No, you check YOUR privilege: social justice versus academic elitism

I usually spend my lunch hour surfing the web or pooping. That’s just who I am. Today I spent my lunch hour a little differently, though- I spent my 55 minutes of freedom commenting on a Facebook post related to Macklemore and queer oppression. Fun, right? The issue basically centered upon whether or not Macklemore was an appropriate figurehead for the queer rights movement. Some said that because of Macklemore people were focused more upon listening to the heteronormative twist on sexual equality rather than the voices of those actually oppressed by the system. Others said that it is good that we have allies like Macklemore who can use the national stage to help advance the cause of the queer community.

My main problem was not the issue at hand but rather the way people were approaching the dialogue about it. For starters, I cannot tell you how many times the words “appropriation”, “cisgender” and “privilege” were used.  Oh and don’t forget oppression! And it got me thinking about how social justice has become some sort of academic elitism. It’s as if people think that they have more of a right to comment on the issue because they know words like cisgender and privilege. I think college is a great thing. It’s an opportunity for people to explore the world and their minds. But I also think it’s a breeding group for pretentious dickwads. Just because you learned the word “appropriation” in your feminism class doesn’t mean that you are more entitled than others to speak on the subject. Newsflash people, there are usually at least 5 words for 1 concept so just because you use one word that may be “scholarly” doesn’t mean your opinion is anymore valid.

 

If you know me you know that I loathe the word “privilege”. I’ve seen people toss it around in so many situations simply as an attempt to silence the opposition. I understand that there are certain issues people shouldn’t comment on because they lack the knowledge or experience to truly understand them. But I think we’ve come to a point where privileged people are throwing the word at other privileged people. Straight people are allowed to have an opinion on gay rights because gay rights are part of a broader human rights movement.  But time and time again I see queer people essentially bully potential allies. They tell straight people to check their “privilege” when the straight person asks a certain question or voices a certain opinion. They tell them that because they themselves are not a minority that their stance is automatically one of ignorance and misunderstanding. But I think that’s wrong- I think most of us come from a place in privilege. And those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

 

What people learn in college should be used to inform others not antagonize them. Not everyone has the opportunity to attend college. It’s a privilege not a right, unfortunately. And I think people tend to forget that. They forget that they are privileged simply by being in college and they simply regurgitate whatever their teacher says and throw it at other people to belittle them intellectually. You should know though that you aren’t inherently a better person- experience is often a better teacher than any school. And perhaps maybe you should be the one checking YOUR privilege.

 

14 comments

    • You can use college language. The point is that people shouldn’t use it specifically to keep other people out of the conversation. The message of the article is- Don’t be a jerk. There are better ways to get your point across than belittling others because you think you’re better than them.

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  1. But you’re missing a broader picture, some people just care. People are scared of giving a shit about something other than themselves.

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  2. This is awesome. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me to “check my privilege” because I’m white. I’m college educated and I would say pretty open-minded, damnit. I often ask questions not to be an ignorant fool, but to learn more so that I’m NOT an ignorant fool. And who better to answer questions than the people who identify as that minority?

    EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS FAB.

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  3. “But time and time again I see queer people essentially bully potential allies.”

    Will no one think of the poor straight people? Why can’t we just insert our opinions that aren’t based on personal experience or education and have them be worth as much as those with experience and education?

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    • I think when you have a minority group like the queer community you need to have a majority ally in order to create real social change. I’m not saying that straight people necessarily understand our plight and that all of them want to be allies for good reasons. I’m talking about the potential allies that are people who seek to learn more about our community and who are genuinely interested in fighting along side us, not for us. But as someone who identifies as gay, I know firsthand that many queer people (for many different reasons) approach these people with hostility and scold the straight community for asking questions. Now I’m not saying we are obligated to answer every question, especially those that are overly personal or invasive. But if someone is asking a genuine question we should feel compelled to answer it for them or direct them to the right resource so that they don’t get the wrong answer for someone else. I don’t think being hostile is doing anyone any favors.

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  4. Oh yeah? Well how about you DOUBLE-check your privilege?

    Is that your first or second draft? Make sure it has proper spelling and grammar. It’s always good to proof-read one last time before you turn it in, you know.

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    • I am entirely open to constructive criticism and feedback and I almost always respond to comments because I know my opinions and thoughts are not always entirely clear or fully informed. I’m not really sure why I’m responding to your post, however, because it’s nothing but a hostile, rude remark. This is a blog written by a COLLEGE STUDENT. I write what I want and I publish what I want. I don’t always proof read. When you have a busy college schedule and need to constantly be churning out new articles, you don’t always have the time to edit or review. But I’m not angry with you- in fact, your comment only signifies how much this blog has grown since it first started in September. Now I’m getting hate mail from people I don’t even know so if anything at least I know the blog is reaching people.

      Thanks for the sass! It was much appreciated.

      BESOS
      – Connor

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  5. I want to share this on facebook but I’m afraid my friends are going to take it the wrong way because they’re so wrapped up in their points of view. Thanks for writing this.

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  6. I think this “privilege” this has gone overboard, too. In this example, with sexuality and the ability to identify or not; but also in terms of race. i think the college community as a whole forgets that people more strongly identify with their SUBCULTURE. Hippies, Punks, Goths, Ravers and Crustys who all happened to be gay or black or hispanic or asian, et fucking cetera.
    {The gay struggle is not the black struggle for civil rights. I getit, so i’m going to pull the fuse on that before it gets lit. i know your goddamn argument. Put it up your ass.}

    The argument against white/straight privilege disappearing into socially unacceptable is that ascribing to a subculture is a choice. That white people who have tattoos or cultivate dreadlocks or wear all black are essentially “doing it to themselves” insofar as being outcast.

    I understand why people of color may not understand the following point, they have a look that identifies them as a race and they were born with and can do nothing about.
    BUT, the gay community should understand all about people telling you that you have a choice. That your feelings and desires are all what you choose them to be and that no one is naturally gay.

    So, now that the bush is thoroughly beaten, my point:
    When you’re having a discussion with a straight person who essentially shares your core values and uses the same or a similar aesthetic you should assume that they go through similar daily bullshit. I can guarantee you that across the country goths, punks and hippies are being pushed around for wearing makeup or having long hair or liberty spikes or piercings. At this moment they are being called fags and queers and made to feel ashamed because they had the balls to walk out of the house and present themselves to the world in a way that makes them feel whole. start identifying with the subculture. Stop being the queer tribe that lets no one all the way in. Stop talking about normalcy. No one wants that. What do you see when you see a group of frat boys walk by in stone-washed wranglers, columbia shirts and sperry’s? I see normal. Gross.

    Here’s an idea: Go back to the sprit of 69 – drop the labels, no more punks, hippies, goths, crustys, queers… Find all the similarities instead of the differences and unify as one massive subculture under one banner.
    FREAKS!
    Let your flag fly, baby! And when your arms get tired; let whoever wants to fly it for you.

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