc. doesn't mean everyone is, so be careful about generalizing based on your own experiences."
Yeah, in fact outside of colleges and college-related stuff (for instance, forums populated by college kids), I honestly don't see a lot of "I am a handicapped black woman and therefore immune to such privilege jibes". For the rest of that... immature people are immature. Film at 11.
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  #47  
Old 13 May 2014, 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by erwins View Post
It also can be, depending on how it's said, a rather nasty way of saying it. I think sometimes it's intended to just mean "shut up." Which, if you're debating with someone like Fortgang, might be pretty tempting, but it is still not nice or fair as a debate tactic.
Possibly. That would be counter-productive, though, because the goal shouldn't be to shut people up, it should be to expand their thinking a little. Is it the word "check" that seems rude? Doesn't it mean, here, something like "examine"? But yes, I agree that Fortgang probably hears it a lot.
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  #48  
Old 13 May 2014, 06:53 PM
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I also think the phrase is a little rude. It's a bit like calling someone a racist; if the person said or did something racist, then it's applicable, and the truth of the statement (and the greater rudeness in actually being racist) justifies saying it. But if you call someone a racist based on a misunderstanding of what they said or did, I think you owe them an apology, because it's not a nice thing to call someone.

Saying "check your privilege" or similar is essentially telling the person s/he is ignorant. No one wants to be ignorant. You can argue "well, if the shoe fits..." but there are ways of educating people without slapping them down. For example, when I was in high school, I took economics and learned about compound interest and the time value of money. I learned that starting a retirement fund as early as possible was more important than pouring lots of money into it later on, and I decided to start my own Roth IRA while I was in college and encouraged anyone who would listen to do the same. Of course, what I was missing was the bigger picture; I had a partial merit scholarship and my parents paid the rest of my tuition, and I had a relatively well-paying job as a waitress that covered my rent and other living expenses with enough left over to invest in my future. A lot of my classmates were taking out huge loans and slaving away at minimum wage work-study jobs to do what a combination of fortunate circumstances did for me. No one told me to check my privilege when I was evangelizing about saving for retirement, but one of my friends did take me aside and explain interest rates for savings versus loans and why it didn't actually make sense for her to put her spare money anywhere except back in Sally Mae's pockets until they no longer owned her. She would have been within her rights to slap me down for my ignorance, but what she did instead was so much more productive. And kinder.

ETA: We've discussed this article here before, but it's a great example of taking the time to explain an aspect of privilege without shutting down discussion: Why Do Poor People "Waste" Money on Luxury Goods? It was a real eye-opener for me.

Last edited by Esprise Me; 13 May 2014 at 07:17 PM.
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  #49  
Old 13 May 2014, 07:20 PM
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I also TBF don't see the phrase much outside of academia, where it's used more as a shorthand for "come on, we've been through the drill 10 times already, just accept this and move on". Most of the time when I've been in a conversation talking about privilege, the participants will take pains to demonstrate that the privileged person needs to check stuff. Of course, I'm sure there are exceptions.

One potential issue that you do bring up though is that I think that a lot of people who don't have liberal arts degrees haven't necessarily gone through the privilege course. "Check your privilege" in that case isn't just an insult, it's a confusing barrier to understanding. As has been noted, privilege doesn't mean you don't have to work hard to get where you are. It means you had certain advantages which you could parley into gains that others might not have had access to.

Maybe humor's a better way to get at it? I feel like Louis CK, although he makes a living at being crass, explains it as well as anyone I've heard when he talks about time travel or about how awesome it is to be white. "I'm not saying that black people are inferior... but being white is way better than being black".
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  #50  
Old 13 May 2014, 07:25 PM
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I also TBF don't see the phrase much outside of academia, where it's used more as a shorthand for "come on, we've been through the drill 10 times already, just accept this and move on".
You and I run in different circles, then. I see it everywhere; I've even seen it on this board. Also, are you defining college campuses as "academia"? Because that's where the Princeton dude heard it, and he implies that it was said to him, not something that appeared in a textbook.
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  #51  
Old 13 May 2014, 07:29 PM
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Saying "check your privilege" or similar is essentially telling the person s/he is ignorant. No one wants to be ignorant.
But absolutely everyone is ignorant.

We are not all ignorant of the same things, of course. And almost everyone is knowledgeable about a number of things. But nobody has all the information in the universe inside their one head.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being ignorant. There is sometimes* a great deal wrong with willfully remaining ignorant. An unwillingness to admit one's original ignorance causes a great deal of willful ignorance.


*it's not possible to learn everything in the world; there's nothing wrong with being willfully ignorant of knowing how to knit or grow tomatoes, for instance, because one chose to spend the time that learning those things would have taken in doing something else. However, if one doesn't know how to knit or to grow tomatoes, one shouldn't be telling other people how to do so.

If a person is ignorant of the realities of other people's lives, and is nevertheless talking about how others ought to live them, a reminder that those realities are likely to differ does not seem to me unreasonable. In fact, it seems to me to be a very good idea.

There are all sorts of tones of voice in which "check your privilege" could be said; and there's the further complication that some people genuinely don't understand the usage. But when people keep refusing to understand the meaning even when it's been explained to them, that's not where the problem is.
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  #52  
Old 13 May 2014, 07:30 PM
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This board is rather full of academics, though, and as such is a very poor example of "the real world".

And yes, college campuses are kind of the definition of "academia". What else did you expect the word to mean?
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  #53  
Old 13 May 2014, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Esprise Me View Post
I also think the phrase is a little rude. It's a bit like calling someone a racist; if the person said or did something racist, then it's applicable, and the truth of the statement (and the greater rudeness in actually being racist) justifies saying it. But if you call someone a racist based on a misunderstanding of what they said or did, I think you owe them an apology, because it's not a nice thing to call someone.
So it's like calling someone a racist, except that it's rude whether it's applicable or not?

Quote:
Saying "check your privilege" or similar is essentially telling the person s/he is ignorant. No one wants to be ignorant. You can argue "well, if the shoe fits..." but there are ways of educating people without slapping them down.
I don't see how pointing out that someone is not seeing the bigger picture because of privilege is "slapping them down." If someone is offended by the idea that they should have privilege and should examine it, then educating them about it in any way is going to be seen as an attack.
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  #54  
Old 13 May 2014, 08:58 PM
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I think it comes across as rude because it's a dismissive cliché that serves more to satisfy the person who says it than it does to communicate with the person it's said to. Most people, particularly those who it might be most tempting to say it to, won't even know what it means. If you have time to type anything, why not spend slightly longer and actually explain why what they're saying isn't helpful, or is missing the point?
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  #55  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:07 PM
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It's similar to "check your zipper:" you're implying they have something to be embarrassed about, and everyone sees it but them. And if that's true, if someone's privaledge is showing up as ignorance, they do have something to be embarrassed about, so pointing it out gently is going to go over better.
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  #56  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:08 PM
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"Check your zipper" is pretty straightforward - it doesn't involve complex socio-economic concepts; you can reasonably assume that the person you're talking to knows what a zip(per) is. And even in that case, I think it comes across as passive-aggressive and wilfully obscure compared to telling somebody "Your flies are undone"...
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  #57  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Pink Pill View Post
It's similar to "check your zipper:" you're implying they have something to be embarrassed about, and everyone sees it but them. And if that's true, if someone's privaledge is showing up as ignorance, they do have something to be embarrassed about, so pointing it out gently is going to go over better.
But what's wrong with "check your zipper"? Wouldn't you want to know? Is "perhaps you should consider whether or not your clothing fasteners are in open or closed position" somehow better?
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  #58  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
I think it comes across as rude because it's a dismissive cliché that serves more to satisfy the person who says it than it does to communicate with the person it's said to. Most people, particularly those who it might be most tempting to say it to, won't even know what it means. If you have time to type anything, why not spend slightly longer and actually explain why what they're saying isn't helpful, or is missing the point?
Surely it's either a cliche or something people won't understand. How can it be both?
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  #59  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:27 PM
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But what's wrong with "check your zipper"? Wouldn't you want to know? Is "perhaps you should consider whether or not your clothing fasteners are in open or closed position" somehow better?
I would want to know. But not loudly or in a condescending manner.

My point is that everyone knows that "check your zipper" means you've got something embarrassing going on. "Check your privaledge" takes that connotation and applies it to someone's opinion. That's why several native speakers from several countries have agreed it is not the kindest, or effective, way to address the issue with someone.


ETA-That doesn't mean I'd never use it as a rebuke if someone was being a jerk. But I wouldn't generally in polite conversation.

Last edited by Little Pink Pill; 13 May 2014 at 09:34 PM.
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  #60  
Old 13 May 2014, 09:34 PM
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I would want to know. But not loudly or in a condescending manner.
I don't think "check your privilege" is either loud in and of itself, or condescending. It's shorthand. And it is a rebuke, yes. but a mild one, much more like "Hey, that sounds kind of racist; you should watch that" than "you are a racist."

Quote:
My point is that everyone knows that "check your zipper" means you've got something embarrassing going on. "Check your privaledge" takes that connotation and applies it to someone's opinion. That's why several native speakers from several countries have agreed it is not the kindest, or effective, way to address the issue with someone.
This native speaker notes that some of those who find "check your privilege" unacceptable turn out to be concern trolling about tone when they really object to the concept. For those who are not, and I'll assume that's people in this thread, what expression would you find to be an acceptable substitute? IME, any reference to acknowledging the speaker's privilege at all is generally treated extremely defensively.
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