Trigger Warnings – None
So would you believe it, my attempt to lighten the mood by writing an article about comic books seems to have gone down just as well as being the only lepper in the swimming pool, not too many people want to get too close and so as it happens, yesterday was a flounder on the site stats. Lesson learned I guess. Anyway, moving on, I haven’t done anything political in a while, let’s do that shall we? Sorry America, this isn’t going to be about casting your ballots, although do do that, but I want to talk about a common argument of the left-winged amongst us that always falls short, and I apply the term argument generously.
Ever heard the term ‘check your privilege’?. Basically put, it demands that someone shut up and consider how lucky they’ve been in their life and what they have going for them in terms of gender/racial/socio-economic factors that play to their advantage before they make comments such as “The reason poor people are poor is because they don’t work hard enough” or “Women only rally to feminism because they hate men”. Granted, these are stupid comments and are usually attributed to rich white heterosexual men, but telling said individuals to check their privilege is not the way to enlighten them to the struggles of a working class Joe or a lesbian denied her rights to marry. Check your privilege sounds good but it is, in a way, a form of racism because it basically tells your opponent “You are wrong because you are white and rich”. Ok, so what you’re saying there is that they are who they are because of where they come from and certain people from certain walks of life are just stupid? Remind me what we’re fighting for again?
Of course, not every white straight male is a privileged one and whilst I do have to admit I can enjoy some male privileges such as walking around topless if I so please or being more likely to get a job than someone called Stefano just on the basis of my Anglican name, I don’t consider myself all that privileged – working class roots, a life of living on the bread line and despite my advantages, the job market is still not embracing me with a big hug and promoting me up the ranks like it was going out of fashion. If you didn’t know me and told me to check my privilege in an argument, you’d have to make a lot of assumptions – that I’m straight, that I’m cisgendered and so on and so on. Not a great move, you know what they say about assumption, you make an ass out of you and me (Read it aloud, makes sense). You shouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s past and have that be your basis for an argument and you certainly shouldn’t reduce someone to a product of that background, they are, despite what you might think, still human and human hearts can be turned if you know the art to it
I might be the wrong man to make this point but is telling someone to check their privilege not just a horribly cynical point to use in an argument. You hear straight white male and immediately roll your eyes? Well fuck, that’s me and I’ve used this blog to make points for mental health, left-wing politics, sexuality spectrums, I’m only a few piercings and some green hair away from a modern day hippie. Your opponent in an argument is always a human being, I should hope, they have fears, traditions, values, interests and if they don’t believe in something you do, they have a reason, perhaps a flawed reason or one they don’t even realise but a reason. If you want to win an argument, by which I mean win them over to going “Oh yeah, you’re right…” then you have to find the reason they don’t agree with you and work with it, don’t just dismiss them because of that reasoning. I’ve had friends who’ve seen my flawed views and instead of going “Well you would say that, you’re a guy”… Ok, some have said that, but some have instead taken the time to challenge my views and help me achieve a broader understanding of feminist issues or sexuality issues or so on. You cannot assume someone will not empathise, or they won’t, and demanding they do with three small words is as effective as slapping them and then asking for a hug. No, fuck your hug, you slapped me
You have to realise, we can’t look at someone with a reasonably comfortable life and just tell them they don’t understand. Make them understand, duh. You should also note that even those who might understand what you’re going through won’t fully empathise because nobody is going to understand what you’ve been through quite as well as you do. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we need allies, not enemies, wouldn’t it be great to get more rich white guys to say something on behalf of the minority groups out there? Idealistic dreaming, maybe, but not impossible and certainly worth trying as it has happened, remember that Texan sports presenter who defend the coming out of an American football player? I don’t remember names and probably should look them up but everyone saw fat, well-paid, white guy from Texas and assumed “He’ll call him a fag” and then instead the guy admits he’s uncomfortable around gay men, not out of hatred but out of a lack of understanding but he’s not against learning and he certainly doesn’t make the player any less of a man. I was impressed when I saw that, as was Ellen DeGeneres, who had him as a guest. If you want people to agree with you and understand your point, treat them as human beings, don’t dismiss their inherent humanity. I know it’s hard, they might be really ignorant but you have to try before just giving up on them or nobody will ever learn anything because very few people change their opinion on something overnight and they certainly won’t if you just flip them off
Remember what the goal is – to promote understanding, acceptance and equality and as such you must understand, accept and revere your opponents as equals so that you might make allies of them. I’m not the perfect example of this, I can make assumptions like any human being but we should make an effort and never just ignore someone on the grounds of their income or their race or we’re just as bad as the elitists. Reverse elitism, that’s it, check your privilege is reverse elitism