On this week’s “Feminist Dictionary,” I’d like to address a phrase you’ve likely heard batted around the internet, perhaps in the company of such minions as “rape culture.”
“Check your privilege” is something that defenders of the innocent and less fortunate say in order to call attention to their persecuters. When someone says something that demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of other people’s lots in life, a white knight might ride in and remind them to “check their privilege.” The goal of this reminder is to alert people to the fact that not everyone lives the same life. Our beliefs are informed by our personal experiences, which can sometimes lead to insensitivity to other experiences than our own. For instance, when Wal-mart puts out signs urging patrons to donate food to their chronically underpaid employees, someone will inevitably suggest that if these employees want better wages, they should just go out and get a better job. Then, a caped internet crusader will (understandably) swoop in and tell this brain donor that just because they landed a job at their dad’s law firm straight out of college does not mean that jobs are growing on trees, and some people who are perfectly intelligent and hard workers need their job at Wal-mart to support their family. “Check your privilege” is an alert that you are making assumptions about everyone else’s positions in life based on your own.
Unfortunately, people for whom being offended is a full-time hobby have latched onto this helpful phrase and used it to make the world a more nauseating place. Instead of letting people fight their own battles, social justice heroes feel the need to shriek about privilege whenever anyone talks about their life. In an ideal world, people would be more sensitive to the possibility of offending others, but constantly squawking that nobody matters or is allowed to say anything is not a good way to go through life.
My favorite part of “check your privilege” is that I have never heard it come from the lips of anyone who was not white, upper-middle-class, and well-educated. These are some of the most “privileged” people in the world, which of course is why they make up for their guilt by accusing other people of being offensive. Until I see someone giving all their Thanksgiving funds and their high-paying job to someone working at Wal-mart, I really can’t be moved to give a shit what they think on the subject of privilege. Indeed, I may be possessed of some of this privilege because I am a white person. It’s not my fault I happen to be white. I have no idea what it’s like to NOT be white. Of course I’m ignorant about it. And so are you.
My solution is that, instead of crying about privilege, we just ignore people who bitch about their first-world problems. Next time your cousin posts on Facebook, moaning about how her Starbucks latte had too much foam on it this morning, don’t waste valuable time and energy screaming, “Bitch, you should be grateful you can even buy that latte! CHECK YO PRIVILEGE, CRACKER!” Instead, just say nothing. Block her so you don’t have to be offended by her idiocy. Is she going around to homeless shelters and waving her latte in the faces of the homeless, taunting them about their inability to enjoy a double shot of espresso? Hopefully not, so just let her be a moron, for Christ’s sake. If we spent all day every day trying to eliminate stupidity from the world, we would do nothing else with our lives.