Tag Archives: privilege

I’ll say three quick things. One, is to acknowledge your privilege. […] If you are an ally and can’t see your privilege, then you actually can’t commit to the work. That is a prerequisite for you to commit to this work. ‘Cause that’s how we differ. You have the privilege of being seen as the standard of what it means to be human in a way that Mike Brown, Kajieme, and Vonderrit did not. And you need to sit with that; you need to own that privilege and see it and once you do that you can move in that privilege in a way that is so powerful because you get to be the standard-bearer, and while we destroy the idea that ‘white’ is standard, it will necessitate people doing that from inside the privilege.

–DeRay McKesson, on the role of white allies

(via QueerIntersectional)


You won’t have interesting conversations or discoveries in your comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong — your comfort zone is a perfectly good place to hang out in when you’re enjoying a good novel or relaxing with friends. But your comfort zone can’t handle you working through your internalized oppression or facing messed up truths about yourself and the world around you. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to actively seek out your own discomfort in manageable doses. We tend to get uncomfortable when we learn that we’re contributing to a problem, benefiting from privilege, or feeling powerless to effect change. And that discomfort often leads us to avoid reflecting and acting on these parts of our lives, or having important conversations with people. We can’t afford to avoid all of our discomforts. There will always be someone or something to unsettle us, to remind us that the world is full of injustices that lifetimes of fighting by countless people haven’t eradicated.

5 Steps to Unlearning a Lifetime of Patriarchal Lies — Everyday Feminism

(via because i am a woman)

Literature on trolling has only begun, as I have found while I try to narrow down the scope of the project. A 2002 academic study of trolling in a feminist discussion group formed in the early days of the internet articulated a vision of trolling that we’ve all come to know too well: people exploit free speech and feminists’ desire to be inclusive by disrupting discussion and creating intragroup conflict. Definitions have since emerged that name trolling as disruptive behavior that seeks to shut down a space or conversation. After viewing all of the messages I’ve collected, I would take it a step further and label trolling it as more serious than just being rude: trolling actions seeks reinforce the power of dominant groups and maintain negative narratives about marginalized communities. While trolls attack anyone they disagree with, people from marginalized communities have long pointed out that they are more likely to be targets of trolling that people with more privileged backgrounds and positions.

Essentially, trolls are trying to shut people up—and they seem to think that people who are historically at a disadvantage in the real world will have less power to fight back online. In my case, this goes for fat women, but women of color have often spoken up about experiencing daily trolling that’s similar to what I’ve experienced while collecting data for my project. Mikki Kendall, co-founder of website Hood Feminism, has spoken about the trolling she experienced after creating the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. She has become a target for both trolls and some feminists after challenging the exclusionary tactics that many feminists participate in by ignoring how the intersection of multiple identities changes the experiences women have due to race, body size, class status, gender identity, etcetera. Many people may not frame the backlash as trolling, but I would argue that since they are reinforcing the very system Kendall is challenging, their actions are trollish. What we begin to see is a pattern of abuse—trolling replicates social structures that oppress some while privileging others.

Trolls Don’t Just Want to be Rude—They Want Power Over Us | Bitch Media

(via Polycule)


These discussions may feel like “playing” to you, but to many people in the room, it’s their lives you are “playing” with. The reason it feels like a game to you is because these are issues that probably do not directly affect you. It doesn’t matter whether most mass shootings are targeted at women who rejected the gunman if you are a man – though it should, since misogyny kills men too. If you are white, it doesn’t matter whether people of color are being racially profiled or not. You can attach puppet strings to dialogues about real issues because at the end of the day, you can walk away from the tangled mess you’ve exacerbated.

An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate

(via because i am a woman)

The politics of privilege have made the important contribution of signaling how the structures of oppression constitute who we are as persons. However, as the rituals of confessing privilege have evolved, they have shifted our focus from building social movements for global transformation to individual self-improvement. Furthermore, they rest on a white supremacist/colonialist notion of a subject that can constitute itself over and against others through self-reflexivity. While trying to keep the key insight made in activist/academic circles that personal and social transformation are interconnected, alternative projects have developed that focus less on privilege and more the structures that create privilege.

These new models do not hold the ‘answer,’ because the genealogy of the politics of privilege also demonstrates that our activist/intellectual projects of liberation must be constantly changing. Our imaginations are limited by white supremacy, settler colonialism, etc., so all ideas we have will not be ‘perfect.’ The ideas we develop today also do not have to be based on the complete disavowal of what we did yesterday because what we did yesterday teaches what we might do tomorrow. Thus, as we think not only beyond privilege, but beyond the sense of self that claims privilege, we open ourselves to new possibilities that we cannot imagine now for the future.

Andrea Smith, The Problem with “Privilege”

(via the dopest ethiopienne)

When people with privilege hear that they have privilege, what they hear is not, ‘Our society is structured so that your life is more valued than others.’ They hear, ‘Everything, no matter what, will be handed to you. You have done nothing to achieve what you have.’ That’s not strictly true, and hardly anyone who points out another’s privilege is making that accusation. There are privileged people who work very hard. The privilege they experience is the absence of barriers that exist for other people.

…If a discussion about privilege serves any purpose, it is so that the privileged recognize their own and are then compelled to work to dismantle the structures that have bestowed privilege upon them. In order to do so, one would have to recognize the call to ‘check your privilege’ as less of a personal attack, because it is not. It’s a wake-up call to action.

Mychal Denzel Smith, No One Cares If You Never Apologize for Your White Male Privilege

(via the dopest ethiopienne)

When coming out puts us at an economic disadvantage and in danger, it isn’t our responsibility alone to challenge society. It is the responsibility for cis- and heterosexual people to step up. We call coming out ‘bravery’ with little analysis or discussion of exactly why that is, and in doing so we create a cultural expectation that puts so many people in dangerous, harmful situations. So often those of us who are out and safe, forget the dangers others face. We villianize and further ostracize those who are closeted as though it isn’t a painful decision made with intimate knowledge of one’s own circumstances.

So this is a call to arms. For out LGBTQ members and allies, celebrating our ‘coming out’ isn’t enough. Your congratulations for ‘living my life bravely’ didn’t help me pack my bags when I had to leave my parent’s home. It hasn’t housed me when I faced homelessness for loving and losing that love. We need more. We need you to challenge the structures that make living our authentic lives an act of bravery. Show up. Show up for more than marriage equality. Use your voice to be heard in spaces we cannot be. Call out your pastors. Challenge traditions. Do more than celebrate our coming outs and remarking on the tragedy of our deaths. There are moments in between. There is homelessness. There are laws that give businesses the right to deny us service. It isn’t just about us being cowards. It’s about us knowing we still aren’t safe. Before asking us to be brave, allies should require that bravery of themselves. And LGBTQ people need to demand it of them. To my allies: challenge your thought process, challenge your family members, consider your own privilege. Do the work. Show up. Show up before funerals, before we’re out on the street.

Lesli-Ann Lewis, “This Is Coming Out”

(via the dopest ethiopienne)

Recognizing capitalism’s fundamental limitations and inequalities, I have no illusions that individual financial success (which I have never experienced) is a substitute for real freedom because I am not merely concerned about what I possess. Of course I want to be able to pay my bills, but I also want too live in a wold where no one and nothing suffers because of violence, exploitation, and poverty. I cannot really be free if I live in a context where wrong is being carried out in my name, and as a U.S. citizen, the government’s inhumane domestic and foreign policies constantly place me in the undesired position, unless I counter them by speaking out and fighting back. The financial success of a few, even if the are members of racially or sexually oppressed groups, is not justice, but merely privilege.

Barbara Smith, “Doing it from Scratch: The Challenge of Black Lesbian Organizing,” from The Truth that Never Hurts , 170

(via queering the game of life)

Think about what it means to claim a marginalized identity when you don’t have a marginalized experience. Really. Think about it. Don’t just get offended and start crying about identity-policing. Really consider what that means.

Just a suggestion.

The bottom line here is that if you acknowledge your privilege and then just go ahead and do the same things anyhow, you have done absolutely zero things differently from people who don’t acknowledge their privilege at all. Because the outcome is exactly the same. The impact is exactly the same.

–Mia McKenzie, 4 Ways to Push Back Against Your Privilege | Black Girl Dangerous

An Internal Monologue of Reading this Article by Someone My Alma Mater has Clearly Failed to Teach the True Meaning of Privilege

[full text of the article in question]

Intro paragraph: Unnecessary cheap shot at Obama…pointless reference most of your audience won’t get that you threw in there just to sound ‘Princetonian’…oh lawd, we haven’t even finished the first paragraph and you’re equating checking one’s privilege to being apologetic. I’m not sure I can get all the way through this.

…And the second paragraph starts right off with a casual reference to reverse racism, as if that were a thing.

I do not accuse those who “check” me and my perspective of overt racism, although the phrase, which assumes that simply because I belong to a certain ethnic group I should be judged collectively with it, toes that line. But I do condemn them for diminishing everything I have personally accomplished, all the hard work I have done in my life, and for ascribing all the fruit I reap not to the seeds I sow but to some invisible patron saint of white maleness who places it out for me before I even arrive. Furthermore, I condemn them for casting the equal protection clause, indeed the very idea of a meritocracy, as a myth, and for declaring that we are all governed by invisible forces (some would call them “stigmas” or “societal norms”), that our nation runs on racist and sexist conspiracies. Forget “you didn’t build that;” check your privilege and realize that nothing you have accomplished is real.


*Hint: racism is a system of power, and as such marginalized persons cannot, by definition, be racists.* Lol none of your accomplishments are purely personal. Literally no one’s accomplishments are purely personal. “The seeds you sow” are planted in a field your family has been cultivating for years, and I’m guessing they had some help somewhere along the way, if from nothing else than an economic system that wasn’t built upon their unpaid labor and a social system that wasn’t built upon their fundamental exclusion from public spaces and public assistance. But of course you won’t recognize those things, because you’re laughing off the “very idea” that “our nation runs on racist and sexist conspiracies.”

…I can’t tell if this 3rd paragraph is a glimmer of hope or if the sarcasm just isn’t coming through as well as it could on paper. *continues reading with extremely cautious optimism*

…I put too much faith in strangers on the internet.

Because I am in a hotel room in Stony Creek, Virginia and have literally nothing else to be doing right now, I’m going to take the time to break this down for this person, because these are the things I spent my time at our shared University learning to understand.

The word “privileged” does not mean that no hardships have ever befallen you or your kin. It doesn’t mean that you’ve never been the victim of violence for some inherent characteristic about you, be it your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, or whatever. Privileges exist along literally every social characteristic that a person possesses, so the vast majority of human beings in this world are privileged in some ways and disadvantaged in others. Being told to “check your privilege” in regards to a certain statement you’ve made does not entail that the person who told you to do so thinks that you and all your ancestors have floated down on a fluffy cloud of privilege through history. Rather, being told to “check your privilege” is simply today’s shorthand for telling you that there are alternative perspectives than your own that your previous statement(s) or action(s) suggest an unjust level of disregard concerning.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to take a moment to recognize the significance of the atrocities your grandparents faced during the Holocaust, as well as the struggle they endured after emigrating to the United States. Those are real and valid and should not be glossed over…

…but they don’t erase your privilege. See, the thing about privilege is it’s rooted in those “invisible forces” you called “stigmas” and “societal norms” complete with the scare quotes. You are certainly correct in saying that coming from a family whose history includes physically and psychologically violent religious persecution is not a privilege. But that’s about the last place I can agree with you, because your personal history then continues:

“Perhaps my privilege is that those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other…”

Pause. My Spidey sense is tingling. Fun fact: emigrating to the United states and being able to obtain US citizenship—and then exercise your rights as a US citizen—were, in fact, privileges that only people of certain racial categories had access to in the 1930s.

“Maybe my privilege is that they worked hard enough to raise four children, and to send them to Jewish day school and eventually City College.”

A more radical version of me might call “Jewish day school” a privilege in and of itself in the same country that literally beat my ancestors’ ethnic heritage out of their systems, but I digress on that point. Rather, I will note that emigrating to the United States guaranteed your grandparents the safety and protection of the US government after the atrocities in Nazi Germany, while the grandparents of people who look like me were being purposefully injected with syphilis courtesy of the US Public Health Service’s experiments at the Tuskegee Institute. Also, I’m glad you mentioned that your father and aunts and uncles were all able to attend City College, a university that didn’t have an open admissions policy aimed at racial and ethnic integration until 1970; while your father and his siblings were able to attend City College, my father would have been turned away simply due to the color of his skin. That is the definition of systemic privilege—an ability one person has over another person due to some inherent and unalterable characteristic around which society as a whole or some particular social institution, such as higher education, is constructed.

Having privilege doesn’t mean no one in your family worked a day in his life. It doesn’t mean that you’ve never had to make sacrifices. It doesn’t mean that your achievements “aren’t real.” It means that those little invisible social forces gave you and yours a helping hand somewhere along the way, sometimes in really obvious ways like racially discriminatory admissions policies. Sometimes, though, this helping hand is more covert: for instance, I assume that this wicker-basket making business that your grandfather ran was run out of some sort of storefront, no? In that case, I would call it a privilege that he didn’t have to fight to hold that space in something like Harlem’s Real Estate Race War, and that it wasn’t looted and burned down because a man like him had more wealth and prestige than the men who were used to being in power, like happened to Black entrepreneurs in Greenwood, a neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The means of successful entrepreneurship in this country have always been linked to having been born on the right side of a racist society. For a second example, check out Princeton professor Devah Pager’s book Marked, which details how business owners, who are overwhelmingly white males due to the history we just discussed, are more likely to hire whites with a criminal record than people of other races with a clean background; chances are, the color of your father’s skin helped him get that good job he’s been working hard at for the past 25 years.

Thus, I find your summarizing argument that

“That’s the problem with calling someone out for the “privilege” which you assume has defined their narrative. You don’t know what their struggles have been, what they may have gone through to be where they are. Assuming [the people you call privileged have] benefitted from “power systems” or other conspiratorial imaginary institutions denies them credit for all they’ve done, things of which you may not even conceive. You don’t know whose father died defending your freedom. You don’t know whose mother escaped oppression. You don’t know who conquered their demons, or may still conquering them now.”

to be fundamentally flawed. One should never assume one understand the details of another’s narrative, true, but I think you’re missing the point of the multifaceted structure that is social privilege. I don’t need to know your whole family history to know that there are ways in which the social institutions that determine quality of life in this country have favored people whose identity categories align with many of yours. And when I, or anyone else, asks you to check your privilege, we aren’t asking for an apology. The simplest way I can explain this to you is that we’re asking you to recognize that everything that happens in your life is influenced by what happened in the lives of your parents, your parents’ parents, and your peers’ parents, and their parents’ parents, which means that, historically speaking, the ability to work hard and have that hard work turn into sustainable capital gains that increase your family’s quality of life and educational opportunity is, in and of itself, a privilege.