In a discussion about feminism, the word privilege came up. White males were asserted to possess the attribute described by that word. The participle being privileged. White males are privileged.

I have several close friends who are white males. Ok, I admit it, I am one myself. As such I’m especially sensitive to issues surrounding that particular classification of people.

The question I asked myself was why that word, privilege, made me feel so bad when I heard it.

The answer was that what I had, I felt that I had by right. Not that I deserved it, especially, in any theological sense, but that it was at least by right that I have it. This stuff being my home and stuff, and general condition of existence. It doesn’t seem wrong.

It is pointed out that I have so many more opportunities than do non white males. I pointed out that because I seek none of those opportunities, neither in career, nor in possessions, that I have personally not felt privileged.

Subsequently it was proposed that I am privileged to be in such a life condition that I have not those materialistic desires.

I became curious why the word privilege was so important a word within this particular conversation.

I recognized that there was a connotation to the idea of privilege, that privilege itself obligates the one privileged.

This illuminated for me an actor behind the argument. Not the messenger, to whom I was speaking directly. Rather, the message. A movement had spoken. Its intention is to obligate white males.

I feel it personally, but did not “take it personally” from the messenger.

I commented that the space of human culture is vast and rich. When there is a special focus on any one thing, all other things – also rich in meaning – must necessarily be given less than their due.

This is a reason to avoid having a narrow focus too much of the time.

2 Responses to “privilege”

  1. copyexchange Says:

    I had thought privilege could be a positive thing, as in, “It is a privilege to finally make your acquaintance,” or “It is a great privilege to enjoy the solitude of this forest.”

    The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Edition, provides only a negative connotation, saying in part that privilege is, ” … an advantage, an immunity, or a right held as a prerogative of status or rank, and exercised to the exclusion or detriment of others.”

    Regardless, I still consider it a privilege to be part of the human species, and obtain a view of the world unavailable to other beings. I hope that does not make me the oppressor of other beings, though I guess it does in some respects.

  2. John Says:

    When one says, “It is a privilege for to meet you,” the person speaking is admitting of their sense of gratitude that comes with privilege. They are offering a credit to the person, from their own sense of the informal debt that is due to the one addressed.

    On the other hand, when one says, “You are a privileged person,” they are essentially saying that that same debt is due.

    In the first case something is offered; in the second case something is demanded.

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