One of the best blog articles I’ve read in awhile

“Check my what?” On privilege and what we can do about it

One of the things for which I pray daily is that God will denaturalize me from my “whiteness” (as well as maleness and middle-class-ness and other lenses through which I see the world) and allow me to see the way I see the world as just that – the way I see the world, and not the normative, objective lens through which everyone should see the world. This article is an excellent resource on the concept of privilege and how to move from thoughts about equality to actually attempting to practice it.

An excerpt I need to read again and again:

For the most part, I believe that all human beings have the best of intentions. Most of us don’t go about our days seeking to hurt people with words or actions. But, the result of our actions can be that it causes hurt/offense to others. So, while malicious intent may add icing to the cake, it does not dictate whether or not an offense has been made. “That wasn’t my intent,” all too often translates into “your reactions to what I did are invalid because I didn’t mean any harm.” The result is that it’s a defensive reaction that silences discussion on the issue and puts the words/actions above criticism. It, in essence, privileges the sayer/doer’s opinion/feelings over that of the minority person or group that they have offended.

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3 Responses

  1. “For the most part, I believe that all human beings have the best of intentions. Most of us don’t go about our days seeking to hurt people with words or actions.”

    If I may for a moment take a devil’s advocate position, does this not go against the orthodox Christian view that no human beings at all have any righteousness of their own? This is one way in which I’ve often felt Christian anarchism can be critiqued (not DISMISSED, just critiqued), because anarchist philosophy tends to assume that the vast majority of human beings are intrinsically good and that it’s rather the systems of society which corrupt us and turn us against each other. I’m rather skeptical of that, in all honesty, not just because I’m a Christian, but also because much of society is riddled with individuals who seem to turn against each other even without provocation from the Empire. Hate crimes, for example, require no institutions in order to thrive; if people are afraid of differences then they will inevitably draw up borders even if no borders exist in the first place. Many are still intolerant of different races, the LGBT community, and sometimes even the handicapped (though such discrimination is admittedly subtler in this regard). In fact, in the vacuum of power left behind by an anarchist movement, it would not surprise me if a dictator rose up to take control. Quite often, people need no institutionalised corruption in order to crave power; competition and selfish gain are staples of evolution. It appears to be a sad, yet cold hard truth.

    This isn’t to say that I don’t believe worth exists at all in humanity. I believe that the Bible is very positively affirming of mankind’s place on earth, as created in God’s image and cherished in His eyes. However, I don’t think we ought to preclude from this the acknowledgement that mankind *is* sinful, and that this sinfulness often requires very little to manifest itself. I find it a little naive to think that people would live in perfect peace in harmony if all economic and political power were removed. We need the Kingdom of God to come in fullness in order for that to happen.

  2. I’m not sure that’s the orthodox Christian view at all. It’s certainly not in line with the Orthodox church, which sees human righteousness as a function of the image of God – and even though the image is now cracked it doesn’t mean righteousness is destroyed. It sounds to me more like a hardline Reformed view.

    In fact the Orthodox church does place a strong emphasis on the idea that sin is largely socialized into us. They don’t deny that sin is the person’s responsibility, but they highlight the reciprocity between the system’s corruption of the person and the person’s contribution to a system of sin.

    I’m also not sure it’s a matter of “anarchist philosophy” that humans are good, at least not any more than it is a tenet of basic liberalism. In fact if anything I think Bakunin and Kropotkin had very healthy, pragmatic views on human nature. I echo the thoughts of Peter Maurin, Catholic Worker co-founder, who said the goal was to create a society in which it would be easier for people to be good.

    At any rate, I never said I entirely agreed with every single statement made in the article, nor even in the excerpt. The reason I quoted the article was for what it says about intent not erasing consequences, and was more for my own personal benefit than anything else.

  3. “Treat us as humans, not the Other” was a pretty good point as well.

    There really isn’t any way to engage people without sticking one’s foot in their mouth at some point, though I agree it cannot be a free pass due to a lack of intent.

    I can’t fault the tendency to try and dismiss things that are uncomfortable (and what’s more uncomfortable than realising you’ve hurt or offended someone?) but shrugging it off seems pretty obviously dishonest. I’d think anyone whose comfortable with invalidating someone’s experience with the argument that they “didn’t mean it”, or “I’ve suffered too”, isn’t really trying.

    I’m all too aware of when I’ve been stupid and insensitive. Those memories should be painful and uncomfortable and cringe-inducing.

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