Friday, November 30, 2012

The Slave Privilege List

You may be familiar with lists such as "the white privilege list", "the male privilege list," the "female privilege list."  There are even serious (as well as satirical) attempts to make up a "black privilege list".   These have been used to make arguments about who it is who is most privileged in the society in general.

I've been thinking of writing a post on this topic for a long time, because of the problems in the privilege approach.  But I have delayed and delayed as the topic is important and I felt I didn't have enough research under my belt.

Well, the research will not get done so here are my basic thoughts on the use of privilege lists:

They are handy for self-examination and for understanding how different life can be for others.  They are not, however, at all useful in the way they are generally used, i.e., to argue that someone has it better because of gender, race,  ethnicity and so on.

And the reason for that is a simple one:  I could make up a slave privilege list and some people would find it credible. 

For instance, slaves don't have to worry about mortgages or what school their children should go to.  They don't have to worry about their children, at all, because they belong to someone else!  Slaves don't have to worry about how to plan their day.  Slaves don't have to worry about taxes.  Slaves don't have to worry about where to live or what education to acquire.  Slaves get their meals delivered or easily have the time to make them.  Slaves don't have to deal with money.  And so on.

Essentially any position in a society can be twisted into a privilege list, and that's what makes such lists pretty useless as tools in fighting for social justice.