Think for a Change (18): Being a Good, Straight, White Man

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5 thoughts on “Think for a Change (18): Being a Good, Straight, White Man

  1. I think this video hit the nail on the head for my disdain for “Privilege”, not because of how accurate it is, but because of how far off the mark it was. You didn’t smack your thumb, you broke a window 2 doors down.
    There are two very important concepts to look at Privilege and disadvantage. Privilege is having it better than you should. Disadvantage is having it worse than you should. Talking about privilege is saying that I have it better than I should, not that the other group has it worse than they should. when you talk about my “Privilege” of not being looked down upon because of my race….that is not privilege. No one should be looked down upon due to race or gender. Being looked down upon is a disadvantage. Whites and men have little to no “Privilege” we do not have it better than we should, every one should be treated the way we treat white men. Groups that are not treated like white men have disadvantages.
    Framing the points in terms of “Privilege” puts the focus on tearing men and whites down, not building up women and minorities. Framing the points in terms of “Privilege” creates and Us Vs Them mentality that harms everyone. Framing the point in terms of “Privilege” places the bar in the wrong place. We don’t need whites treated like blacks. We need the blacks treated like whites. We don’t need men treated like women, we need women treated like men. Calling Whites and men “Privileged” sets the bar at women and blacks. We need a society where no one is looked down upon due to race or gender (the way we treat whites and men), not one where every one is looked down upon due to race and gender.

    • It’s interesting to me that we seem to agree on some things, namely that “No one should be looked down upon due to race or gender.” However, I think it’s obvious that we have different takes on what we mean by ‘privilege’ (and, again, I think you would agree with that much). There are many layers to your comment that I think would need to be fully addressed in order for us to come to a better understanding of one another, but perhaps the most important difference that we have is related to the historical development of privilege and disadvantage that I think is crucially important for us to appreciate. For instance, white men (to be very general) became dominant through certain practices that enabled them to gain power over others. That power is still evidenced today, even if in subtle ways, and it is because people don’t start out on equal footing that some are privileged while others are disadvantaged. Where we really diverge, then, is when you say, “We don’t need whites treated like blacks. We need the blacks treated like whites. We don’t need men treated like women, we need women treated like men.” I understand that you are trying to avoid “degrading” those in dominant positions by “tearing them down,” but I think suggesting that blacks/women (and other disadvantaged groups) problematically misses the significance of how whites/men got to where they are. If that process involves domination, injustice (and I think it does) then it won’t be so simple to say that we need to treat everyone like whites/men, because that would seem to imply that we’d be “tearing people down” via domination and injustice. (Again, I think it is clear that this is precisely what you oppose, and I agree. I’m not for either.)

      I don’t know if there is a more simple way to say these things. Maybe another way to put it is like this: When you say, “We need a society where no one is looked down upon due to race or gender (the way we treat whites and men)” this implies that to be white or to be a man is neutral ground. But that isn’t the case. Whiteness and maleness are not neutrally evaluated characteristics–they’re viewed as a “positive” (preferential treatment follows from this privilege, among other things). If there was no bias and no prejudice based on such things, then we’d really be in a much more desirable state (and I think you agree). However, I don’t think that avoiding the talk of privilege is at all helpful for getting there.

      Thanks for taking to time to write a comment.

      • We do need to look at the process of domination, not so that we can negate the affects, but so that we don’t repeat them. Identifying “White Male Privilege” as a thing, is repeating the process of domination, not undermining it.

        I think we disagree an a very basic and fundamental thing. Male and White are not viewed as positives. They are viewed as neutral. Black and woman are viewed as negatives. This does mean White and male is viewed more positively than black or woman, but does not make White or Male a positive.

  2. Hi, and thanks for writing! Ultimately, I agree with you. I do think that the big picture has to be seen and accepted for there to be some serious changes. However, these ideas are specifically addressing those who appear to want to reject the unjust hierarchies and who think that they already do in their actions. For those who want to be traitors, then, and assuming that they are already on board with the larger project, the next step is to be able to identify how social dominance becomes a habituated way of being for they may have not yet recognized that they are still participating in the "status quo", despite their best intentions. But again, I agree with you. As far as speaking to the other portion of the population who doesn't question the values that ground social hierarchy, this will not be enough.

  3. This doesn't seem radical enough to me. As a white male in the south, I think you are assuming that the moral hierarchy on which bad-scripts are based has been widely rejected, and that all there is left to do is to recognize and replace bad scripts with PC scripts. But the moral hierarchy — which places straight-white-males above women, gays, and other people (and which places non-human animals so far down the list that their pain doesn't matter at all) — tends to get in the way. At some point people just have to get the big picture: that there is no morally relevant attribute possessed by straight-white-males that makes them inherently more deserving of a good life than . Without some theoretical house cleaning, people will find it extremely hard to recognize bad scripts, much less have the motivation to replace them. If one can explain to someone why it's wrong to eat meat — and vegan-ism is the ultimate PC behavior — it it will then be easier for them (and everyone who asks) to understanding why the more subtle scripts you discuss are harmful to other people, because the entire hierarchy is now questioned.

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