With the exception of my gender, most of my demographic info falls in the privileged category. I recognize it. I do my level best to be mindful of it. I’m interested in discussions and debate with people who are and are not privileged in the same ways.
But I have to say it really bums me out when the notion of privilege gets bandied around as a way to invalidate someone’s input in these sorts of explorations. I haven’t run afoul of it myself, but I’ve seen a lot of it lately.
If someone’s out of line, rebuttal with a legitimate, reasoned argument is a million times more productive and enlightening than telling them that their race/gender/sexual orientation/what have you means they can’t possibly understand. It’s belittling, it undermines constructive conversation and it promotes isolation and mistrust.
I recently saw a tweet from someone who often supports arguments that use the concept of privilege as a weapon. In the tweet, she used a race-based colloquialism that is considered offensive to some members of the minority it references and then made a sarcastic reference to the “political correctness” police. I was disappointed by the lack of respect from someone who insists on respect from others and the realization that she’s less interested in real examination of privilege and difference than in validating her own position.
Respect is the bottom line. Privilege and related concepts aren’t intended to be weapons in an arsenal, trotted out to dominate an argument. They’re tools for understanding ourselves and others and they’re meaningless if respect isn’t in the equation.