Day 28. 110 pages, 50,335 words.
I was blessed – blessed, I tell you – to have this quiz friend-of-a-friend-dropped onto my Facebook news feed today. The quiz asked the important question, “How Privileged Are You?”
The answer, of course, is “pretty God damn privileged, what, are you serious? Come on.” But according to this, I got away with a highly street-credworthy 43 out of 100.
NOT PRIVILEGED. There’s your proof, minorities! I’ve licked the silver spoon, drank from the golden cup, and smoked the finest green.
So that means I can feel free to go and spout off to my little liberal heart’s content without worrying that I’m making a tool of myself in front of people who actually have it rough in this world.
Only one tiny problem with that.
Thank you, Captain.
Not only does this stupid quiz give me free rein to go stamping about yelling at people that I’m not privileged so stop telling me I had advantages, just accept my wisdom as a veteran of the school of hard knocks … not only that, but I’m willing to bet not a single one of my super-privileged friends will manage to score PRIVILEGED on this test. And I know I’m privileged, and I know my friends are privileged.
And the main problem with this is, there’s no point telling people they’re privileged anyway. So fucking what if they’re privileged? Good for them! Sure, you can use that as an excuse for rejecting their out-of-touch but well-meaning advice. You can use it as an excuse for rising above their hopelessly clueless criticisms. But what I mostly see this used as is a means of turning the tables. Turning the criticism and hate back on the perceived source, and saying “you don’t get to speak now, you have no idea of my situation so shut your dillweed mouth while those less fortunate finally find their voices.” It’s the prejudiced-against, taking the weapon of the enemy and using it for themselves.
And surprise, I see it that way because I’m privileged. And yes, it’s an interesting thought-experiment to turn the white cisgender male into a minority and disregard his opinion. It’s interesting to encourage him to think about how it must feel. Sure, it’s dependent on him having the sensitivity to do so rather than getting defensive – and that’s a big ask – but yeah, sometimes it might be worth doing. And it’s human nature. Just because you’re a minority surrounded by bigots, doesn’t mean you’re not human (despite what those bigots might say). So of course your response will be to get bigoted against the bigots – and everyone with similar racial or cultural or gender characteristics of said bigots. And oops. Welcome back to the human race, motherfucker.
But here’s the kicker: You want the white cisgender male on your side. The white cisgender male is so fucking powerful. Sure, it might be a vindication to throw his privilege in his face a few times, but that’s not going to help you get more privilege. This is a really hard thing for me to confront about myself, but this whole “privilege” thing makes me defensive and retaliatory. I have to force myself to still consider the points of the truly oppressed, in spite of these mean, shitty points they’re making.
And I like to think I’m a pretty nice white cisgender male. So if I’m having trouble listening to you scolding me for the way I was born and still coming down on your side, can you imagine how hard it’s going to be for the ones who really are douchebags?
Because that’s exactly what this is, make no mistake. I am as much a victim of my genetics, geography and upbringing as any minority. I’m just a way, way more comfortable victim. Yes, I’m super-privileged. And I want to use that privilege to help. I do.
Stop making me not want to help!
The other problem with the quiz is, there’s no fair way to do it. This quiz had enraging (but obvious) questions like “Are you white?” and “Are you a man?”. Of course, those are going to give you privilege points. They’re also going to make white men, particularly those who aren’t actually all that privileged, feel as though the deck is stacked against them right from the outset. And that’s a pretty familiar feeling, right?
There were other questions, about race and identity, that are entirely subjective. I’ve been called a terrorist, and questioned at airports. I have a beard and long hair. I occasionally look like a bit of a troublemaker, I suppose. I was discriminated against enormously for my nationality and accent when I lived in New Zealand. What is race? If you meant “skin colour”, you should have said it. But that’s not the only marker for racial discrimination. It’s all bullplop, but it’s all about how you answer – how you feel about yourself. And I’m willing to bet you, most white cisgender males can answer plenty of these with a firm check in the “unprivileged” box. Without even bending the truth.
I know, this is just a shitty Buzzfeed quiz and probably the whole point of it was to poke this sort of response out of social commentators in order to get clicks, shares, comments and attention. Mission accomplished. It was just that, for me, it really neatly highlighted something I’ve been seeing more and more regularly, and the blind stupidity of it was beginning to piss me off. So yeah, ranty time.
George Takei handles this crap with aplomb. He respects his “straight allies” and doesn’t fall into the Heffalump trap of discriminating against them. He freely acknowledges that his cause needs their support and that you can’t win acceptance through mutual hate. Uncle George is a wise man and he’s seen some shit. I’m also pretty sure he’d manage to get “MASSIVELY UNPRIVILEGED” on this test, although I’m not sure what I think about that. I mean … he’s pretty privileged in a lot of ways, right?
And that’s the thing. The only way you can decide if you’re privileged is if you yourself decide to admit that you are. And that line will be different for everybody. It all depends on what you decide is unprivileged. Anyone who isn’t an organ-bank slave in [insert third-world war-torn military dictatorship or fanatical theocracy here] is privileged. And if I can get “NOT PRIVILEGED” on this quiz, you’d better believe that anyone can. And if a privileged person can point to something like this and say, “I don’t have [white] [male] [cisgender] [etc.] privilege,” … well, brilliant. Nobody’s privileged. So why are some people starving and unemployed and spat on in the streets and completely unrepresented by the law?
Yes, I’m hugely privileged. I’m not sorry, because being privileged is awesome. Otherwise all the oppressed people wouldn’t be fighting to get a piece of it.
The trick is getting a privileged person to say this of his own free will, and then getting him to say “what can I do to help?”
Because now that I’ve proved I’m not privileged, I’ll be wanting the privileged ones to help me, right?