Privilege Checking is Racist

April 16th, 2014   Submitted by M.K. Lords

PrivilegePrivilege exists. There are people in fancy suits and black dresses who are given immunity for their heinous crimes. Their friends in the financial industry regularly launder money and get away with it while kids in Florida get arrested for some measly Bitcoin transactions. The government comprises the most privileged class in the US, but lately the topic of “privilege checking” doesn’t focus on the obviously privileged class, it focuses on those crushed under its thumb. The profits earned by Bitcoin investors are laughable compared to those made by any major bank or any government agency. It is as hard to take claims that the Bitcoin space is one of privilege seriously as it is to suggest that there is a place for this theory of privilege in libertarian thought.

Privilege simply means receiving special favors from an authority that others are not privy to. Libertarians would focus on the extra rights granted to people by the state, while progressives look at it from a social context. The rich guy who inherited his money is more privileged than the working class man. It is hard to argue that privilege, in either form, doesn’t exist, but there is a distinction between privilege and “privilege checking,” which is marketed as a way to the influence of privilege in a social context. The proposed solution to the inequalities is that those with privilege “check” it, but that is actually a flaccid solution to real systemic problems, especially when compared to tactics like direct action.

Where Does Privilege Checking Come From?

Privilege checking, though apparently new to some libertarians, is a fairly old idea that comes from the academic left. Some argue that libertarians just need to adopt the marketing techniques from the left, and that includes using terminology rooted in Marxism. While these techniques have no doubt been successful, they rarely offer solutions, and have a deceptive foundation. Fashionably injecting elements of critical theory to make libertarianism more palatable for the masses has been suggested by some prominent libertarians, but what is critical theory? Critical theory, according to Wikipedia, is:

“…an umbrella term that can describe a theory founded upon critique; thus, the theorist Max Horkheimer described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks ‘to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.’”

Alright, I think most people can agree that any ideology should be held up to rigorous criticism as a way to prove its validity, but while critical theory offers criticism as the “gadfly of ideologies,” it doesn’t offer alternatives or solutions to the theories it critiques. I also reject its premise that ideology is the principal obstacle to human liberation. Let’s face it, the intellectual barriers we erect in our mind are not the same as the bars of a cell. While the person throwing you in that rape cage is acting on an ideology of statism, it is the physical imprisonment that is the principal obstacle to your freedom. The intellectual struggle is only one part of the battle for liberation. It must also be physical actions that actually free people.

So-called “thin” libertarians are criticized for knee jerk accusations of Marxism towards their more socially focused counterparts. In libertarianism there is a divide between the more economics focused side and those focused on social issues. There’s also a large portion who are somewhere in between, but the more vocal arguments come from right leaning “propertarians” and left leaning “social awareness” advocates. Both sides maintain that their approach is the morally correct one, and also the practical way to reach more people.

The Historical Roots of Critical Theory

It is unwise to dismiss a theory based on its origins, but it is important to realize the historical roots of these concepts. Critical theory is rooted in Marxist philosophy. As a panarchist, I accept that some people want to live in a Marxist society, but it is not compatible with libertarianism.

Historically, ideologies that have sought to balance social inequalities were developed by some of the most privileged people. Critical theory was established primarily by five Frankfurt School theoreticians: Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, and Erich Fromm. These philosophers were far from the struggling proletariat class described by Marxists. They were of the much derided bourgeoisie, just like Marx himself. Adorno and Horkheimer specifically advocated the replacement of free markets and private property with central planning and collectively managed means of production, and they sought to do this by injecting critical theory into society and state structures.

You cannot deny that critical theory has its origins in Marxist philosophy, nor that the main theorists overwhelmingly supported state intervention to correct inequalities. Likewise, academics today lean further left than average working people. Ironically the people they hope to liberate through state socialism overwhelmingly benefit from freed markets, and the people pushing critical theory on young minds are ones encouraging privilege checking.

Privilege Checking in Regard to Critical Theory

Privilege checking seeks to challenge notions of privilege among the general populace. The academic class is significantly more privileged than just about any other. Yet, they use this philosophy to divide those of lower socioeconomic status. Curiously absent from this prescription is encouragement to resist those at the top of the privilege ladder: government officials and police. The left, especially academia, views government as the solution to inequality, not the source of it. By shifting the focus away from the actual oppressors, the left has been successful in dividing people by class, race, gender, and sexual orientation, ranking them, and sitting back while they fight horizontally.

By keeping people divided and bickering, the state is able to maintain economic and social control over our lives. While it’s unlikely the academic class are involved in some great conspiracy, they are, to use another Marxist term, useful idiots for the actual oppressors.

Why would some libertarians want to adopt this idea when they already have the correct prescription for ending widespread oppression—lessen the power of the institution that perpetuates it? I have yet to see deeply held notions of racism, sexism, or bigotry among libertarians. I have seen quite the opposite, and while bigoted libertarians no doubt exist, you’ll find bigots in any movement. Statistically speaking, consistent libertarians make up around 7% of the population, whereas progressives make up a much larger percentage. The main difference between progressives and libertarians in regard to dealing with regressive social behaviors is that one seeks to use the violence of the state to discourage bad behavior, and one seeks social solutions like disassociation and other non-coercive solutions. One seeks to silence offensive speech, while the other realizes that upholding free speech—no matter how unpopular—is necessary for a free society. Silencing speech allows a privilege checker to pretend they’ve actually done something to end oppression.

Privilege Checking is Classist and Ineffective

Privilege checking creates an environment where the black, female, upper class college student can silence the white, male, working class college dropout, and it’s actively encouraged on college campuses. If we focus on individualism instead we can evaluate both equally on their merits and character. The focus on tolerance and judgment of character is a familiar tenet of the civil rights movement, which succeeded in being more progressive-minded without bringing in nebulous terminology and practices.

Even worse, privilege checking assumes that one person is more oppressed than another based only on arbitrary physical characteristics. How can you know who is more oppressed without taking the effort to actually get to know the individual? Is it not racist to make assumptions based on skin color? Privilege checking claims that the privileged are doing a noble service to the disenfranchised by relinquishing their power, but it does not address the systemic reasons why people are oppressed in the first place. The “power” an individual can possess is miniscule compared to what the state can do.

Let’s look at an example: You are planning to go to a city council meeting to speak about the unjust homeless ordinances being proposed. You are aware that these ordinances will harm homeless people, but if you follow Mia McKenzie’s advice, realizing that you have the resources to make it to a meeting is a sign of privilege and since the homeless can’t go you decide not to. You get a gold star for checking your privilege! Go you! Give yourself a high five!

Another example: You are in a public forum, say, at a protest against those same homeless ordinances. There are homeless people there asking for food. You realize that as a participant you are privileged, so instead of speaking you encourage a homeless person to speak. The person needs food, not someone to push them in front of a mic because they feel guilty about their privilege. Direct action gets the goods, not puny half-hearted attempts at pretending to rectify some perceived inequality. If a person needs food, you give them food, not a podium.

Direct action doesn’t have to be limited to local interactions, either. If a village is destroyed by a drone strike, start a fundraiser, or go there and help rebuild. Don’t pretend giving your Muslim friend special treatment addresses the problem. It speaks volumes of our “first world privilege” that privilege checking is taken seriously as a form of activism, while people in other countries have to worry about being killed by sky robots. It is only the excessively privileged that have the luxury to advocate privilege checking.

The privilege checking idea demands we evaluate our position in society and quietly acquiesce to certain oppressed groups. I’ve personally been told by an advocate of this divisive philosophy that I need to step down and be silent when a minority has something to say. I found it puzzling as I am keen to hear what anyone has to say and I’m not one who talks over anyone. Libertarians uphold the right to be brutish in speech, but very few are actually bigoted because individualist philosophy reveals bigotry as fallacious. I also differentiate between jokes made in poor taste, and actual racist tendencies. To say they are the same denigrates the experiences of people subjected to actual racism.

I come from the left, and I don’t mean democrat. I used to be a socialist. I have seen privilege checking taken to its logical conclusion. I’ve worked with activists that used privilege checking as a way to rank input in the conversation. We are all oppressed by government, and even with laws that have a disparate impact on certain groups we are nearer in equality to each other than to politicians and academics.

Horizontal Discipline is Perpetuated by Privilege Checking

Leftists don’t even realize they are engaging in horizontal discipline that keeps the actual privileged in power. It is easier to control a population that is fighting amongst themselves. Instead of fighting our common enemy, those with the wrong skin color or gender are then told that they can’t possibly empathize with those who don’t share their characteristics. I’ve even met a few leftists who were actual racists, meaning people who believe that those with less melanin are genetically inferior. Some leftists go so far as to claim a black person can never oppress a white person. Tell that to victims of police brutality or TSA molestations. Should I “check my privilege” because the boot on my neck is worn by a black officer? Context is thrown out the window by the privilege checkers.

Libertarians are bad at adopting Marxist rhetoric and should feel bad

Leftists love changing the definitions of words, which also comes from Marxist dialectical tradition. These tactics have succeeding at influencing culture, but efficacy is no substitute for principle. Racism is not “power plus prejudice” any more than murder is “power plus homicide.” This thinking quickly falls apart. Philosophers have been replaced with marketers. Principles should be stricken down if they are unsound. How unfortunate it is that the solid principles of libertarianism are being attacked from within by libertarians who lack an understanding of the philosophies they are attempting to sell out to.

Some younger libertarians have been influenced by ideas like critical theory and privilege checking without regarding their historical roots, or the utter failure of the theories. In their attempt to create a Harrison Bergeron-esque utopia, proponents of privilege checking focus on their fellow oppressed individuals instead of counteracting the actual perpetrators of backwards social mores.

Action Trumps Pandering

You can be compassionate without adopting the toxic idea of privilege checking by actually doing something to help people under the boot of the state. When a leftist, or even a libertarian tells me to check my privilege I just laugh, because I’ve only ever heard white, upwardly mobile young professionals say this, and none of them were doing any real work to help the oppressed. The practice is most often employed at the university level, an environment that is prohibitively expensive for most working class people. I could not finish college because I had to support myself and could not afford the state inflated tuition rates. I have not been able to afford to go back, but have been “privileged” enough to educate myself.

Privilege checking doesn’t strike at the root of the problem, and when I’ve written about Bitcoin and privilege it was those who would be categorized as unprivileged who gave the most positive feedback. Get this: homeless people want to be treated as equal human beings, NOT rescued by their privileged saviors. They want to be listened to not pigeonholed for their unfortunate lot in life. It is them who find the very idea of privilege checking extremely offensive. I’m sure privilege checkers have the best of intentions. I have yet to meet a Marxist with evil intentions, but their philosophy inevitably leads to a consolidation of power that is almost always destructive on a massive scale.

Privilege Checking is Racist

For the same reasons that KONY 2012 was unintentionally racist, privilege checking offers false hope in the meaningless statements of upper middle class, college indoctrinated whites. The untold psychological damage of relegating someone to an oppressed status may even make privilege checking more nefarious than useless. Numerous scientific studies have shown the harm caused by dividing people by race and gender, and growing up in an environment that perpetuates ideas of inequality. Centuries of racism told black people that they are inferior to whites, so why are universities pushing the idea that acknowledging their inferiority and providing them special accommodations is some kind of solution? It’s condescending to deem someone as inferior, and then graciously “check your privilege” instead of doing anything meaningful.

Consider this: Privilege checking perpetuates racism by patronizing black people who don’t need white people to give them permission to speak. Why not encourage all oppressed people to stand up and assert their right to speak, instead of asking permission to speak? If you see a black person being beaten by the police, get out of your car and film that shit, don’t just bitch on your Tumblr about how racist cops are.

Privilege Checking is Sexist

I used to identify as a feminist too. There is a lot of overlap between feminist theory and critical theory. The premise of feminism, that we live in a patriarchal society, in many ways feeds into a psychological inferiority. According to radical feminists an oppressed woman can never succeed in a male dominated world. But, surely it isn’t all men who are oppressors, merely the ones benefitting from state privilege. You can’t put a cop in the same category as some random guy on the street. The real patriarchy exists at the corporate government levels. Feminism, like critical theory, has been successful at shifting the focus away from the actual oppressors, and has divided the oppressed against each other.

Before the cries of “straw feminism” come hither, let me say that this mindset facilitates a victim mentality that I’ve not only seen demonstrated by feminists, but have experienced myself. When you have an enemy in your fellow man, it is easy to focus on the preposterous concept of “microaggressions” and ignore the macroaggression, which only bolsters the power of the state like all horizontal discipline.

A woman shouldn’t be given special privileges to speak over a man if her ideas are harmful or insane. Defining men and women by our sexual organs ignores the merit of our individual arguments or positions. I don’t want to be oppressed or elevated because of my chromosomes. It’s insulting either way. I am not a victim of patriarchy; I am a survivor of statism. You don’t have to be a feminist to be a libertarian, and contextually women are sometimes more privileged than men. Many women don’t identify as feminist because it is demeaning and ignores the real concerns of women worldwide. Privilege checking dictates that I am unprivileged because of my gender, even though I’m not, and neither are most women in this country. The priorities of American feminists, and privilege checkers are largely first world concerns, and don’t help women excel in less privileged countries.

The solution to gender inequity is not to let some arbitrary woman speak because she is a woman, but to empower women through education and skill building so that they can pave their own path to self-determination.

Privilege Checking is Bigoted

Guess what? Many people in LGBTQ community also want to be treated as individuals, not merely defined by their sexual orientation. You can’t stereotype people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. While the LGBTQ community may statistically lean left politically, even that varies among individuals.

To elevate a person based on their sexual identity is as bad as focusing on their race or gender. People are human beings first, and deserve to be applauded for their achievements, not the traits they were born with. How rude would it be to introduce someone as, “Dan, my gay friend”? So, why do people want to do that on the academic level? “Step aside cis-gendered whitey, this queer person gets priority.” Yes, the enlightened thing to do is ignore people’s individuality and merit, and define them by their sex lives, whether they want that or not.

I have another idea. How about we treat people how we’d want to be treated, instead of assuming that heteronormative people are automatically oppressors? How about we get to know people as individuals instead of evaluating them by their sexual identifications?

Privilege Checking is Anti-Human

The quote from Malcolm X rings true, “Who taught you to hate yourself?” Privilege checking teaches those with “privilege” to hate themselves while simultaneously suggesting that those with different characteristics are oppressed and need their pity. The most ironic part is that it goes against the principles of the civil rights era. Privilege checking is itself prejudiced.

The realization came to me years ago when I participated in a discussion with a group keen on making sure I knew my place as a privileged white woman. I was frequently the butt of jokes about my “white privilege card,” but I took it in stride because I believed them. They showed me an emotional documentary on how blacks have been oppressed in this country (mostly by the state), and a fellow poet, possibly the least racist person I know, lamented, “I am ashamed that I was born white” followed with a thoughtful, downward looking gaze. Instead of understanding, our hosts beamed with glee, and congratulated him for hating his skin. These supposed activists for equality, who had suffered discrimination and were well acquainted with Malcolm’s works, were giddy that they were able to teach a young activist to hate himself for an unchosen physical characteristic. I was appalled, even when I believed that reverse racism didn’t exist and checked my privilege daily. Was this not the very thing Malcolm was talking about?

If privilege checking were reversed, its intolerant overtones would be crystal clear. That is the test of whether a philosophy is coherent. I am not against the idea of privilege checking because I am a “vulgar” libertarian, or a brutalist, or whatever the term is now being pushed by left libertarians. I am against privilege checking because it is racist, sexist, bigoted, and teaches people to accept being ranked by no more than their physical characteristics. We are all unique individuals with diverse experiences that shape our opinions, and those experiences should be given weight in a discussion about privilege. All people deserve to be heard, and shouldn’t have to “check their privilege” to do it. There are numerous other ways to address inequality that actually work, without placating those who advocate ways that don’t.

We should be lifting people up, not pulling people down. We can address the needs of the disprivileged through direct action, not insipid back patting. Those that elitist privilege checking advocates claim have less privilege are not as helpless as they are made out to be. They are strong, intelligent, and capable of self-determination. They don’t need the insulting pandering of people who cannot possibly understand their experiences. Privilege checking reeks of crab mentality and doesn’t lead to more equitable interactions between people. I implore you to look more deeply into privilege checking as it is both ineffective and offensive to thinking people, and those who wish to rectify the inequities caused by the state. Looking at privilege through a lens of power, instead of unchosen physical characteristics, provides the clearest picture for how to deal with subjugation. In most cases you’ll find that it is the person with the power of the state that is in the truly privileged position.

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12 Responses to “Privilege Checking is Racist”

  1. Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

    Here are two essays of relevance to this subject:

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122 “Kafkatrapping”
    This one is of extreme usefulness, what it describes is rampant at all levels of statism and many other ideologies.

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3567 “What Privilege Means To Me”
    In particular, this quote from the comments:

    >We’re asking you to consider and understand how our experiences differ from yours and how that affects the context in which we may perceive your actions.

    This request is justified, and I support it. (I also directly support women in rectifying that power imbalance by teaching them to shoot and defend themselves hand-to-hand.)

    But the rhetoric around “privilege” is not a request, it’s a demand. It denies me, as one of the designated “privileged”, the standing to question the facts, logic, or moral premises of the designated “unprivileged”. If I try, I don’t “get it” – I am merely confirming my own privilege.

    • M.K. LordsNo Gravatar says:

      I’ll look into those links, thanks. That’s one of my main issues with the discussion, Foo. It’s not simply enough to acknowledge that people come from different backgrounds with different experiences that have shaped their understanding; there are assumptions made about people based on uncontrollable characteristics and this gets in the way of useful dialogue.

      Thanks, Seth. It’s difficult to talk to many of them because it is a very cultish belief system. Articles like this that expose the harmful consequences of the philosophy seem to be one way to reach people because you have to use their language and re-frame the argument. It’s not even a them vs. us issue; it’s all of us vs. the state and I think that is useful to point out given the racist, patriarchal structure of the state. Leftists get that part correct a lot of the time, but fall short on the prescription. Showing how the state divides us all is a good tool.

      • Foo QuuxmanNo Gravatar says:

        These are also useful (in chronological order):

        http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4278 “On not ceding the truth to racists”
        “One of the most important reasons not to tell ourselves pretty lies about unpleasant realities is so that we do not hand evil people the power of being the only ones who are willing to speak the truth.”

        http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4994 “Objective evidence against racism”

        http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=5001 “Preventing visceral racism”
        “I think I now understand the pathology behind racism better than I did before, and have some ideas about what is required to prevent and cure it. And no, my prescription won’t be any of the idiotic nostrums normally peddled by self-described “anti-racists”; in fact what I have to say is likely to offend most of them – which I don’t mind a bit.”

        Note: ESR is not me, but I find that his writing has a certain clarity to it that many people could learn from.

        He is also the first anarcho-capitalist I encountered…

  2. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    This is a very interesting article. I can definitely understand how many people need to learn the lessons you’ve written about. I’ve had very little interaction with people like this, but the times I did I felt like I was talking to a person from another planet. It was as if they were speaking a completely foreign language and spewing anti-logic from their mouths. I knew there was nothing I was going to say or do that was going to unbrainwash them. So, I’ve simply chosen to avoid these people like the plague.

    Do you have any idea how to wake these people up? Or do we have to just wait for them to fall victim to their philosophy of death? I think the only people that can possibly talk to them are people like yourself, because at least you speak their own language. Everything I say will just sound like white patriarchal heterodoxy to them.

  3. Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

    I have been told by advocates of privilege checking that it is not possible for me to understand the experience of black/female/gay people because of my privilege. That my attempts to reason through the discussion logically are futile because I literally can’t see the oppression right in front of me.

    It seems to me that condition must be reciprocal, and understanding my white/male/straight experience must be equally impossible for them. Further, of all the advantages I’m purported have, understanding privilege appears to be the sole privilege of the unprivileged. They have, by their own description, an unchosen innate advantage over me in understanding this stuff. So, I can’t possibly be morally culpable for not understanding. I was just born this way.

    • VanmindNo Gravatar says:

      Indeed, it seems to be that kind of mental illness whereby a person constructs a Weltanschauung that cannot possibly be refuted because those outside the pathological framework are not qualified to “see the truth.” It borders on “they’re not here to help me because they’re with them” paranoia.

      Anyone remember that scene from the original Terminator movie, where the psychologist/psychiatrist brought in to question Reese at the cop station describes Reese’s story (coming back from the future to hunt down a Terminator) in similar fictional-clinical terms?

      “He’s crazy as a loon.” Ha, about as professional as I am.

      Even The Last Psychiatrist, who is typically quite insightful, is as out to lunch as Louis CK himself about “whites have always had it good” America-centric nonsense.

    • M.K. LordsNo Gravatar says:

      That’s an excellent point, Davi.

      There’s a lot of paranoia among the left and in the same way right wing conspiracy theorists regard skeptics they reject criticism as if it’s some form of plot against them. Although, to their credit, they seem to be gaining more influence because of the acceptance and perpetuation of certain philosophies by the academia class.

  4. Unfortunately I haven’t really studied the history of Marxism or its influence on other strains of thought, but the one Marxist I have much experience with, in-so-far as reading a lot of his writings and such, explicitly criticizes what he calls “identity politics”, (which seems like what you criticize here,) rather often. Personally, I’d say his critiques have actually probably influenced me more than those of, say, Rothbard, or other “anti-egalitarians” over at lewrockwell.

    See examples here, here, and here.

    So… I find the connection drawn in this article between Marxism and privilege checking a little surprising and odd; my limited experience has just led me to think of Marxism and identity politics as at odds with one another. Perhaps many of those demanding that folks check their privilege also advocate “affirmative action” programs, “welfare” programs, and other statist policies, but do they actually draw on Marxist thought or theory?

  5. Thanks for writing about . . . . this. I don’t even know the proper name — Cultural Marxism, Critical Theory, Egalitarianism, Totalitarian Humanism.

    This is a very, very important issue that needs more exposing. The Marxists (who used to argue that socialism creates MORE WEALTH) have succeeded in unplugging themselves from economics and replacing it with egalitarianism.

    Too many libertarians are still fighting the old fight — against economic Marxism. We’ve won that debate (mostly). Egalitarianism is the new justification for the state.

  6. If there is a single video that absolutely annihilates the whole cultural marxist canon with common sense and hard data it’s this lecture by Walter Williams:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKgHc6bWqZ4

    No leftist I’ve ever shown it to ever addressed it.

  7. JohnBNo Gravatar says:

    Stumbled across this while doing a search for “stupid shit racists say about white privilege”, appropriately enough. There’s so much wrong here it’s amazing.

    “Privilege simply means receiving special favors from an authority that others are not privy to.”

    No. This is a silly, one-dimensional definition of privilege. Privilege can mean deferential treatment by the state, and that’s certainly part of capital-P Privilege. But that’s clearly not the ONLY meaning. Even outside of the capital-P use of the word, it has several meanings. To reduce it to your definition is mind bogglingly stupid.

    “Some argue that libertarians just need to adopt the marketing techniques from the left, and that includes using terminology rooted in Marxism.”

    Who?

    “while critical theory offers criticism as the “gadfly of ideologies,” it doesn’t offer alternatives or solutions to the theories it critiques.”

    (1) I’m not even sure this is true. (2) Not all theories HAVE to do this. It’s possible, and completely legitimate, to develop a theory whose sole focus is on critique, leaving it to the individual to decide what OTHER theories might hold insights as to how to change the problem. For example, Critical Theory might lead a person to believe that the world is full of racism, sexism and classism. In turn that person may turn to, say, anarcho-communism for insight into how to alleviate those injustices.

    “The academic class is significantly more privileged than just about any other.”

    Um no. Have you been to a university lately? Have you spoken to any professors lately? Only a very select few academics ever make large amounts of money. Most are eternally stuck as adjuncts, always vulnerable to being unjustly fired and making a pretty measly amount of money. You’re idea of some Ivory Tower full of fabulously wealthy academics is a fairy tale.

    “Curiously absent from this prescription is encouragement to resist those at the top of the privilege ladder: government officials and police.”

    Wrong. I mean ya, you’re average professor isn’t teaching their students to go out and throw some rocks at cops. But plenty of academics oppose the state and advocate resistance against the cops. Cornell West participated in Occupy DC and was arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court. Social justice activists have been involved in numerous direct actions from Occupy to May Day protests. Given that we’re involved in various movements, from Anarchism to Democratic Socialism, it’s hard to accept the idea the social justice activists never participate in direct action against the state or criticize cops and the government.

    “By keeping people divided and bickering, the state is able to maintain economic and social control over our lives.”

    Nobody is trying to divide anyone. Asking people to consider how their class, race, sex, etc effects their experience and view of the world isn’t dividing them. I own my white privilege and that doesn’t divide me from people of color, on the contrary it motivates me to work in solidarity with them. Just because sometimes people have disagreements over these issues doesn’t make the issues invalid.

    “The left, especially academia, views government as the solution to inequality, not the source of it.”

    You do get that “The Left” and “Academia” aren’t homogenous monoliths, right? I mean do you understand that “The Left” and “Academia” consist of millions of individuals, each with their own values, beliefs and opinions. Some leftists and academics are hard statists, some are anarchists and whole hell of a lot fall somewhere between those two camps. They’re not some mass of clones that you can lump into one category.

    “I have yet to see deeply held notions of racism, sexism, or bigotry among libertarians.”

    For real though? Ever been to a Ron Paul campaign event?

    “Privilege checking creates an environment where the black, female, upper class college student can silence the white, male, working class college dropout, and it’s actively encouraged on college campuses.”

    Nope. Acknowledging the realities of privilege creates a situation where the “white, male, working class college dropout” is asked to think about how his whiteness often grants his voice more power and the “black, female, upper class college student” is asked to be cognizant of the ways in which her class position also grants her privileges not available to the “white, male, working class college dropout”. So ya, IF the discussion is about racism and white privilege, the “white, male, working class college dropout” might be asked to shut up and listen to the person with real, lived experience. If on the other hand the discussion is about class the “black, female, upper class college student” might be asked to do the same.

    “Even worse, privilege checking assumes that one person is more oppressed than another based only on arbitrary physical characteristics.”

    Wrong again. Race privilege isn’t the only privilege out there. And good social justice work seeks to understand how race, class, gender, sexuality, etc all combine to produce systems of oppression. It’s called intersectionality, google it.

    “Let’s look at an example: You are planning to go to a city council meeting to speak about the unjust homeless ordinances being proposed. You are aware that these ordinances will harm homeless people, but if you follow Mia McKenzie’s advice, realizing that you have the resources to make it to a meeting is a sign of privilege and since the homeless can’t go you decide not to. You get a gold star for checking your privilege! Go you! Give yourself a high five!”

    It’s super cool how you completely misrepresent what Mia McKenzie ACTUALLY said. Here it is, in case anyone else is curious…

    “If you have access to something and you recognize that you have it partly because of privilege, opt out of it. If you’re an able-bodied person and that retreat you really, really want to go on isn’t wheelchair accessible, and the organizers of said retreat have been asked and supported in making a change and done nothing, and you realize how fucked up that is, don’t go. It works the same for women-only events that exclude trans women. Don’t go. Even if you really, really want to go because your, like, fave artist ever is gonna be there. Especially then. Pushing back against your privilege often requires sacrifice. Sacrifice is hard sometimes, homies. If not being a dick were easy, everybody would do it! Acknowledging that something is messed up doesn’t mean anything if you still participate just because, dang, you really want to and stuff.”

    Notice that (A) she’s talking about recreational events and (B) she’s talking about spaces that are being intentionally exclusive. She’s not saying that if a homeless person can’t do something, you shouldn’t. That’s fucking absurd. She’s saying that if that super cool concert you want to go to is at a venue which refuses to make itself handicap accessible, despite repeated offers by activists to help them do it, maybe you should register your protest by not going. Which is absolutely nothing like what you said.

    By the way, what the hell is an Anarchist doing at a City Council meeting in the first place? I mean, for real, wtf?

    “Another example: You are in a public forum, say, at a protest against those same homeless ordinances. There are homeless people there asking for food. You realize that as a participant you are privileged, so instead of speaking you encourage a homeless person to speak. The person needs food, not someone to push them in front of a mic because they feel guilty about their privilege. Direct action gets the goods, not puny half-hearted attempts at pretending to rectify some perceived inequality. If a person needs food, you give them food, not a podium.”

    What the hell are you even talking about? Um, maybe you could hold a big, free lunch before the protest? I guess…? I’m not sure what point you’re even trying to make. That it’s totes terrible that social justice activists try to include the voices of the oppressed at events that are about their oppression? That social justice activism somehow precludes direct action? Pro-tip, social justice activism can include direct action, just fyi.

    “The privilege checking idea demands we evaluate our position in society and quietly acquiesce to certain oppressed groups.”

    And you won’t go quietly in your fight against those stupid minorities!! Good for you… I guess…?

    “I’ve personally been told by an advocate of this divisive philosophy that I need to step down and be silent when a minority has something to say.”

    How dare anyone ask you to give space and time to people who often have less access to it than you do?!?!?! Those bastards!

    “those with the wrong skin color or gender are then told that they can’t possibly empathize with those who don’t share their characteristics.”

    Because you can’t. This is pretty simple stuff. If you didn’t grow up black in American, you can’t really know what it’s like growing up black in America. Why is that so difficult to accept? You can empathize in the sense that you can understand that the experience was difficult and regret that other people have to deal with racism. But you cannot KNOW what it is like to be a person of color in this country any more than you can KNOW what it’s like to walk on the moon. How is this a controversial idea?

    “Some leftists go so far as to claim a black person can never oppress a white person.”

    What do you mean by oppress? Physically hit? Be mean too? Because no social justice activist that I’ve ever met believes that it is magically impossible for black people to treat white people poorly. Now if by oppress you mean participate in an institutional, pervasive system of racial discrimination, well then ya, black people can’t oppress white people. There would have to be an institutional, pervasive system of discrimination against white people perpetrated by black people for them to participate in. There isn’t, so they can’t. Again, not difficult to understand.

    “Should I “check my privilege” because the boot on my neck is worn by a black officer?”

    Um…no? Has anyone actually asked you to do this? Or are you just making shit up?

    “Leftists love changing the definitions of words”

    They do?

    “which also comes from Marxist dialectical tradition.”

    It does? Citations please.

    Look, words change. Period. It’s not part of some EVIL MARXIST CONSPIRACY. It’s just a fact of language.

    “Racism is not “power plus prejudice” any more than murder is “power plus homicide.””

    Um you’re example is meaningless. Defining racism as prejudice + power on the other hand makes a useful distinction between two separate things. Prejudice is individual. But we can clearly see that there are systems of hierarchy, dominance and oppression that effect certain groups which aren’t perpetrated by one single individual. Re-conceptualizing racism as this system is useful for discussing issues of race. There’s no conspiracy here, just an attempt to use the language we have to more accurately talk about and refer to reality.

    “Philosophers have been replaced with marketers.”

    O…..kay…? Is this supposed to mean something?

    “You can be compassionate without adopting the toxic idea of privilege checking by actually doing something to help people under the boot of the state.”

    And you can accept that privilege exists and still actually do something to help people. How do you not get this?

    “When a leftist, or even a libertarian tells me to check my privilege I just laugh, because I’ve only ever heard white, upwardly mobile young professionals say this, and none of them were doing any real work to help the oppressed.”

    Bullshit. You just linked to an article by black woman about pushing back against privilege.

    “I could not finish college because I had to support myself and could not afford the state inflated tuition rates.”

    That sucks, I feel ya. I had to leave school for a while to work too. And even now I’m racking up stupid amounts of debt to go back. The systems pretty fucked, huh?

    “Get this: homeless people want to be treated as equal human beings, NOT rescued by their privileged saviors. They want to be listened to not pigeonholed for their unfortunate lot in life.”

    I know, right? It’s almost as if it would be bad to have anti-homelessness protests and organizations completely controlled by a bunch of yuppies. Like maybe those organizations access to media, a pretty nifty privilege, would result in them defining what homelessness is for the wider culture even though they’re controlled by a bunch of yuppies. I’d even go so far as to say that homeless folk might actually appreciate being given an opportunity to speak for themselves. Maybe even being allowed to take the podium at an anti-homelessness protest? Hm…

    “I have yet to meet a Marxist with evil intentions, but their philosophy inevitably leads to a consolidation of power that is almost always destructive on a massive scale.”

    Okay seriously though, you do know that the vast majority of social justice activists aren’t orthodox Marxists, right? I mean hell most of them aren’t even Marxists at all. Come on, this is just getting ridiculous.

    “privilege checking offers false hope in the meaningless statements of upper middle class, college indoctrinated whites.”

    Ugh. This is a stupid, completely false adhominem. You can’t possibly prove that all social justice activists are upper middle class whites. That’s idiotic. Anyone who spends even a day browsing online social justice spaces can see what an outrageous lie this is. I mean for Christ’s sake, have you even been to Tumblr??

    “The untold psychological damage of relegating someone to an oppressed status may even make privilege checking more nefarious than useless.”

    So acknowledging that oppression exists is equivalent to relegating people to oppression? I guess that means that acknowledging that the state exists actually creates the state and all its oppression? We better stop talking about the state and its violence then!

    You’re starting to get really incoherent.

    “so why are universities pushing the idea that acknowledging their inferiority and providing them special accommodations is some kind of solution?”

    Which social justice activists are calling black people inferior?!?! Seriously?! Being the target of oppression and discrimination doesn’t make you inferior and no one is saying it does. Where are you getting this crap?

    “Privilege checking perpetuates racism by patronizing black people who don’t need white people to give them permission to speak.”

    No one said that black need that permission. BLACK PEOPLE ARE ASKING WHITE PEOPLE TO CHECK THEIR PRIVILEGE. Do you get this? White privilege is not the invention of guilty whites. Its roots go all the way back to WEB DuBois’ “psychological wages of whiteness” and is today championed by all sorts of POC anti-racists. This idea that white people are running up to black people to tell them that they’re oppressed, but it’s okay because white people are going to start giving them permission to speak, is completely ridiculous.

    “If you see a black person being beaten by the police, get out of your car and film that shit, don’t just bitch on your Tumblr about how racist cops are.”

    Agreed. What does this have to do with social justice activists or privilege?

    “According to radical feminists an oppressed woman can never succeed in a male dominated world.”

    Which radical feminists? I know that’s a complete characterization of what THIS radical feminist thinks. All of the radical feminists I’ve read argue that being successful in a system of oppression isn’t something to be proud of, not that women CAN’T do it.

    “When you have an enemy in your fellow man”

    So any theory that identifies those who act as oppressors is wrong? So you’re not actually an Anarchist then, right? Because that would require you to identify politicians and cops, you know your fellow man, as you enemies.

    “the preposterous concept of “microaggressions” and ignore the macroaggression”

    How, specifically, is the concept of microaggressions preposterous? And why does acknowledging those microagressions prevent anyone from also seeing macroaggression? You’re just stating shit like it’s true without actually making a case for it.

    “A woman shouldn’t be given special privileges to speak over a man if her ideas are harmful or insane.”

    Who decides which ideas are harmful or insane? The culture we both live in would consider our political ideas (Anrachism and its offshoots) harmful and insane. If men are the ones controlling the cultural narrative, then it isn’t difficult to see how perfectly reasonable ideas about gender equality could become marginalized as harmful or insane. To counteract this social justice activists try to create spaces were women’s voices can be heard over the voices of men. What’s wrong with this again?

    “Many people in LGBTQ community also want to be treated as individuals, not merely defined by their sexual orientation.”

    Yes we do. And many of us would also like people to own their straight privilege. These aren’t mutually exclusive things.

    “You can’t stereotype people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer. While the LGBTQ community may statistically lean left politically, even that varies among individuals.”

    Okay… and you’re point is?

    “To elevate a person based on their sexual identity is as bad as focusing on their race or gender.”

    We shouldn’t elevate queer folk to the same level as straight folk because that means acknowledging that they are indeed queer? For real though?

    “People are human beings first, and deserve to be applauded for their achievements, not the traits they were born with.”

    Yup. And as a gay man one of my many achievements is surviving a hostilely heterosexist culture. You can both recognize that straight privilege exists AND applaud people for their individual achievements. There is absolutely nothing mutually exclusive about these two things.

    “How rude would it be to introduce someone as, “Dan, my gay friend”? So, why do people want to do that on the academic level?”

    What do you even mean by this? The only thing I can think of is that you’re saying a persons status as a minority (poc, female, queer, etc) shouldn’t be called out in academic settings. The irony is that not having your sexuality called out everytime the class talks about queer people, not being asked to speak for your entire group, IS STRAIGHT PRIVILEGE.

    “So, why do people want to do that on the academic level? “Step aside cis-gendered whitey, this queer person gets priority.” Yes, the enlightened thing to do is ignore people’s individuality and merit, and define them by their sex lives, whether they want that or not.”

    While I don’t want to be asked to speak for all queer people, I do appreciate it when people make an effort to allow queer people speak to their own experiences rather than having a bunch of straight people talk about what queerness is, what it’s like, even though they don’t actually have any idea.

    And to be clear, there’s a difference between a classroom and an activist space. I think you’re confusing the two. I’m in a liberal Social Sciences department (anthropology and sociology) and I have never had anyone behave in the way you’re describing. In activist spaces however, it’s completely appropriate to ask if there are any queer people who would like to speak where you’re discussing issues involving queer folk. This is just commonsense, not sure why it bothers you so much.

    “Privilege checking teaches those with “privilege” to hate themselves while simultaneously suggesting that those with different characteristics are oppressed and need their pity.”

    That’s weird, because I don’t hate myself. Nor do I think anyone needs my pity. I do think oppression exists, and I think that I experience types of oppression that others do not and that others experience types of oppression that I do not. Again, kinda commonsense.

    “The realization came to me years ago when I participated in a discussion with a group keen on making sure I knew my place as a privileged white woman. I was frequently the butt of jokes about my “white privilege card,” but I took it in stride because I believed them.”

    It sounds like you were acting from a place of privilege, and your friends probably weren’t joking but were rather trying to get you to stop being such a dick. I know, I know, having your privilege called out hurt your precious fee fees, so now you’re on a crusade against those dang minorities who want you to “acquiesce” to their ridiculous demand that you try to be a decent human being. Ain’t life hard?

    “They showed me an emotional documentary on how blacks have been oppressed in this country (mostly by the state), and a fellow poet, possibly the least racist person I know, lamented, “I am ashamed that I was born white” followed with a thoughtful, downward looking gaze. Instead of understanding, our hosts beamed with glee, and congratulated him for hating his skin.”

    It’s almost like they were HAPPY that this person had a breakthrough!

    Look, being ashamed of the color of your skin isn’t a healthy place to be. But it is very often a stage many white people go through when learning about racism and privilege. It’s a normal reaction, but staying in that space instead of moving forward is unhelpful. Which is why NO ONE who does social justice or anti-racist work is trying to make people forever hate their race. Feeling ashamed of being born white might be a sign that someone is moving forward, but getting over that feeling is also a sign that they’re moving forward.

    “If privilege checking were reversed”

    Ya um, black people would kind of have to have a racial privilege to be checked. They don’t, so talking about “reversing” privilege checking is meaningless. If the situation of black and white people were completely reversed, THEN white people asking black people to check their privilege would make sense.

    “We are all unique individuals with diverse experiences that shape our opinions, and those experiences should be given weight in a discussion about privilege.”

    Yes, they should. And too often people with privilege dominant these discussion, because that’s how they’ve been socialized, and the oppressed have their voices drowned out. So maybe we should try to elevate the voices of people who otherwise struggle to be heard.

    “All people deserve to be heard, and shouldn’t have to “check their privilege” to do it.”

    Right… because those poor straight, white, cis-men never get to be heard in our society.

    “We can address the needs of the disprivileged through direct action, not insipid back patting.”

    Just one more reminder. You can accept the existence of your various privileges AND take direct action against injustice. There is absolutely nothing mutually exclusive about the two. I’m really not sure why you think there is.

    “They are strong, intelligent, and capable of self-determination.”

    Yup, oppressed people are strong, intelligent and capable of self-determination. And many of them have used their strength and intelligence to self-determine to ask those with privilege to check that shit.

    “They don’t need the insulting pandering of people who cannot possibly understand their experiences.”

    Wait, but I thought you said one of the problems with the “privilege checkers” is that THEY claim that the privileged can’t ever really empathize with unprivileged? And yet here you are telling the “privilege checkers” that they cannot possibly understand their experiences. Are you even trying to be consistent?

    “Looking at privilege through a lens of power, instead of unchosen physical characteristics, provides the clearest picture for how to deal with subjugation.”

    You really have a hard on for ridiculous dualism, don’t you? You can look at privilege through a lens of power by examining how being part of a dominant group grants you certain power that others don’t have. Yet again we’ve got two things that ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

    “In most cases you’ll find that it is the person with the power of the state that is in the truly privileged position.”

    And weirdly enough those people have historically all been STRAIGHT, WHITE, CIS-MEN. Weird how that works, huh?