[personal profile] wingedbeast
In some ways, I might be a little late on this. Months ago, there was that article by some college student explaining that, no, he won't check his privilege because he refuses to feel guilty for being white, male, Christian, cisgengered, heterosexual, etc.

Still others demand proof that they're privileged.

So, let's clarify this matter.

The best definition of "Privilege" that I can come up with for the purposes it's being used is "the stuff you don't have to deal with, but others do for the same goal or the same situation."

Put that way, this means that there's likely not a soul alive that isn't privileged in some way, shape or form... or who doesn't lack for privilege given a certain context. So, checking your privilege is meant to remind you that there's stuff you don't have to deal with, that some others do and that you're failing to factor that into your assessments.

Let me tell you a little story to help illustrate the complexities.

Back when I worked at a call-center, handling customer support calls for a phone company, the supervisors had a habit of yelling for various reasons. Somebody's lights were on, yell it out. Somebody had spent too much time blocked from receiving calls, yell it out. Somebody had too long a call, scream it across the center. On a semi-regular basis, the volume would reach such a point that I could not hear my callers and they could not hear me.

One time, the work-day following such an occasion, I stopped one of the supervisors who had done so and explained, on no uncertain terms, that said supervisor had reached such a volume that I could not hear my caller. The initial reaction was that the supervisor claimed not to recall the incident, which I don't doubt. It was common enough that I don't imagine that this particular incidence made an impact. I was clear that it did happen and that this example, in my mind, merited an absence of raised voices on the call-floor.

The supervisor acknowledged that I'd said that, walked a few steps away and then turned back to cacth my attention and state the following. "After ten years, that's just me." The tone of voice showing the intended joke.

That's not just me complaining (though I still feel it my right to complain on this matter). But, it is an example of privilege. For a supervisor to an employee, a problem with behavior can come with penalties attached, up to and including loss of job. In the reverse, that penalty can be applied cannot be applied and is, in fact, risked merely on bringing up such a behavioral issue, if it's interpreted the wrong way.

However, it should be noted that that was a unique case, a specific instance of rank in company. Aside from "supervisor" other descriptors could be applied, such as "woman" and "African American." Given the same job and same performance, statistically, I would be likely to receive greater compensation and fewer demerits. But, in this situation, I'm less likely to be able to communicate an uncomfortable, but basic and obvious reality.

We could put a measure to the relative general privilege on how specified a situation must be before I am the one with less privilege in the context. But, we'd have to factor in other matters. That same supervisor was a Christian and would send mass-emails with uplifting and/or motivational stories and those stories with motivational morals would include religious morals in which the intent was to motivate us to trust God.

Privilege is simple in basic definition but, like most simple things, can yield nigh-infinite complexities in practice. But, the thing you do with the nigh-infinitely complex is focus on understanding one simple thing at a time... or acknowledge that you don't need to understand.

If you're reading this, you have some level of privilege on some axis/in some context. If only for the reason that you have access to a computer with the time to look over blogs. That doesn't mean you didn't work for what you have or that you're some modern day Queen Mary saying "let them eat cake". It does mean that you have stuff that you don't have to deal with and other people do... and they have stuff that they don't have to deal with that you do.

That doesn't cancel out. It doesn't make things even. It doesn't mean that your list of privileges is going to match up to everybody else's. I'm a white cisgendered heterosexual man with middle class upbringing, among many other things. Chances are, my list of privileges outnumbers that of a good deal of people. That said, for each context, it's important for us to keep our relative privileges in mind and make the effort to, if not understand, at least believe other people's statements regarding what they have to deal with and we don't.

It's not a sign that you're the bad guy. It's just one of those complexities of being a grownup in a big world with a diverse species.
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