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Thread: Explaining Privilege: It may not be what you think.

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    Contributor AthenaAwakened's Avatar
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    Explaining Privilege: It may not be what you think.

    Privilege is not something you keep in a barrel like pickles and you just reach your hand in when you need some. It is more like you are a fish and privilege is the water you swim in.

    An Example of privilege is:

    I get to get lost in strange buildings because I don't have to remember how I get into places. I can walk. I can take more than one route. I can go into a building on a ramp and come out using steps. Any exit will get me out.

    A person in a wheelchair cannot do these things. They have to remember how they get into places because that is often the only way they can get out. They have to pay attention to where exit signs are and if they are handicap accessible. They have to know how wide hallways are and if all or only some bathrooms are accessible to them. Things the able bodied don't have to think about.

    That's how privilege works. It is the gift of not having to think about certain things. It is the gift of freedom from certain concerns, concerns members of other groups must always consider. It is the gift of having the world automatically fit me.

    And privilege comes in more than one size, more than one flavor. And most people have privileges in one area and lack privilege in others. So they find themselves fighting what hinders them and not thinking about what hinders others.

    You are not to blame for the privileges you have or have not. These things were set up before you were born. But if you can't find in your heart to empathize with others who lack your privilege, do not wish to truly investigate what privilege is, and want to attack not privilege but the people who lack it ...

    That's on you.
    I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

    The power of the white world is threatened whenever a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions.

    -- James A. Baldwin

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    Good explanation. I anticipate the usual suspects coming here to deny privilege even exists, or ignoring this thread altogether.

    What I don't understand, is why it seems worth the effort to deny such an obvious and demonstrable thing exists. It's not my fault I'm a white guy, so why pretend that doesn't come with some inherent privilege?

    I mean, I try to use that privilege when I can to help those without that privilege, but this isn't a zero sum game.

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    I can only guess how tiring and stressful it is for those without some of these advantages to deal with on a daily basis.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Truth. My mother was in a wheelchair for a long time while I was growing up, and though the reason was awful, and I'm grateful for the early lesson in seeing the world as it really is. To wit, not very accessible, even when someone angrily insists that it is. Much the time, "wheelchair accessible routes" are a long, twisting tour of the back corridors of some building, or a long steep ramp that that a motorized would struggle to ascend but a manual better be piloted by a friend or an Olympian endurance weightlifter. One time we had to cross a long stretch of seemingly open tarmac at an airport, the door we were supposed to be heading for on the other side not obvious til we got there. Another time, someone called security on us because my mother, now liberated from the chair but still with limited mobility, was using a handicap elevator. Many people think that if they can't see an obvious disability, the person isn't "really disabled".


    And when I was old enough, I was quicker to realize that race equality, LGBT inclusion, and so forth were (whether quietly or just blatantly) much the same way - angry concessions that often punished those who dared to claim them. It made me more humble, and a better person, and it scares me to think that if I hadn't been born as a closeted bisexual with a cripple for a mother, the cocoon of my other privileges could easily have blinded me to ever noticing any of this until too late in life. If you have a certain skin color in this country, the highway that leads to false centrism is wide and well-camouflaged.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    You are not to blame for the privileges you have or have not.
    I bet idiots are not going to read this part and still get mad.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Might be a replicant Emily Lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Worldtraveller View Post
    Good explanation. I anticipate the usual suspects coming here to deny privilege even exists, or ignoring this thread altogether.

    What I don't understand, is why it seems worth the effort to deny such an obvious and demonstrable thing exists. It's not my fault I'm a white guy, so why pretend that doesn't come with some inherent privilege?

    I mean, I try to use that privilege when I can to help those without that privilege, but this isn't a zero sum game.
    I honestly think a lot of it has to do with the term coined for this phenomenon. There were pre-existing meanings of the word "privilege", which implied a silver spoon upbringing and having everything handed to one. Privileges were special gifts only handed out to a few.

    So when it gets used to describe a very wide swath of people, it's very difficult to communicate a new and nuanced meaning of the term for that. It's a fairly instinctual response - it's one I struggled with when I first ran across it. My reaction was defensive, because I grew up poor and struggling, and it's taken a lot of work and effort to get where I am, and I resented being told (in my eyes) that I didn't deserve what I had accomplished because it was all just the magical gift of some privilege. It took a lot of patience on the part of other people, and a lot of research on my own, to get a better grasp of it.

    I genuinely think that if a brand new word had been coined for this, there would have been a lot less pushback and objection.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Emily Lake View Post
    I genuinely think that if a brand new word had been coined for this, there would have been a lot less pushback and objection.
    Or maybe some people just whine too much.

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    Might be a replicant Emily Lake's Avatar
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    Excellent atticle!

    This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
    Fantastic analogy

    I also liked the follow-ups to the comments, particularly this one:
    12. You wrote the article and pointed out the straight white men live life on the lowest difficulty setting. Okay, fine. What do I/we do next?

    Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it? What I’m doing is pointing out a thing. What you do with that thing is your decision.

    That said, here’s what I do: recognize it, and work to make it so the more difficult settings in life becomes closer to the one I get to run through life on — by making those less difficult, mind you, not making mine more so.
    I've tried to make that point to people over the years. The point is not to take privilege away, or to punish people who have privilege. The objective is to extend that privilege to everyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Worldtraveller View Post
    Good explanation. I anticipate the usual suspects coming here to deny privilege even exists, or ignoring this thread altogether.

    What I don't understand, is why it seems worth the effort to deny such an obvious and demonstrable thing exists. It's not my fault I'm a white guy, so why pretend that doesn't come with some inherent privilege?

    I mean, I try to use that privilege when I can to help those without that privilege, but this isn't a zero sum game.
    Differences exist. Duh! The problem with these arguments is that it's just the disparate outcome argument in different clothes. Disparate outcome does not prove discrimination, it only suggests areas to check for discrimination.

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