There’s a relatively new trend that seems to be widely accepted and spreading.
It’s even adopted by some very respected folks who would never willingly promote dangerous or destructive ideas … at least not intentionally.
But it is dangerous and it can be very destructive because it fosters victim mentality.
The tendency to focus on “privilege” is attractive because we want to acknowledge that we don’t have equal attributes, means, or circumstances.
Deep down inside we know that the “equal opportunity” myth is just a cover for the somewhat unsettling fact that life is not and never will be fair. We don’t like to think about the huge disparity in human abilities – either those with far more ability or those with far less.
The sound of “equal opportunity” makes us feel both a little more hopeful and a little less guilty at the same time. But we know it’s just talk, and acknowledging that we were born with better than average attributes, means, or circumstances feels more honest than the “equal opportunity” fib we tell ourselves in order to better reconcile vast the innate disparities through notions of more “effort” or “diligence.”
So we publicly recognize that some are more “privileged” and that makes us feel more authentic and a little more humble. But think what that does on a more subconscious level.
It starts by comparing people to others on a materialistic level. It emphasizes disproportionate means and attributes while suggesting that the inherent unfairness of the world should somehow be rectified. That makes people feel good about themselves without really doing anything, but promotes further obsession with the unobtainable figment of “fairness.”
Focusing on “privilege” also provides a handy and ominous-sounding scapegoat for blaming. The “privileged” or the “privileged class” give impressions of impenetrability. We all like to make excuses for our own failings, but when told that “the deck is stacked” against someone because they are not as “privileged,” that’s a scapegoat to blame, served up hot by the unwitting enablers. Think what that does to most people’s motivation and outlook on the world. Do you suppose it unifies or divides? Provides hope or despair?
And if enabling people to find excuses on the dark road to victim mentality isn’t reason enough to stop talking about “privilege,” try looking at it this way:
If you’ve ever thought stereotyping is wrong or bad, think for a moment about the definition of stereotype: “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Then think about phrases like “white privilege” or “white male privilege.”
How are they not blatant stereotypes?