I’ve heard a few different arguments against using the word ‘privilege’ in my discussions.
In recent years I have tried to take other people’s word at face value, to guard against too heavily projecting my own ideas. I’ve trained myself, even when I know they’re not giving me the truth, and especially when I know they don’t even know they’re not giving me the truth, just to operate as if I believe them anyway, to give them a chance to prove my assumptions wrong.
That was an important part of my personal development, but I’m gonna have to start delving into some subtext more often, because people are fucking BULLSHITTING right now.
It’s almost always very privileged people bullshitting most about privilege. Go fucking figure, eh?
I come from an unequivocally working class background. I don’t fit in there really, but it is where I’m from, it has shaped me irrevocably, and I know some things about that place. Working class people are pretty likely to give it to you straight why they don’t like the idea of privilege. They’ve had to grind for everything they’ve got. If they can manage to get by, it’s because they fucking earned it. Everybody else should too. Don’t fucking talk to them about privilege. They don’t have it.
Middle class people are the ones who are going to say “Yes, I know I’m very privileged” in that politically correct way that doesn’t reach their eyes. But, the truth is, most of them are thinking exactly the same thing as the working class people are thinking – “I earned all this shit I’ve got. I deserve it.” They know it’s generally socially unacceptable to to say that when there are so many people struggling, so they pay lip service to their ‘privilege’. But deep down they have to keep believing that this is a fair world where, if you work hard and are a good person, you’ll be alright. And the reason they have a good life is because they work hard and are a good person.
People think that if they acknowledge that other people face barriers that they don’t face it will diminish their entitlement to what they have. Whether it does or not probably depends on what exactly they are claiming ownership of. But either way the discomfort of that possibility is what prevents them from looking at it. So they will say what they have to say so that they don’t have to look at it. And it will never reach their eyes.
As long as people keep doing that – having dishonest converstions about privilege – we’re going to be stuck with a world of inequality.