“You need to check your privilege.”
My bet is that you have heard that phrase at least 40 fucking times over the course of the last three years. But what does it mean? Well, I don’t think anyone is expressly sure what the exact implications of that phrase are. It is most commonly used in reference to white males in regards to their supposed favorable standing in the eyes of the institutions of society. Sort of like a “cup check” to ensure that Caucasian males are aware that they receive the most flattering consideration when facing the challenges of life. Well, I am a white male, and I recognize that society treats me differently than men of different ethnicities and women of all skin colors. So where in the fuck do we go from here?
What should I do? I’m not going to apologize that the world responds differently to me than to other people because that shit has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can’t help that people are more likely to lease me properties because they assume things about my finances/activities as a result of my skin color. I also have no recourse to protest that I’m favored for job opportunities over other people because of my ethnicity. I just live my fucking life. Everything that the world associates with my presence or me is an outcome that I have no ability to change on my basic human level. So I’m both aware of and acknowledge my “privilege,” but I have zero idea how to “check it.”
I understand that the eventual goal is to have society regard everyone who deserves the same recognition with the same respect, but telling a generation of young men that they have an inherent set of gifts that gives them an unfair advantage and are therefore shit bags is not the best way to go about reaching that goal. I am not a jack ass, I see the blatant injustice and inequality and am angered by it just like you are, but I’m still at the point where I’m just trying to live my life. I am aware that I cannot possibly know the difference between my treatment by society as a white male and another man’s of another ethnicity, but I refuse to be vilified for something I have not done.
My “privilege” isn’t something I devised in my living room one day in a grand scheme to oppress minorities and women to the point where I own society. As a millennial male born long past the time of segregation and slavery, I wasn’t raised to believe I am inherently better than another individual based on my skin color or sex. I was brought up to understand that education and hard work were the keys to a happy life, not to use my inborn privileges to my advantage.
I have not heard a single individual of the “check your privilege” movement suggest something concrete that would result in a tangible change in society. There must be a reason that white privilege exists, so why don’t we root out that cause and start a change from the ground up. I feel like I’m riding a fucking merry-go-round from hell whenever I’m told to check my privilege. My personal thoughts following that declaration usually include, “Fuck you, I did not do anything in the womb to make myself inherently superior, why don’t you take it up with the motherfuckers who created the image of favoring one specific sex and ethnicity in the first place.”
The elevation of other sexes and ethnicities should not come at the expense of white males. Men don’t need to be brought down a peg in order for others to gain equality. There is enough room for everyone to be given an even playing field in this great country. So before the next time someone says, “check your privilege” to another person, be damn sure that there is a way for that privilege to be checked. Otherwise, it becomes an incredibly useless refrain that falls upon the ears of individuals who have no idea how to acknowledge it..