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Audre Lorde once spoke at a feminist conference, noting that she was the only black lesbian there and one of only two women of color.  She was pointing at privilege and exclusion within a group formed to remedy and address privilege and exclusion.  In this address, she pointed to the language and organizational structure adopted by feminists to address patriarchy was formed by patriarchy to reinforce patriarchy.  That language and organization are the "master's tools" she speaks of and her assessment is that by using them, privilege will not be eliminated, but instead renewed and sustained.  

(Posted at SexGenderBody)

That metaphor has resonated with me since the very first time I heard it.  I started blogging for a number of reasons, including identifying, owning and interrupting privilege.  I have come to some conclusions which I will share in this post, namely:

- Privilege is always happening, in everyone's life and in every group.

- I can only interrupt, acknowlege and impact my own privilege.  This seems to be true for us all.  It is also true for groups.

- Denial sustains and reinforces privilege and honesty creates an opportunity to interrupt privilege.

The very instant any group or community is formed or declared, exclusion and privilege are established and instituted.  

Exclusion: some people are in that group and some are not.  

Privilege: the group has leader(s) / former(s) / administrator(s) / public & private voice(s) in some form or another who agree to their ability to declare the identity of that group.  There is also privilege in the selection of new members to the group or the expulsion of current members.

This can be problematic for any group whose stated goal is to address or lessen privilege.  This is often a group whose members and lives are often largely defined by their experiences of having been excluded by privileged persons and groups.  How such an organization or group addresses its privilege and exclusion will impact how successful they are in their efforts to impact privilege elsewhere and as a group or individuals.<!--break-->

Privilege does not go away.  

It's baked into the language we use, the roles and identities we exchange and learn, the laws of the land, the conventions of speaking and gathering, the eating of food, the drinking of water and the air we breathe.  Privilege is a companion to every life on this planet from birth to death.   

Privilege materializes in many forms: economic, power, race, gender, class, caste, age, education and a myriad of "pecking orders" drawn up formally and informally.  

No group, whether seeking to benefit from privilege or to mitigate it, exists without its own privilege dynamics.  It is perpetuated and reinforced by all group members no matter whether they act / speak or are silent, whether they know it or not.  There is no moment when we can remove privilege and announce

"OK, we fixed privilege, so let's move on to the next item."

That does not stop some groups from trying to do exactly that.  It seems to be human nature to want to declare that something is completed and finished.  I think this concept itself is a privileged assertion by a human mind to declare to the world (in a language only spoken by humans) that something has ended because we said so.  Our language allows and supports this concept to be accepted, desired and re-stated solely because we all agree that's what it means.

So, if we cannot make privilege go away (and we can't), then what are we to do about it if we find ourselves in a group who would like to lessen some negative aspects of privilege and / or exclusion?  

1. My first suggestion and I think, the most important is to embrace the existence of privilege and exclusion from the very start of the group identity.  

The only way to keep something in the open is to avoid hiding it.  Denial of privilege is an act of privilege.  How a group chooses to address its privilege and exclusion is the first choice that group makes upon forming.  Denying, omitting, forgetting about, not thinking about..privilege are actions and choices just the same as talking about and creating a strategy.    

Compare privilege in this example to the water around a ship.  The water is always leaking in and if the crew ignores, denies or rationalizes about the problem being people talking about the water , then the ship will sink.  The only strategy to keep the ship afloat is to build the boat from the onset to be actively managing water from leaks.  

If a group starts out knowing full well that it will be addressing and managing its own privilege and exclusion, the group is giving itself the best chance to impact, interrupt and mitigate the effects of privilege and exclusion.  It creates access for all group members and external voices to engage on this facet of the group when it arises.  A group building on honesty and open communication is likely to endure longer than one build on denial, dishonesty and deliberately ignoring its own actions.  

For groups attempting to address privilege elsewhere, this strategy has the added benefit of providing experience in building the vocabulary, communications, customs and conventions consistent with addressing privilege in the areas and objectives they focus upon.  This is not only "building a muscle", this is building the muscle critical to such a group's success.

It will not be easier to handle later.  There is no better time than the beginning to address privilege and exclusion.

Dealing with privilege and exclusion involves effort.  That same effort waits for the group if they address it later, but is compounded with all the additional effort of drawing group energy and time from its ongoing efforts, cleaning up past acts of privilege and exclusion that the group cannot tolerate in its new form, repairing or addressing the denied communications and relationships between internal and external persons regarding privilege and exclusion.  

Further compounding this is inviting people that were excluded before into a group that in every aspect was created to exclude them specifically.  Why would anyone want to join a group that has been excluding / ignoring / silencing them?

It may be compared to knowingly building a house wrong, then redesigning it, cleaning it and rebuilding it while living in it - rather than spending the effort to build it the way it needed to be the first time.

2. Everyone in the group participates in the establishment of privilege and exclusion.  The appointed representatives, administrators, leaders and the "audience" of listeners, members, supporters, volunteers.  The group must be thorough and clear in terms of what, where, how and by whom the manifestations of privilege and exclusion will be addressed and communicated.

The hierarchy of a group breaks the group into definitions which each carry their own group agreed values and roles.  However, the privilege is only maintained so long as the group agrees to the definitions.  So, it's not just the speaker at the head of the room, but the butts in the chairs of the audience that listen to the speaker in the privileged terms that both speaker and audience agree to.  

Silence is consent.

When a group does not address privilege, this is just as active as any role performed by leader or appointed representative of the group.  In fact, it is the silence of the majority on the topic of privilege that reinforces the message to leadership that the group approves of not addressing its own privilege.   

3. Privilege and exclusion reside in language.  

Every word we use in our daily life has been created within a system of privilege and exclusion.  This is also true for concepts, behavioral conventions, cultural traditions, verbal cues, gestures, looks, group and individual behavior.  A smile, a wink, a handshake, a word, a phrase, the structure of a sentence, seating arrangements, rank, status, possessions, agreement, disagreement - all of these things are communicated in language.  It does not matter which language.

The languages we share today were created in social structures that had clear privilege levels and exclusions.  Those privileges shaped, informed and chose by inclusion only the words that furthered the survival of that privilege structure an omitted any language that did not.  

Even as we speak toward lessening privilege or exclusion, we are reinforcing it with the very words we speak, the gestures we use, the places we sit and the order in which we gather.  This is true of individuals and groups alike.

We are stuck with language.  It gives us everything.  We do have a choice in whether we address the role language plays in our understanding and creation of the world we live in.  Ignoring this is also a choice, a privilege and an action with consequences.

4. Results come after committed action.  

To quote Yoda:

"Try not. Do or do not, there is no try."

Day in, day out - we choose how we deal with privilege.  Not all groups addressing privilege are starting from scratch.  I have encountered more than a few NGO's, 501(c)3's, blogs, magazines, educational institutions that have stated goals of addressing privilege which do not address their own privilege.  

When we look at the privilege we create and perpetuate, we will see the places where we see ourselves as different, where we fear others and where we enjoy the advantages of privilege.  We fear seeing this in ourselves and we fear being forced to own this in public - at least if we are investing our identity in unseating privilege elsewhere.

Conservative organizations often seek privilege out as a favorable outcome.  Groups  seeking to cement privilege and exclusion will often tell external critics to go "find their own group" and send them packing with a "fuck off".  

When a progressive / liberal / privilege facing group ignores external calls to its own privilege, it ends up delivering the same message as the conservatives but lacking the intellectual honesty.  The external complainants are led to believe that they are included, but left to figure out on their own that they have been excluded by a group claiming on the surface to be willing to address their concerns.

Whether they exist already or are starting from scratch, groups seeking to address and mitigate privilege will make their choices on how to deal with their own privilege and they will also live with the results.

In order for us to address privilege and effectively interrupt it, we must name it, know it, hold it out in the harsh light of day and in the process exposing our own blemishes.  Linguistic privilege and exclusion are designed to flourish, prosper and perpetuate through silent assent and denial of existence...and not to your benefit.  I invite you to look at yourself, your groups and your language to see where these elements are playing out.  Look until you see what it costs you, those you know and the things that matter most to you.

We are not victims of language unless we ignore its singular role in defining who we are and who we are not.

 

 

 

Originally posted to sexgenderbody on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 01:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good read ty. I have a little sign behind my desk (6+ / 0-)

    "The doors of this mind are always open" as a reminder.

    After one of my business partners had something to say to me about preconceived ideas based on incomplete data.

    "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." Arundhati Roy

    by LaFeminista on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 02:17:39 AM PST

  •  I'm a little surprised you didn't mention the (12+ / 0-)

    roots of the word.  'Privilege' comes from a pair of words that mean 'private law'.  So as you point out, groups establish their own rules of behavior, their own 'private law' when they form, and continue to exist within the confines of and modify them over time.

    DK has 'privilege' - you have the right to speak to an extent, but if you become too rude or obnoxious, that 'private law' kicks in, and your comments are hidden or you are banned outright.  A few topics of thought, such as things deemed 'conspiracy theory' are off-limits to start.

    But anyone can join the group, as long as they acknowledge and agree to abide within that 'private law'.  

    So the main distinction when discussing privilege to me, is the divide between 'privilege' you get from groups you can voluntarily become a part of (DK), and groups you are automatically barred from joining by some unyielding barrier, no matter how arbitrary. (skin color)

    •  Similarly (5+ / 0-)

      Exclusion is an interesting word where one might well turn the advice about paying attention to language

      Exclusion (or to exculude) is commonly defined not as a generic absence as you do in this specialized use but rather as:

      1 a : to prevent or restrict the entrance of b : to bar from participation, consideration, or inclusion
      2 : to expel or bar especially from a place or position previously occupied

      Notice that all of these imply an agent acting to exclude.  It is a rather more restricted meaning, and requires consideration, particularly because not all absence happens because of exclusion. Both random chance and preference can also generate absence without exclusion.  By applying this term over broadly you run into an problem with mixing up implicit assertion about causation.  

      A minor point in a really great take on the subject of hidden power

      •  Well, yes and no... (6+ / 0-)

        In large part, when discussing the broader issues of privilege, the 'agent' isn't a specific being per se, but is the overarching structure or system built up by the nature of the group under discussion.

        If, for instance, you hold all of your group meetings on remote tropical paradises in expensive hotels, 'being rich' might not be built in to the explicit laws of the group, but it is a requirement to actually attend, even if no one in the group ever thought to even want it as a requirement.  In which case 'preference' (wanting to hold your meetings in 'nice' places) is actually a side-effect of the privilege already afforded to those participating, thanks to overlapping layers of 'group'ness.  In order to actually explicitly work to avoid such exclusionary behavior, you have to be attuned to even looking to see if it is an unintended consequence of things such as 'preference' or the self-selectivity that comes from seeking membership within existing layers of society or circles of power.

        •  Certainly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DBunn

          But by choosing to use such an over expansive definition the ONLY possible explanation for absence is what is commonly understood as the erection of barriers. It fails to leave any other possibility.  I think this kind of logically sealed language is problematic

        •  Best argument yet in support of the notion ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... privilege.

          A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

          by The Werewolf Prophet on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 07:44:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Not just about being open about it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nulwee

    The very instant any group or community is formed or declared, exclusion and privilege are established and instituted.  

    I'm almost tempted to claim that privilege is the only thing that makes change possible. If you don't have people with the privilege to take the time and raise the money to get stuff done, what do you have? Nothing.

    •  I think I would disagree there. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, freedapeople, ban nock

      The 'privilege' of time is what you make of it.  Plenty of poor people have come up with rather astounding inventions or innovations.  To be trite, privilege isn't the mother of invention, necessity is.

      Now privilege can certainly facilitate innovation, but the person who thinks in innovative ways, or learns to look at the world from many angles will be capable of innovation whether or not they also have money, and will be able to use their innovative thought patterns to acquire more time or money.  Likewise, the privileged person is every bit as likely to simply take their 'privilege' for granted, and to not use it to facilitate innovation.

      I think I'd argue that's why we need to spend more time on teaching children how to think logically and creatively from the start, to give them the tools that will help them for the rest of their lives.

      •  Excellent comment! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN

        It differentiates say the Steve Jobs of the world from the Mitt Romneys. One innovates the other just is a parasite from the innovation of others, and then defines that as success.

        In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

        by vcmvo2 on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 10:39:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you (9+ / 0-)

    Gay black guy here and it never fails to amaze me how ignorant people (including myself) can be of their own privilege while addressing privilege...to the point of pushing back with their own privilege.

  •  I have long thought (5+ / 0-)

    that priviledge and power are inherent parts of the human condiition  ... we participate in them no matter what.  When I was first coming into my own thoughts, a big part of if my questioning was the question "By what authority do I do or say this?"   I tried to think through the origins and the possible results of things.  I saw/heard others that assumed because they were "white men" or "blonds" or "victims" they had the right/priviledge to do or say whatever with authority.  

    Most people did not understand the question when I felt safe enough to share it ... just as most people want to change the power structure, not to make it more open, but to put themselves on top.

    But structure (which includes power and privilege) are necessary to change.  And so we have the Gordon Knot of how to create change while remaining aware of and accounting for our own leanings and principles.  Been working on that (on a very small scale) for over 40 years now and am not much closer to any kind of permanent change -- I still have to stope and think things through.

    Thanks for helping me consciously revisit this while all the  countdowns and Bowl Games are sucking up the air.  LOL  

    For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free. [Shirley Erena Murray (1996)]

    by CorinaR on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 10:31:27 AM PST

    •  well there's earned respect vs. unearned privilege (5+ / 0-)

      I especially notice the point you are making when it comes to humor, which is, I think, one of the places where concepts of privilege are most obvious.

      So many comedians or shock jocks complain the world is too "politically correct," (meaning they can't make racist/sexist/homophobic jokes without someone making a complaint) and the appeal of the "politically incorrect" or oppressive humor it really that it taps into a dominant cultural sentiment that is so widespread and ingrained that the speaker gets agreement from the audience without having to work for it.

      In other words, speaker says "that's retarded," audience acknowledges nobody wants to be retarded, they laugh.

      They'll sometimes say "oh well we're 'equal-opportunity offenders'" or "we offend everyone," but if you really look into it, what they mean is they're offending women AND black people AND gay people AND Christians AND basically anybody who gets emotional about something, but always riding the easy wave of privilege itself.

      So then there writers and humorists who step in from a more positive starting point; there are women comedians or black comedians or gay comedians and basically people who want to work without the lowest-hanging fruit. But you'll often find that they shift to other types of privilege; for example, oftentimes you see a gay comedian pushing back at homophobia by calling homophobic people "rednecks;" they're not challenging heterosexism but rather, exploiting classism and class privilege. Or you'll find a woman comedian calling sexists stupid and what she's really doing is exploiting everybody's perception that an intelligent person is inherently superior to an average person, once again a form of privilege.

      But I don't see this to mean that fair humor is impossible. It just means it's not as easy. Privilege is unearned but you can work harder to do it without privilege; in a prejudiced world that might mean working from scratch. Unfortunately capitalism lends itself to exploiting privilege, and rewards those who exploit privilege. but then there's comedy that is self-deprecating, that makes fun of universal human insecurities and anxieties rather than "groups," or that makes fun of ones own group but in a heartwarming way. I think it's possible, but doesn't give you the privilege of being lazy.

      •  I worked quite a bit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pizzuti, sexgenderbody

        With Native American activists in the Southwest and and was strongly immersed in "Rez" humor.  It probably saved my life.  I have come to embrace it as a survival skill. It fits your last two sentences.  Actually,  once you get the hang of it, it begins to come quite naturally.  So actually, there is a bit of what might be deemed "laziness" in it, but I guess that's countered by the fact that the experiences that surround it are often quite brutal.  

        The best Native American humorists (even somewhat commercially successful on occasions) may thus hold a bit of relative privilege, but they're grounded in the soil of hardship.

        Namaste!

        •  There could be privilege within the community... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sexgenderbody, evergreen2

          but I don't think Native American identity in itself is or can be privileged. There would still be male privilege, heterosexual privilege, class privilege and maybe other nuanced kinds that are specific to the community, within that community. There could be white privilege among Native Americans who are mixed race, and Native American cultures and subcultures can still privilege white people even if they aren't white.

          But is there a Native American privilege? I don't think that is a useful concept. Not disagreeing with you, but I think the concept makes more sense when you break down the different types of privilege.

          •  I didn't mean it quite like that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sexgenderbody

            I was meaning the privilege that comes with being a "professional" or "successful" entertainer or comedian, as I was thinking of it in relationship to what the previous commenter was writing about regarding professional comedians.

            "Rez" humor is in response to being constantly stuck on the bottom, a kind of constant irony in the face of a relentless system that also exploits and "rewards" aspects of NA culture. Here in New Mexico (and elsewhere of course, but I'm speaking from where I'm grounded) it's like a house of distorting mirrors and mazes in which, yes, all the lines and webs of colonialism intensify the inherent systems of privilege that the diarist is writing about.

            Thank you for commenting and thus helping me clarify my thinking about this.

            Namaste!

  •  privilege and Democracy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sexgenderbody

    Very insightful!  I noticed you mentioned the term 'hierarchy', which seems at the heart of all privilege, I think. To divide is to conquer --us vs. them-- and thus the Wheel of Dharma turns.  We've codified privilege into hierarchical 'bits' we call 'money' --an abstraction of the hierarchical power and control of the few over the many. A few large bills = lots of small bills, and so the privileged always see that as somehow "fair".  The wealthy and powerful always say they want equality of "chance", but we all know how the odds really work.  If you are reading this you are statistically unlikely to ever become a member of the ruling class.  That's my "wager" anyway.

    Hierarchical systems provide security and comfort for the members privileged to be at the top of it, at the expense of all else (the destitute, the wage slaves, the environment), and thus such systems must always, inevitably, invariably fail.  The representative democracy system is an example of a failing system of privilege, and it is beginning to crumble because it no longer reflects what the majority of its so-called members want (if it ever really did).

    Humanity needs to establish a global, one-person, one-vote Democracy in which we all equally determine our fate as this planet's (current) dominant species.  To do otherwise is simply to return to our age-old cycles of resource depletion/war/genocidal mania, and establishing yet still another hierarchical system of power and control that excludes the many for the sake of the few.  "Stupid is as stupid does", as Gump would say.

    Is it possible to create a non-hierarchical system of mass self-governance that includes and improves the lives all of humanity, while doing the least possible harm to our environment?  Maybe.  I personally like the idea of trying, considering the alternative we seem to be headed for..

    •  I like the idea of trying, too (0+ / 0-)

      Hierarchical structures seem to be a dimension of human behavior that is hard-wired. They just happen. Someone asserts their superiority and it is either challenged or not. People act like pack-animals. How far outside of hard-wired "human nature" can we change ourselves, let alone anyone else? If something is conceivable, does that make it possible?

      •  I think what you are saying (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sexgenderbody

        Fits perfectly with the challenge that the Occupy movement faces with the leaderless/we are all leaders style and the consensus method of decision-making, especially since we are so "colonized" in our minds by hierarchical systems and experiences.

        Namaste!

  •  This post is so great (8+ / 0-)

    and I'm really glad you wrote this here.

    I love this:

    Denial of privilege is an act of privilege.

    Thank you.

    Read my stuff at burn after writing and The Huffington Post @indiemcemopants on Twitter

    by indiemcemopants on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 10:45:52 AM PST

  •  brilliant (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sexgenderbody, ban nock

    Thank you so much for this - I have been thinking quite a bit about these issues.

    What I want to know is what purpose do these behaviors serve?

    In any group environment - academic, religious, social, family, professional - people form cliques, establish insiders & outsiders, leaders & followers. These behaviors appear to be hard-wired into human behavior.

    What is it about, exactly? How does this contribute to survival? Are we just beastly beasts looking to mark and defend our territory? Don't we all compete for some status within a group, whether we acknowledge it or not - unless we've simply given up and accepted a lower rung - ?

    Xenophobia, territorialism, tribalism, a stated group identity - all this stuff happens everywhere, and probably has for as long as people have existed. Most of these behaviors seem to be fear-driven, focused on getting enough for "me and mine."

    But it seems crazy, and feels bad to be enslaved to those impulses (our own or those of others.) I've always felt that people are at their worst in groups, but that's probably because I've been an outsider more often than not, even in situations where I might have seemed to be an insider from the perspective of those outside the group.

    And yes, I have seen in plenty of organizations whose stated mission is to encourage and foster "inclusivity" that they are just as exclusive as every other group. The pride of their "inclusivity" blinds them to the fact that they are anything but.

    There must be some psychologists or social psychologists or sociologists or anthropologists or somebody like that out there who knows WHY we do these things. I don't know who those people would be, but they'd probably also be mired in their own bullshit.

    It would not surprise me if there is a predictable pattern or model this behavior follows from the inception of a group onward. I have witnessed some pretty bizarre group dynamics in my lifetime - as in a group that got thousands of people to believe in the impossible because they kept insisting they were right, over and over and over, and no one was allowed to ask questions or challenge the authorities.

    Yet for many people, "community" (which I notice no one can define) is supposedly what they value about their group. This presumably is because they are comfortably situated within their group.

    I believe it is a known fact that human beings base all interpretations on past knowledge and are probably hard-wired to do so - as a result of which it is very difficult to alter an engrained conceptual framework.

    •  you are so very welcome (0+ / 0-)

      your thoughtful response echoes a lot of my own considerations and some that I had not looked at.  thank you for the time you took to read and respond.  it means the a great deal to me.

    •  As someone whose first degree was in Anthropology (0+ / 0-)

      I would say that we are a product of human social evolution, and evolution is a very slow process.  We are born into and grow up within circles of authority and find our sense of security within them. It is quite terrifying to be thrust into what feels like chaos.  When my father died three years ago, I found myself disoriented in a way I would never have predicted, as I've been quite an independent spirit all of my life.

      I also think people are somewhat genetically disposed to be more "authoritarian" or more "independent," as some studies have revealed.

      Namaste!  

  •  "Denial of privilege is an act of privilege." (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, ScottDog, The Raven, MGross, Shifty18

    "Denial of Satanic possession is an act of the satanically possessed."

    Different group, same logical fallacy.

    A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

    by The Werewolf Prophet on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 05:45:26 PM PST

    •  message received (0+ / 0-)

      fuck you, too

    •  I think you've been caught trying to apply logic. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Werewolf Prophet, MGross

      Bad commenter.  Bad.

      "To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well." Justice Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor, Nuremberg.

      by Wayward Son on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 08:38:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree with your conclusion. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sexgenderbody

      I'm not really well versed on the rules of logic, but I don't think your statement is a fair parallel to what is being said.

      The diarist is starting with a premise that privilege is a universal fact of human groupings and societies.  Thus, one can only "rationally" deny the existence of privilege if one is located within a higher level of authority, i.e. privilege, in a society or group.

      No one would claim that being "satanically possessed" is a universal human characteristic.

      Namaste!

      •  OK, I think I see ambiguity in the ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... diarist's statement "Denial of privilege is an act of privilege."

        If s/he means that the freedom to reject - without additional consequences, some unearned benefit which would otherwise automatically accrue to me due to "privilege" - is in fact part'n'parcel of said "privilege", then I agree. Put another way, one can only reject some benefit of membership only when one is already a member.

        On the other hand, if the diarist means that the mere act of questioning a theory of some social "defect" irrefutably proves the questioner is afflicted with said defect and therefore not qualified to comment upon it? That's bullshit.

        "I have a social criticism theory which says I am Right and you are Wrong. Questioning the Rightness of my theory of your Wrongness simply proves that you are indeed Wrong." This is the logic of a CHILD, a spoiled brat pitching a temper-tantrum!

        A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

        by The Werewolf Prophet on Tue Jan 03, 2012 at 04:06:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well, there's privilege (3+ / 0-)

    ... and then there's abuse of privilege. Does the former ever exist without the latter?

    I'm a privileged guy in a lot of ways. I try not to be a jerk about it. Without question, some of my privileges are unearned (but none the less real). Others are probably somewhat earned and/or deserved.

    Privilege is related to power. I can do things, go places, talk to people, learn things, influence events in ways that some other people can't, and often privilege plays a part in that.

    I've long felt that if you have power, you have an obligation to use it-- in a good way, of course. I think our species is designed that way. Some of us are always more powerful than others, in one way or another, at one time or another. Our individual lives and social groups work best when we pool our powers and use them for mutual benefit, rather than hording them and using them only for ourselves.

    If we have power in some dimension-- strength, skill, wisdom-- it does no good to stifle it. The trick is to use our power well, whatever it may be. A few suggestions: have some humility, be realistic about who we're dealing with, keep an open mind, be fair, and whenever possible, be kind.

    •  The Tao of ability (3+ / 0-)
      If we have power in some dimension-- strength, skill, wisdom-- it does no good to stifle it

      Wonderful comment and an excellent point. Advantages are dimensional in nature.

      What vexes the diarist here is that "privilege" qua privilege is limned negatively whereas, as you wisely express the idea, the concept is interdimensional.

      We see this manifest with singular salience on the Internet, which facilitates the formation of ad hoc interest communities. By nature, such groups are tribal, and perforce enact inclusionary and exclusionary practices to define their memberships.

      Indeed, it is only by enacting such rules that specific communities can exist. For example, in otaku groupings, qualification for membership is inherently the possession of a knowledge set, with entry determined by the degree to which an applicant has mastered an arbitrary volume of material.

      Every day's another chance to stick it to the man. - dls

      by The Raven on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:39:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think you're definitely on to something here. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sexgenderbody, The Raven

        I'm really struggling with this because, as I have written downstream, this issue is very concretely tearing apart our Occupy/unOccupy community here in Albuquerque. This is not an abstract theoretical thing for me.

        I think it's important to hold on the one hand, as you say, that privilege can be a positive thing, while, on the other hand, it can be a negative thing.

        Back in the 1980's I worked for/with the International Indian Treaty Council and my job was explicitly to use my white privilege to get things done for the Navajo Elders of Big Mountain.  I had to be carefully trained how to do that, and I had to be careful in how I did that.  There were explicit rules in that whole process.

        Privilege can be a positive thing, as you say. But it is a horse that requires skill and ethics to ride.

        Thank you for helping me think about this.

        Namaste!

  •  One of the more thought provoking meta threads (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sexgenderbody, evergreen2

    I've read here.

    "Slip now and you'll fall the rest of your life" Derek Hersey 1957-1993

    by ban nock on Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 06:26:20 AM PST

  •  Thank you so much for this!!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sexgenderbody

    I'm going to have to set this aside right now, but I'm so glad I found this.

    You really shed a light on what I have been in agony over since mid-November.  The occupy/(un)occupy Albuquerque sibling warfare has been relentless, heart-breaking, alienating, circular, completely mishandled on all sides, thus throwing a potentially powerful multi-ethnic anti-colonial evolutionary community into endless internal mistrust and periodic vitriolic combat.  

    I started writing diaries about it (one of which became, for some strange reason, one of the root internet documents of the decolonize/unoccupy movement), but had to quit, because I couldn't figure it out and YES the silencing of dissent has made it so that dissent becomes expressed in completely negative ways that do not lead to any reconciliation.

    Last night I spent watching the occupation party/arrest livestream in one window, following them on Twitter, participating in the awesome Dkos fund-raising diaries here in another window, and following a ghastly Facebook fight between occupy and (un)occupy Albuquerque members in another.

    When I read your description of how ALL groups, by nature, including ones that self-define as anti-imperialist, include privilege, it was as if a light-bulb went on.  Of course they do!!!  And recognition of that must be the starting point.  And that is just so exactly what needs to be considered, and hasn't been, here in Burque.

    I am going to recommend that both communities here read your diary.  I think it might really help.

    It may also help me begin to have a functioning framework within which to write about it.  

    Thanks again,
    Namaste and Happy New Year!

    •  I shared this post for exactly what you describe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      evergreen2

      I don't really care to debate with the privileged about their denial of privilege.  I won't change anyone's mind and I won't make anyone who is dead set against admitting their privilege  own it on my account.

      I do however share for anyone looking for a way forward and willing to hear what I have to offer in return for sharing with me what they experience.

      so, thank you for letting me know that you see a place in your experience where what I describe above is also extant.

      happy new year to you, too.

      ~arvan

      •  Re debating with the privileged (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sexgenderbody

        As you say in your diary:

        I can only interrupt, acknowlege and impact my own privilege.  This seems to be true for us all.  It is also true for groups.

        That was so helpful for me.  A tremendous amount of energy here is going into an unproductive fight based on trying (via pounding with two-by-fours) to get various "others" to recognize and deal with their various levels of privilege. And it is getting absolutely nowhere. Everybody is on the offense/defense by doing this.

        Your sentence above was one of the lightbulbs that flashed on in my head.

        Privilege is baked in to all of us in various ways and it is only by recognizing that and being honest about it in our own lives and groupings that we can begin to determine honestly where we will place the doors and windows--and thus strengths and possibilities--that we can loosen the hold that it has on our interactions and creative possibilities.

        Namaste!

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