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

[Note:  Previous parts of this discussion can be found here, here, here, and here.]

Having examined some of the issues involving the hypocrisy and lack of nuance and even reality relating to the problem of privilege, I think it would be worthwhile to tackle one of the most fundamental issue of privilege, and that is the problem when it comes to determining how much repayment for supposed past injustices is necessary to wipe away the supposed debt from the past.  There are at least three different problems with this process by which people attempt to hold those responsible for what was done in the past, and it is well worth exploring these problems as they relate to a fundamental difficulty with the idea of privilege as a whole.  Adopting a worldview that creates conflict with others, increases the injustice that one commits in the world, and that hinders one’s ability to recognize and respond to reality is folly, but we live in a world that is full of folly and that is something that has to be addressed however little we are fond of it.

First, viewing privilege as the source of one’s difficulties marks a fundamental denial of reality and placing responsibility where it does not belong, itself a marked act of injustice.  To claim that others are privileged and that one lacks privilege because of the past actions of some people against others is to unjustly blame others for what often amounts to one’s own failings.  Viewed widely, we can see the ramifications of slavery and Jim Crow that continue in the lives of many people to be aspects of an intergenerational curse.  To view this in a less inflamed fashion, it is worthwhile to compare the experience of the descendants of slaves in America today to the problem that ancient Israel faced when it had been freed from slavery in Egypt but was not freed from fear and resentment and learned helplessness in their own minds  Their dependency and whining and lack of faith all led to a great deal of judgment from God and a lot of frustration by Moses, who lacked the slave mentality that the people of Israel had as a whole.  One can be free in body, free in law, but not be free in mind and body and spirit, and that was the case for ancient Israel.  That is a large part of the problem that we see today, in that those who are able to free themselves from envy and resentment and hostility to whites frequently find themselves able to succeed in our society, while those who are poisoned by hostility and resentment find predictably that their path to success is hindered by their own negative attitude.  If we cannot induce success through our imagination, we can certainly sabotage our efforts at success through a poor attitude, and that is something that we see very commonly around us at present.  Indeed, viewing privilege as the cause of one’s problems and using it as a club against others is itself a covert act of privilege by which one attempts to deny one’s own personal responsibility for how one’s life goes by blaming others for it.  The most unjustly privileged people are those who most vociferously tell others to check their privilege.

The second problem when it comes to privilege, aside from its basic injustice and lack of correspondence with reality and the nature of responsibility as being fundamental to one’s success in life, is that it sets up expectations and demands of others that can never be fulfilled.  To someone who views themselves as a victim of history, no amount of repayment can ever repay the feeling of resentment and hostility that results from feeling victimized.  All of the privilege and all of the benefits one receives from the contemporary mania for victimization is viewed as but dust on the scales or a drop on the bucket compared to what is owed for such trauma.  The debt is too great and it can never be repaid.  Similarly, any efforts to bring about equity are frustrated because they are viewed not as generous deeds being given to the unworthy, which they are, but rather are seen as debt repayment and viewed as entitlements rather than blessings and gifts.  This sort of dynamic can exist far outside of racial matters; a resentful child can view his parents’ generosity to him as being attempts to repay what he views as their crimes against him for disciplining him for his misdeeds and can fail to see them as springing from generosity of heart.  The capacity for mankind to simultaneously view itself as just while being grossly unjust to others is nearly unlimited, and the belief in privilege and its damaging effects on the morality of those who adopt such a mistaken worldview is a clear case in point.

An additional problem when it comes to privilege is that it makes people the judges of their own causes.  A fundamental aspect of injustice comes about when we judge cases where we are deeply and personally involved.  Technically speaking, when we feel that we have been wronged by others, we are prosecutors in a case, accusing others of having disadvantaged us.  This adversarial relationship, where those who accuse others of privilege are putting themselves in the position of the prosecutor and persecutor of others, requires fair-minded judges who are not themselves personally involved and who are able to adjudicate the case and apportion blame and whatever redress is necessary.  In the grand and cosmic scale, the prosecution is represented by Satan, the defense by Jesus Christ, and the judge by our heavenly father.  When when we view privilege as a judicial function, we see that those who accuse others of privilege view themselves as injured party, prosecutor, judge, and executioner of others, without any defense being possible except for a guilty plea and whatever reparations are demanded.  This is a structurally unjust situation.  It is deeply ironic and hypocritical that those who accuse others of structural racism themselves create a structurally unjust worldview that is warped in their own benefit and whose injustice they entirely fail to recognize and address.  One cannot be a proponent of the worldview and approach of privilege without being a deep and immoral hypocrite.  Our next discussion will focus on the key moral failings of the worldview of privilege and examine how one cannot be a true believer in God while being filled with resentment or self-hatred over this imaginary injustice.

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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