Thursday, October 1, 2015

The greatest danger in talking about privilege instead of rights

I'm thinking again about privilege because I got into a discussion on Facebook that, no surprise, went nowhere. A friend said, "Every African American person I know doesn't ever use the term privilege in association with wealth." A black friend of hers agreed. I thought they had a limited set of friends, but then, most people do, so I didn't say that. I simply asked how they discussed economic privilege. They assured me they did, though they didn't say how. This is the usual way discussions go with identitarians—they assure you're they're also concerned about the things they then continue to ignore.

It made me want to write a post titled "Appropriating privilege." I was very pleased with my cleverness until I realized it would only be a recap of what I wrote in The Problem with Privilege Theory.

So I walked around a little bit, and in the kitchen, which is often where insights come, I realized this:

The difference between rights and privileges is that rights are assumed to be inalienable, while privileges only exist so long as they're tolerated. For most of my life, the argument against racism was that it denied people of their rights. But under privilege theory, there are no rights—there are only those who have privilege and those who do not. Marriage? A privilege for straight people, not a human right. Freedom from harassment by the police? A privilege for white people, not a human right. Equal pay? A privilege for men, not a human right. If I wanted to create the right-libertarian future in which the rich ruled absolutely, it would be essential to eliminate the idea of rights. Privilege theorists are doing that.