Monday, September 24, 2012

Privilege, the Liberal Shame and Blame Game

I’m liberal and I know how privileged I am, but it pisses me off when someone else brings it up. I can imagine situations where it wouldn’t bother me… like, if I had just achieved something and someone reminded me how lucky I am, how much help I had along the way (and I have had a lot of help along the way, even though I have achieved nothing).

I get it: when I achieve, I didn’t do it in a vacuum. I’m more than happy to share the credit and pay it forward to others so that they have the chance to succeed. In this case, privilege is a good thing: it’s the culmination of all the aid I’ve received over the years, and it makes me feel gratitude for those around me and society at large. It would even be a privilege in itself to have the ability to help others be as happy as I am.

But if you spend any time discussing social issues with a liberal you disagree with, you can be sure you’re in for privilege shaming.

If you’re white and point out that black people aren’t doing themselves any favors by committing so much crime against fellow black people, or that black people who do succeed often flee their community, leaving their former-neighbors to fend for themselves (the now well-documented phenomenon of “black flight”), you may be in for a guilt trip about how privileged you are to be white and able to buy band-aids of your skin tone.

If you’re male and you think that women are over-stepping equality and favoring women, or suggest that talking to a female stranger in public isn’t sexual harassment, you might be in for a big dose of gender shaming over how scared women are all the time.

Never mind the fact that my skin is so pale that I actually can’t find band-aids in my skin tone, or that I’m so paranoid that I am worried about being murdered every time I leave the house (despite my magical penis, which supposedly prevents me from ever being a target…).

Basically, liberals are shooting themselves in the foot. Personally, I’m confident enough in who I am to not let it bother me directly (probably because I do have so much going for me), but it bothers me that liberals are actively turning off some to liberalism simply because of physical characteristics. I didn’t choose to be a white male, I didn’t choose to be straight or be born into a wealthy family.

“But Bret, we’re trying to increase awareness of the inequalities still present in society.” No, you aren’t. If you cared about inequality, you would be worried about the problems people face, not how easy you think I have it. We need to focus on solving problems of inequality, not pointing fingers.

The ideology seems to be this: we live in a zero-sum society where straight, white males get more, and as a consequence, everyone who isn’t is losing out. That’s not really how it works.

I don’t benefit by being given options I don’t need while someone who has more potential than me squanders their future in squalor. I benefit when society benefits, and society benefits from a meritocracy, not from sexism, racism, sexual discrimination, or aristocracy.

Somewhere in a ghetto or trailer park is a poor kid who doesn’t have a chance, but if they did, they might have cured a form of cancer I one day contract. A black man arrested for drug use and put in jail might have become an effective President of the United States, if only drugs had been legal. A woman who wasn’t given a chance might have made what would have been my favorite movie of all time. There are an infinite number of scenarios under which I would benefit if life was fair for everyone.

What’s more, knowing how unfair society is doesn’t help the situation. There are people out there helping others who have no idea how lucky they have it, while there are also people who know how many advantages they’ve gotten in life, but they don’t care to help anyone one bit.

The answer to society’s problems is treating others fairly, not faulting those who are fortunate. One person acting is worth more than a million people with “awareness,” and good luck endearing someone to act in favor of your cause after you’ve told them that they don’t deserve what they have.


  1. Two things: First of all, the idea of white men produce one of two stereotypical images: if poor, stupid, white Chrstian Bible thumpers who don't knopw left from pentagon, or , if rich, Mitt Romney. While stereotypes are wrong, it is human nature to have them, and since liberals support minorities and underprivileged groups, this juicy target is the only one remaining to focus this human tendency on. Second, people who have a silver spoon in their mouth can be defended on two conditions: if they pay their fair share of taxes and other societal contributions, and they don't throw a stone at a glass house by yelling at "those lazy gov'ment bloodsuckers". It also goes along way when they donate to charity and do at least something worthwhile. Thus, as a white, rich, smart, non-sexist, non-religious, but quite lazy, person, you are still absolved from "privilege shaming" by the fact that you support and genuinely care about minorities, as well as (presumably) pay your fair share of taxes. If however you didn't do these thing, we'd have the right to call you a lazy, privileged scumbag.

    1. I've personally not felt ashamed, and frankly I don't think it would affect me very much if I did feel shame (I mean come on, I have a pretty cushy life), but it comes off as shaming, which is what I find so bothersome. It turns off any white male who might be on the fence. Who wants to be a part of an organization that claims to fight against prejudice while clearly harboring bigoted views of those who have not lived lives which were an endless series of tragedies?

      Sometimes I think liberals waste a lot of time trying to make themselves look like the biggest victim in the room.

  2. As a pretty liberal white guy myself, like you, I too am concerned about what's best for society as a whole. But I also recognize that some people are just flat no good and will never be anything but leeches on society, whether they be welfare cheaters or Wall St. scammers. I can't relate to the shame thing but I can to class warfare. For one thing, it has never been any other way and so long as we have an economic system that rewards greed it will never change. For another, envy and avarice are basic sins that drive the have-nots as well as the haves. It would seem to be a Catch 22. Therefore, all I can do is the best I can while doing my best not to hurt or injure anyone or anything else in the process. If I can actually help someone or something along the way, that's a bonus.