“Privilege”: We Have It Wrong

My friend Cathi has been, of late, struggling with the issue of white privilege, or religious privilege of some sort or heterosexual privilege or something. I, too, have been struggling with the issue. When a therapy magazine came to my house recently and talked about transgender rights and being sensitive to “trans” clients, I said I didn’t need another issue to feel guilty about. Of course, I was burned out at the time, but the thought still stands. I told my wife then, “I know how to treat people” and it’s still true.

So, I may not have this right, but as I understand it, “Privilege” in terms of politics and “the -isms” means this: I have the freedoms and protections guaranteed me under law, and I don’t have to worry about my safety or what I say or what I do in public all the time.

The way I see it, though, the problem is not that I have these rights. The problem is that others don’t. Instead of assuming that I have these rights and others can’t have them — and I don’t want them to have them — why don’t we assume that I should have these rights, that others should have them, and I want them to have them? Because that is the truth. I do, they should, and I want them to.

I get nothing from having my brothers and sisters lose their rights. (OK, I get “privileges” that they don’t. But that assumes there’s only so many rights to go around, and I don’t think that’s how it works.)I get nothing good from oppression. Nothing good comes out of my making your life hell. I don’t like myself, you don’t like me. If you are in the closet, and don’t feel like you can talk about your life partner to a party I’m having, then I lose out on seeing all of what makes you you. I don’t gain anything from that. If you’re trans and you and I don’t get to know each other, I lose, as well as you do. Why is that the norm? If you’re a young Black man and I don’t support your education and you would discover the cure for cancer, how have I gained anything — especially if someone I love (or me) comes down with cancer? If you’re a poor woman and I keep you poor and you develop health problems, I’m going to end up paying more for them, right? What do I get from that?

See, I don’t want to prove I’m an ally. I want to be an ally. I want to be a member of the human race. I want to be a Christian. I want to do what’s right, simply because it’s right. Further, I suspect that I’m not the only one. If you want to ask why someone’s hurting you, ask them. They are abnormal. They are the problem. I could ask them for you, after I stop them from hurting you, but I don’t need the answer. And if you think I’m doing something wrong, something hurtful to you, tell me and I’ll stop. Assume that you have rights, act like you should, and I’ll support you.

Oppression is the problem. My being an ally shouldn’t be.




3 thoughts on ““Privilege”: We Have It Wrong

  1. But see that’s the issues unto itself John. I think some on the left think that because I argue from certain point of view that I don’t want these things as well. I just happen to think we go about them all the wrong way, and that government (bureaucracy) does it particularly badly.

    So, we want to tax the wealthy…great…so long as that actually does what it intended to do (WHICH IT NEVER DOES!!). Otherwise explain why as our spending on education has gone up year over year, our standing in the world with regards to education does down?

    We don’t disagree that people shouldn’t be oppressed. We completely agree on that. Everyone should be given the opportunity, but you can’t guarantee the outcome. The government does a terrible job at this stuff and yet the left seems to want to keep relying on them. A few examples…the war on poverty, the war on drugs, stimulus money for shovel ready jobs (to “fix the crumbling infrastructure”).

    The countries priorities are ridiculous now. Look at what people say about the catholic church? The church believes that homosexuality (remember I am a gay marriage supporter) is a sin…but they believe premarital sex is a sin too. Just because its a sin doesn’t mean that you can’t be catholic…we’re all sinners aren’t we?

    Sorry, I went on a tangent there…but my actual point on the catholic church is that all we hear is the negative about them, but they are also one of the largest charitable organizations in the world. These sorts of charities can go a long way to also helping people get ahead.

    It’s not that we don’t agree that people should have every opportunity possible, it’s how they get there on which we typically are at odds. 🙂

  2. Sean: We liberals spend an awful lot of trouble attacking each other instead of attacking the problems. That’s who I wrote it for. There is so much out there that needs to be done. We know right and wrong and we fight between ourselves instead.

    There is so much middle ground, at least potentially, between left and right. The difference between you and Rush Limbaugh, for instance, is huge. I don’t consider you a right-wing fanatic at all. I also don’t consider “right-wing” and “fanatic” as the same thing. I think you do the same for me and liberals.

    Believing in the power of love and intention is something most people have in common. If you and I are both Christians, that ought to be enough of a bridge to build on. Thanks for the comment.



  3. John, I wish you lived closer as I think you and I could have some epic conversations on religion, morality and just plain old life, liberalism and the pursuit of…sanity.

    Myself, I really don’t think liberals are the same as liberals used to be. In some ways, I am an old school liberal. I’m just not by todays standards.

    I believe we have the responsibility to take care of each other. I try to do that in my daily life. I am just not a big believer in government being the answer to that. They are exceedingly poor at it and it doesn’t matter which party is in control.

    What about Obama is any better at this than Bush? Better speeches?

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