Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part One

Over the past few days I have been, like many other people, plagued by well-meaning but entirely misguided and wrong-thinking calls on the part of people and companies to check privilege and work to become better at overcoming supposed structural systems of privilege and injustice that exist in this world.  Like many other people who are equally, and rightly, bothered by this mistaken discourse, I have been provoked to speak up about it.  That said, I would like to do so in a way that provides sufficient context and nuance so that, to the greatest extent possible, I am not misunderstood about why I find the language of privilege to be so troublesome.  It is indeed a grave mistake to talk about privilege and to call upon others to check their privilege [1], and to bemoan the privilege that some groups of people supposedly have in this contemporary society.  Yet the mistake is one that is well-worth discussing precisely because it is a common folly and evil in our age.  And if we are people who wish to develop the proper and right ways of thinking, we need to address popular fallacies and errors so that we may better understand how people get caught up in deception so as to avoid the same fate ourselves.

Lest I be accused of burying the lede, this likely lengthy series of posts is not intended in the least to deny the existence of specific acts of injustice that occur in society.  Nor indeed it is to deny that there are many people who do suffer from what is lacking in their lives and in this present evil world.  Far from it.  We will, on the contrary, dig deep into such subjects, likely to an unpleasant degree for some people.  What will be done, though, is to talk about privilege in such a way that we may reframe the problem, both to demonstrate why privilege is a flawed paradigm for viewing the nature of our world, and discussing better alternatives than privilege to viewing the world and the issues that are involved.  And as we will see, the viewpoint of privilege poisons a great deal of our view of life and of the people around us, and is one of the elements that encourages people to be pit against each other and for everyone to compete to view themselves as victims of a cruel and evil world and to view some other group of people as being somehow privileged to avoid some aspects of those evils, while minimizing and downplaying both the struggles that other people face and the privileges that we ourselves benefit from that invalidate, to a large extent, our complaining about not being privileged ourselves.  In addition, even those who consider themselves to be privileged and who engage in self-condemnation about it, err greatly in having the wrong attitude about privilege.  Far from being a bad thing, the ways that we are privileged are in fact blessings for which we should be thankful and grateful to God, rather than berating ourselves for somehow behaving in unjust structures of injustice.  And, far from there being too much privilege for whites and men and Christians and straight people, in this world there is not enough privilege for any of those groups.  The truth expressed here is not going to be popular.  But truth seldom is.

Nevertheless, this series of essays is not going to be unkind to anyone.  The point here is not to insult people, but rather to discuss and demolish the false arguments that are raised up against privilege as if it was something wicked and evil, when in fact what is labeled as privilege is the natural result of God’s blessings for correct behavior.  Nor, it should be noted, are these privileges limited to any group of people.  To the extent that we behave in a godly fashion, our lives are blessed and we in turn benefit from those blessings in many ways.  To the extent that our attitudes focus on gratefulness and thankfulness for what we have been given, we can enjoy privileges and blessings even from injustices that we suffer.  Even the negative and unpleasant aspects of our existence can give us insight, and that insight is a privilege that we should be thankful for, even when it comes at a harrowing cost.  We will also discuss the structures of evil in our world and what is behind them and find out, unsurprisingly to some and very surprisingly to others, that the problem does not relate to being white as opposed to other ethnicities, or being male as opposed to female, but it springs from the nature of power in a fallen world and in the fallen nature of the world itself.  The darkness of abusing power for our own benefit is not something that wealthy straight white Christian men alone struggle with, but is a universal problem of human nature.  And we cannot defeat the structural evils of privilege without realizing that it’s not about our identity at all except our identity as sinful and flawed human beings who cannot help but abuse and corrupt whatever power and gifts we have been given.

Although much of this conversation is likely to be serious, I do not intend it all to be.  In fact, there is a great deal to laugh about when it comes to conversations on privilege, and some of the stories I tell will be quite humorous as well as positive.  And lest this series be only about myself, I hope to have and to share with you all conversations with a few other people whose perspectives are different than my own, as part of an effort to be as fair as possible in presenting the issues and alternatives of the problematic paradigm of privilege.  After all, it may be argued that I have a particularly privileged perspective in the matter and thus have no right to speak on, much less wholeheartedly condemn, the paradigm to begin with.  If you have felt the temperature rise in our discussion so far, and have found yourself feeling hot under the collar and inclined to think and write nasty things about me, I hope that you will control your feelings and feel differently once this lengthy conversation has come to an end, or hopefully long before then.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part One

  1. Pingback: Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part Two | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part Three | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part Four | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: Privilege: A Problematic Paradigm: Issues And Alternatives: Part Five | Edge Induced Cohesion

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