Stop Using The Word “Privilege”

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but “privilege” has become the go-to insult to dismiss somebody’s opinion. Use of it skyrockets if the person we’re criticizing is white, male, and straight. It’s almost as if to say “you’re white/male/heteronormative (I fucking hate this word, by the way). You don’t get to complain.” And that is a shitty thing to say.

White male privilege has been done to death. I’m not getting into that. What I am getting into is the notion that it’s proper to ignore somebody’s experiences or opinions just because they are more privileged than you are. “You’re complaining about the price of gas? I don’t even have a car, asshole!”

We’ve somehow gotten it in our head that other people’s problems don’t matter if they’re richer/whiter/straighter than we are. They’re so privileged that the things they worry about are far less important than the things we worry about. The problem is this kind of thinking falls apart very quickly if you plan on keeping the moral high ground.

If I had to guess, this website’s readership is mostly Americans in their 20s and 30s. Think of how other people might consider that a privilege. Just being an American citizen. Because that is a privilege that many people outside the US would die to have. So on top of white, male, and straight privilege, how about we add American privilege?

Every year, ten million foreigners apply for an immigrant visa that is awarded by lottery. The number of visas distributed annually? 55,000. If you’re bad at math, let’s just say that the odds aren’t in your favor. Because there aren’t enough legal immigrant visas to go around, millions of people immigrate to the US illegally because being an illegal in the US is better than staying in whatever shithole they came from. And it’s not hard to understand why.

$35,326. That sounds like a decent salary today, right? If you’re working full time, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re making somewhere around that much. I bring up that specific figure because it translates to $32,500 in 2008. And if you made that much money 6 years ago, you were in the top 1% of income earners for that year. Remember Occupy Wall Street from a few years ago? And how they railed against the 1% in America? It doesn’t feel so good when you’re the 1% compared to somebody else, now does it? Even if you have a full time job making minimum wage ($7.25/h) today, that still translates to being in the top 10% of income earners worldwide.

So when you complain about the cost of gas, or your phone bill, or some inane thing that people in America complain about, just know that there’s somebody in China assembling the iPhone that you’re using to complain for 2 dollars an hour. If you’re allowed to scoff at a guy because women still make 77 cents for every dollar a male earns in the US, what is the average Cambodian entitled to feel when they make just 2 cents for every dollar an American earns?

Think about that the next time you accuse somebody of being privileged whenever they express an opinion that you dislike. Because chances are you’re extremely privileged as well. And somebody else would call you out on your own set of privileges, but they’re too busy getting whipped by their assembly line overseer to leave a snide comment on Thought Catalog. TC mark

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  • http://allenc.com/2015/04/too-many-loaded-terms-did-not-read/ Too Many Loaded Terms; Did Not Read

    […] Upon reflection, I have definitely committed the crime myself in the past, most recently by invoking the now-loaded-term “privilege” in an opinion about whether work can be universally meaningful. That word has been so overused and caricature-ized that even in the right context and with the proper definition and usage, it sends the wrong signals and carries all the baggage that only serves to weaken other points. […]

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