Tag Archives: white privilege

“Know whence you came.”

Take no one’s word for anything, including mine—but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go. The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear. Please try to be clear, dear James, through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept hem and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.

—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963), Modern Library [1995], pp. 7-8

Advertisements

Unchecked privilege

Consider the world as viewed through the lens of intersectionality. At the very top of the pyramid of privilege stands a straight, able-bodied, white man — whether he was born rich, attended Harvard, and works on Wall Street, or is a laid off coal miner who struggles with opioid addiction in eastern Kentucky. Below him are straight, able-bodied white women, with straight “people of color” of either gender even less privileged, followed by gay, lesbian, transgendered, and disabled variations on each identity category — with a hypothetical disabled black lesbian perhaps least privileged of all. But of course, this is a matter of controversy, since a transgendered Latina who comes from a poorer neighborhood or a more broken family than her black lesbian rival might contest and take offense at this ranking, insisting that she’s actually the one who deserves to be recognized as the least privileged.

It should be obvious that this brand of politics is profoundly poisonous. Instead of seeking to level an unjust hierarchy, mitigate its worst abuses, and foster cross-group solidarity, intersectionality merely flips the hierarchy on its head, placing the least privileged in the most powerful position and requiring everyone else to clamor for relative advantage in the new upside-down ranking. Those who come out on top in the struggle win their own counter-status, earning the special privilege of getting to demand that those lower in the pecking order “check their privilege.”

This is a sure-fire spur to division, dissension, and resentment.

–Damon Linker, Liberals are drunk on a political poison called intersectionality