Wednesday Word of the Week: April 6

6 Apr

Privilege speaks for itself

This week’s word is: PRIVILEGE

a special benefit that is available only to a particular person or group – Macmillan Dictionary Online

With the ascendancy of the tea party mentality, this country is seeing an increased resistance to any acknowledgment of privilege. In some ways, this is understandable. One of the principle underlying myths of America is that anyone can achieve anything simply by applying sufficient effort.

Many deniers of privilege will point to Oprah Winfrey, for example, and claim that one powerful African-American woman refutes the simple daily power of being white, male, Christian, and heterosexual. Exceptions will exist to most rules; they do not, however, reverse the rule.

One problem with the concept of privilege is that – as with many words – there are many definitions. Most deniers seem to run afoul of a common definition:

a way of life that involves having many advantages and opportunities without having to work hard for them – Macmillan Dictionary Online

It makes sense that a hard-working blue-collar white, male, Christian, heterosexual with a reasonable if unremarkable standard of living would take umbrage at this definition. This, however, is not the concept of privilege. Look back at the first definition: privilege is the state in which some people must work harder or longer or differently to achieve the same results, if those results are possible at all.

Acknowledgment of privilege does nothing to take away from individual success and hard work. Any individual, regardless of their background, may struggle to succeed or benefit from extraordinary effort. Privilege is the state that requires unequal effort from two otherwise equal people.

For a practical and easy-to-grasp view of privilege, the work of Peggy McIntosh is invaluable. While the questions as posed in this link are directed at race, one can easily substitute gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability and engage in the same mental exercise.

Sadly, the louder one shouts about the lack of privilege, the more likely they benefit from it.

  • Roy Den Hollander can bloviate against feminism on the Colbert Report, but his income is almost certainly 20% greater than that of a woman with equivalent background.
  • Andrew Breitbart can argue that he lampoons the Obamas solely because of their positions of power, but his methodology is clearly racist and takes advantage of his privilege.
  • When
  • Pseudo-christians can argue on social media and newspaper feedback sites that the “homosexual agenda” interferes with their rights; they are simply wrong. Christian privilege should never be abused to block simple human rights.
  • Nor should they practice the stark hypocrisy of denying rights to Muslims based solely on their religion. Funny how that freedom of religion thing can be so contextual.

Privilege is real. Any person may be able to point to someone with more advantages, but this is not the point. Intelligent, caring, credible human beings acknowledge what they have and want the best for others. After all, part of the Christian, American ethic is supposed to be

the state of being equal, especially in having the same rights, status, and opportunities – Macmillan Dictionary Online

equality.

One Response to “Wednesday Word of the Week: April 6”

  1. Jennifer April 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    At my current age, what has really highlighted this issue for me… no man I know has had to ask themselves the question: “Will starting a family/Having a child cause me to lose my job?” I’m at a time in my life where family planning is an issue I must address and this is a serious concern for me, “Will my employer elect to not renew my contract if I get pregnant?”

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