Most of the time I prefer to mock Social Justice Warriors. Yes, I know, it’s probably petty, but they aren’t exactly welcoming of debate (you racist!), and so satire is the only real vehicle left to those of us who oppose them. Today, however, I will endeavor to rationally deconstruct their notion of privilege for the benefit of others.
If you read this little gem, Dear White, Straight, Cisgender, Man People: You Are Privileged, you will see the lunacy in all its obscene glory. This is a site that deliberately invokes a sort of childish air, with its hand-scrabble cartoons, preschool fonts and overall nursery-rhyme appearance appropriate for the infantile generation of coddled Social Justice advocates.
To the headline, I can only say: duh. Of course you are privileged. Anyone who is reading this is privileged. You have a computer or mobile device, you probably live in a First World country and there is a high probability you are in the upper 10% of income-earners worldwide. Your skin color and your sex are both irrelevant to that point. Being charitable to this fellow, I’ll even concede that, a few decades ago, White people definitely got a better shake in America, generally speaking, than their darker-complected counterparts. Certainly they did in the era of Jim Crow and slavery. Women, likewise, had less freedoms than men at one point. The important question, however, is what can you do about it? Without a practical time machine, your options for correcting the wrongs are rather limited. You are closing the barn door after the horses have left.
The author of that piece tells us:
We don’t see ourselves in the protagonists of Worlds Not So Greatest Hits, from the Crusades to the Slave Trade. “The Holocaust was us, but that wasn’t me. It was just a bunch of horrible people who happen to share almost all the same identities. Why are you all trying to make me feel so guilty?”
I get it. It bites. We used to just be people, then suffrage made us men and civil rights made us white and Harvey Milk made us straight and now “Janet Mock, what is this, you’re telling me I’m cis? I’m more than just a bunch of checked off boxes.”
We don’t see ourselves this way because none of us did those things. I never owned any slaves. I have no idea if my ancestors ever did or not (note, also, that slave owners were a single-digit percentage of Southern inhabitants — most Whites were not slave owners). I do know my relatives fought against those who perpetrated the Holocaust. Social Justice Warriors seem to forget that Whites are not a monolithic block of people anymore than those they claim to fight for. Some Whites did great wrongs. Other Whites fought and died to stop those people. Approximately 750,000 people died fighting in the American Civil War. Most of them were Whites. They aren’t privileged, and they never were, because they were killed, unless SJWs want to suggest that a dead soldier has privilege.
The Crusades are much more complicated than Social Justice advocates seem to think they are. The old Roman Empire, contrary to what you may have read in your high school history textbook, still existed in the 6th century. It had lost a lot of ground to Germanic invaders, but the Germans had long before converted to Christianity and were integrating into Roman political life. The Christian world was on the rebound:
Then Islam arrived, conveniently invading the Empire after it just got done winning a devastating war with the Persian Empire. Over the next few centuries, the Arabs conquered Palestine, Syria, Northern Africa, Egypt, Spain and most of the islands of the Mediterranean. History likes to call the rump of what remained of the Roman Empire the Byzantine Empire. Here’s what was left of it just prior to the Crusades:
The Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I, called the Pope for help, knowing that without military support what was left of the old Empire would soon fall. The Crusades were the immediate result. Don’t get me wrong, Crusaders were an unruly lot, violent and murderous (the Muslim armies were too, by the way). Alexius was wary of them, for good reason. A century and a half later, they attacked the Empire they were supposedly protecting and gutted it. But, nonetheless, the Crusaders were a response to Islamic aggression and conquest. The point is, the Social Justice movement ought to read their history before adding it to a list of supposed White oppressive activity.
Because of who you were born to be — because of who we were born to be — we are handed a lot of things. Among them, we can live openly, in safety, be employed and be ourselves and nobody can ever legally tell us not to be. There are a few ways we can react to this. We can feel guilty. We can feel lucky. We can ignore it all and and pretend it’s a liberal conspiracy and continue living blissfully.
I can’t speak for everyone, naturally. But I was not handed very much in life. It is true, I live in a First World country, and for that I am supremely thankful. But, I imagine, so does the author of this piece. When I was 18, I left the house with a bicycle, some clothes and a couple hundred bucks. I was pretty poor and broke for a decade after, but rose up out of it and do pretty well for myself now. My Whiteness, my genitals… they did not get me a fast track to Harvard, piles of money or a house in the Hamptons.
Minority people have action groups, advocacy panels and leaders in the spotlight. Activists engage on their behalf everywhere you turn. Are you a transperson? A vegan? A woman? A Black person? There is a support group for you. Scholarships for you. Preferential admission. Even suggesting that a White Male should have any of those things is considered Racist or Sexist. White advocacy groups are considered by the media and the population at large to likely be White supremacist organizations, regardless of whether not they are.
But there was a time in Western world where Whites did, truthfully, have a lot more rights than others. Yet this is true today of non-White countries. Japan, for instance, has very restrictive immigration laws. Becoming a Japanese citizen is almost impossible for someone who is not ethnically Japanese. So even if I have White privilege, it’s contextual. It exists only so long as I am in a majority-White country. Even then it is not universal. Go play pickup basketball in the ghetto. Whites will be chosen last, and ribbed extensively. I don’t really care. If I want to play basketball, I’m not terribly concerned about being teased a bit. But, there it is, basketball privilege. Even Larry Bird took a lot of shit for being White.
So what Social Justice Warriors are really saying is that there is a tendency, all things being equal, for groups of people to prefer others of their group. To that I can only say: duh!
Illegal immigration from Mexico to America is very common and only lightly punished when discovered (you might get deported). However, an American trying to sneak into Mexico is likely to find himself in a Mexican prison for a very long time. Yet any attempt to curb illegal immigration in America is decried as racist. Mexico wishes to remain Mexican, and that is not seen as odd or inappropriate. America wishing to remain American is seen as a terrible evil. Indeed, wherever large numbers of Whites move into a non-White country, it is seen (perhaps rightly) as colonialism. The reverse is seen as a desirable righting of an ancient wrong. It’s a double-standard. If you believe free immigration from the Third World to the First World is good, then you should support the reverse as well, since both would result in the same end: a mixture of peoples and wealth. Social Justice Warriors only support this one way.
Why is that wrong? Well, let’s get down to the meat of the thing: wealth. That’s what it’s always about, isn’t it? Africa is poor, the Middle East is little better. Asia is a mixed bag, with some advanced economies like Japan and South Korea, and some cesspits of poverty. The West, overall, has done better in the last 500 years than anyone else. Why? Science, engineering and philosophy exploded in the Western world, from the Renaissance on to today. Progressively freer markets encouraged it. This created an explosion of opportunity unparalleled in human history. We called it the Industrial Revolution.
But is this privilege? If we use the SJW definition of privilege, no.
But allowing yourself to continue uncritically experiencing unearned privileges in your life is perpetuating oppression complicitly. A decision to do nothing is action in support of bigotry.
Social Justice Advocates see privilege as an advantage that is unearned. SJWs also see people in terms of groups, i.e. you are responsible for righting the wrongs of your racial compatriots. So, using that logic, the wealth of the Western world was actually earned, at least in part, by the advancement of knowledge and technology. People like Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla created the conditions in which Western standards of living raced ahead of the rest of the world. Furthermore, these discoveries have already been shared with the rest of the world, resulting in most parts of the world seeing a net gain in their standards of living when compared to, say, a millenia ago.
In Alexander the Great’s day, Greeks made it all the way to India, where they were called the Yavanas. Indians did not particularly care for the Greeks. The Greeks did not understand the caste system, had a habit of waging war against people they didn’t like, and were considered somewhat barbaric overall. Nonetheless, the Garga-Samhiti text of Indian literature has this to say about the Greeks:
The Yavanas are barbarians yet the science of astronomy originated with them and for this they must be revered like gods.
Whatever ills the Greeks may have brought to India, they also brought advanced astronomy. The Indian people recognized this. Similarly, if Whites brought colonial evils to many parts of the world, so they also brought technology and knowledge with them. Social Justice Advocates focus on the bad without acknowledging the good. Every wrong must be righted, but every right must be censored. Furthermore, what other society on Earth allows so many immigrants from completely different races and cultures? If you tried applying Social Justice in Saudi Arabia, at best you would be laughed out of town. At worst, you would be stoned to death. And don’t even ask about immigration. Where are women treated the best? Where are immigrants welcomed the most?
The reality is, as it always has been where human beings are concerned, there are good and bad people everywhere. People also tend to cluster in groups of others they see as racially, culturally, religiously and/or ideologically similar to them. This is not always bad, but it certainly can go bad. Be wary of accepting group identity politics. You are responsible for your own actions, no more, no less.
Everyone has privilege. The tall Black man has basketball privilege. The rich White guy has wealth privilege. The hot girl has hotness privilege. The man born to a family of musicians has musician privilege. Etc… Anyone born in a First World nation has first-world privilege. You cannot ever level all of these things. In attempting to compensate for being human, you become inhuman. Two wrongs will never make a right. Fairness is not possible. Equality of outcome is a myth. All you can do is try to be just and good to those you meet. Follow the golden rule as best you can.
So yes, you are privileged. I don’t know you. I don’t know your skin color, your gender, your sexuality or even what country you live in. But no matter who you are, where you are and what you are, there is something that you have that no one else has, because you are human. That does not, by itself, make you a victim or an oppressor.
Social Justice Warriors are neither social (for they are prone to crying racism, sexism, etc… instead of having civil conversation) nor unbiased arbiters of justice (if you’re white and male you are guilty by default). They definitely aren’t warriors. And their narrative requires willful blindness and ignorance of history to believe.