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Thread: The Concept of Privilege

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    The Concept of Privilege

    In another thread, I made reference to various ways in which I feel our society/culture privileges me in ways that it does not privilege others, and the requirement my moral code places on me to recognize that and do what I can to help balance the scales. Almost immediately after the post, the discussion was buried in a sea of accusations of "self-loathing," "guilt trips" and various other things that had absolutely nothing to do with what I was saying. No amount of trying to reset the discussion helped. So I'm going to start a fresh thread to explore this concept, with the hopes that what I am actually trying to say is heard and not, again, buried in meanings and ideas that are NOT part of what I am saying.

    I do not need to "feel guilty" to acknowledge that I have been privileged in ways that I did nothing to earn. Indeed, the primary feeling I experience is thankfulness, not guilt. I also do not need to "feel guilty" because I recognize that someone else does not have access to those privileges. I didn't do anything to create that situation, so I have nothing to feel guilty about. I do not need to loathe myself to recognize I have been privileged, nor do I need to loathe myself to recognize when someone else does not have access to those privileges.

    Sometimes, the "privilege" is nothing more or less than a circumstance. My parents stayed married, and I had both of them throughout my youth, and through to my mid-fifties. They were not rich, but I was never hungry, never truly lacked for any need, had my health seen to, and had a comfortable (though small) and safe home. Although I was born with two fairly serious physical defects, my parents had the contacts to deal with them medically, and the healthcare coverage (due to their jobs) to pay for it. These are forms of privilege that are "circumstances" for which I am grateful, and that gratitude is part of why I find myself wanting to find an help those who did not find themselves with those kinds of circumstantial privileges.

    Then there are some kinds of privilege that are more ingrained in our culture/system/society. When we live in a culture/family that teaches "X," we assimilate "X" often without even being conscious of it. That then colors how we behave going forward, sometimes even unconsciously. These are the things we know as "implicit bias." They don't make us bad people. They make us human - stewed in the behaviors of our culture. The behaviors and attitudes transcend generations, and are notoriously difficult to work out of the culture. Several researchers at Harvard found an objective way to actually measure implicit bias. It's called Project Implicit. I referenced it in my previous posts. I won't explain it again here unless someone has questions about it.

    I believe it is incumbent on me to look for every way in which imlicit bias affects our society. I want to know when it is present in a way that negatively affects me (disdvantages), and when it is present in a way that positively affects me (privileges). The evidence that these biases exist in our culture as unequivocal to me. I cannot ignore it. The evidence that it exists in racial, gender, ethinic, sexual-orientation, religious, and class-based domains is crystal clear. I know I am not free of it because I took the Project Implicit tests and valued the feedback. I know it is present in the people around me - it cannot NOT be.

    For us to look for and try to correct these biases is nothing more or less than acting justly, so that all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social class have the same possibilities, affected only by random circumstance, and not systemic bias. This is what I think. This is how I try to live. Wanting to be better than I am today is not rooted in guilt or self-loathing. I do not have to say "I am horrible and I suck" to say "I want to be better tomorrow than I am today." I do not have to wallow in guilt to say "I want our culture/society to be better tomorrow than it is today." After all, the best atheletes in the world STILL keep trying to be better on the next run/swim/game. Wanting to be better does not mean I think I am bad.
    Last edited by carpedm9587; 01-28-2018 at 10:19 PM.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    -Martin Luther King

  2. Amen Starlight, Leonhard, stfoskey15 amen'd this post.
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    Professor Cerebrum123's Avatar
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  4. Amen Jedidiah amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    As I recall, what got you in trouble in the other thread was embracing the term "white privilege" and all the racist, anti-white baggage that goes along with it. I notice you were careful not to use that term here, so maybe there's hope.

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    tWebber Darth Executor's Avatar
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    you don't want to be better than you are today tho
    "As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths." Isaiah 3:12

    There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

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    Professor KingsGambit's Avatar
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    The main instance of privilege in society is that of money - Baptist blogger picked up on this when he blogged on why there isn't discussion on "rich privilege".

    It's expensive to be poor; not having the ability to call in to work when sick, not being able to save up for emergencies - those are very real things that should be discussed instead of academic theorizing about the approximate value of the amount of melanin in one's skin.
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

  8. Amen Starlight, stfoskey15 amen'd this post.
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    What's that? lilpixieofterror's Avatar
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    Problem with your theory is that advantages turn into disadvantaged within a given situation. Want examples, if itís cold outside, is it the man or the women that is having to do things out in it? As a white male, do you think it would be a good idea to hang out in Compton, after dark? Fact is youíre making it too simple. About everything can carry advantages or disadvantages all depending on the circumstances of the situation.
    "The man from the yacht thought he was the first to find England; I thought I was the first to find Europe. I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."
    GK Chesterton; Orthodoxy

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    tWebber Mountain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilpixieofterror View Post
    Problem with your theory is that advantages turn into disadvantaged within a given situation. Want examples, if itís cold outside, is it the man or the women that is having to do things out in it? As a white male, do you think it would be a good idea to hang out in Compton, after dark? Fact is youíre making it too simple. About everything can carry advantages or disadvantages all depending on the circumstances of the situation.
    Yep. It's not as though one demographic has only advantages, and another has only disadvantages. Everybody has to deal with advantages and disadvantages in life. Your success in life depends on how you deal with the hand you're dealt. Anybody who thinks they can't get ahead because they're not "privileged" enough is believing a lie.

  11. Amen alaskazimm amen'd this post.
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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilpixieofterror View Post
    Problem with your theory is that advantages turn into disadvantaged within a given situation. Want examples, if itís cold outside, is it the man or the women that is having to do things out in it? As a white male, do you think it would be a good idea to hang out in Compton, after dark? Fact is youíre making it too simple. About everything can carry advantages or disadvantages all depending on the circumstances of the situation.
    I have never said that individuals aren't affected differently in different circumstances. There are privileged people of color, and disadvantaged people who are white. There are circumstances where any gender can be advantaged, and circumstances where any gender can be disadvantaged. Treating individuals on the basis of trends is a form of discrimination, whatever their skin color.

    But when we find systemic disadvantage/privilege, it is incumbent on us to raise awareness, and counter it. Two examples I gave in other threads were about resume pre-screening on the basis of names, and hiring of musicians into orchestras. In the first case, studies showed that resumes with non-white sounding names (hispanic, african american, etc.) regularly failed to pass prescreening at higher rates than white-sounding names. This happened regardless of the race, gender, or ethnicity of the screener. When the same resumes were "blinded" (i.e., names obscured), they passed prescreening (with the same sample population) at statistically equivalent rates. This indicates an implicit bias at work. It means that a person with a white-sounding name immediately has an advantage at securing these jobs, because their resume is more likely to pass prescreening. Education helps, but encouraging a practice of blinding resumes as standard business practice is even more effectice.

    With orchestras, studies showed that men passed initial screening for placement in orchestras at a higher rate then women almost across the board. However, when the auditions were likewise blinded (so the screeners only could hear the music, without knowing the gender of the player), candidates past the pre-screening at an equivalent rate, again almost across the board. This likewise strongly suggests an implicit bias baked into the system. It means that men have an implicit privilege/advantage, because they are more likely to pass the pre-screening for no other reason than they are male. Again, education and awareness helps, but changing the pre-screenin practices helps the most.

    I think we also have to ask ourselves, "why are these things true?" These are just two in a long list of such examples. So we need to ask ourselves, "what is it about our culture that tends to give white people (or at least those with white-sounding names) the advantage in the first situation, and what is it in our culture that gives men the advantage in the second. What can we change in our society/culture that could affect that dynamic?

    These are the kinds of things we need to be aware of, trace the source, and find solutions that level the field, IMO.
    Last edited by carpedm9587; 01-29-2018 at 12:06 AM.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    -Martin Luther King

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
    Yep. It's not as though one demographic has only advantages, and another has only disadvantages. Everybody has to deal with advantages and disadvantages in life. Your success in life depends on how you deal with the hand you're dealt. Anybody who thinks they can't get ahead because they're not "privileged" enough is believing a lie.
    I have not suggested, in any thread, that any one gender/race/ethnicity/religion/class has "only advantages" or "only disadvantages." I have not suggested we need to feel guilty. I have not suggested we should loathe ourselves. You are arguing against positions that have not been offered, suggested, or defended in any post I have made.

    For the record, the term "white privilege" does not mean "white people are everywhere and always privileged in all circumstances." It means there are specific areas in our culture (e.g., the resume example) for which having white skin (or at least a white-sounding name) implicitly gives one advantage in that circumstance. There are likewise some areas of "black privilege." Frankly, "affirmative action" created an entire class of minority privillege, IMO.
    Last edited by carpedm9587; 01-29-2018 at 12:05 AM.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    -Martin Luther King

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    tWebber carpedm9587's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    The main instance of privilege in society is that of money - Baptist blogger picked up on this when he blogged on why there isn't discussion on "rich privilege".

    It's expensive to be poor; not having the ability to call in to work when sick, not being able to save up for emergencies - those are very real things that should be discussed instead of academic theorizing about the approximate value of the amount of melanin in one's skin.
    Money is a differentiator with respect to privilege, that is clear. We certainly need to deal with the disparity in our society between the richest and poorest. I don't know if anyone could argue successfully against or for the position that it's "the main" instance of privilege - but it is certainly an important one.
    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

    -Martin Luther King

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