On privilege

Ever notice the word “privilege” had the word “vile” sitting right there in the middle of it? I didn’t until tonight. Here’s what privilege is: being in your mid-thirties with an advanced degree and a writing job and still always wanting to insert a “d” into that word. Privilege is relying on spell-check for professionalism. It’s having spell-check in the first place.

We’re in the middle of a few “national conversations” right now: about flags, and states rights, and history, and somewhere on that list, maybe pretty far down, racism, spelled timidly with a lower-case “r.”

Privilege is the luxury of time to discuss these things, the ability to dissect issues from a so-called objective space. To determine from your own impartial analysis, for example, in the case of many recent killings, whether the dead person – presumably someone of color and with little privilege – somehow “instigated” the situation. To not fear any real consequences no matter what conclusion you come to. To know that no one in your inner circle will be targeted in an attack because of their race while you are making up your mind.

Privilege is discussing race, and gender, and sexuality, and religion, and, yes, privilege, in the safety of a classroom. It’s paying exorbitant sums of money to do so. It’s walking away with academic credit and a “specialization in diversity studies” on your resume.

It’s a gift. It’s ripe for misuse. It’s the option to not have read this far. To click “like” and move to the sports page. To disagree by posting vile commentary.

It’s willful ambivalence. It’s knowledge without action. It’s uncomfortable silence.

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