The Distress of the Privileged

In a memorable scene from the 1998 film Pleasantville (in which two 1998 teen-agers are transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV show), the father of the TV-perfect Parker family returns from work and says the magic words “Honey, I’m home!”, expecting them to conjure up a smiling wife, adorable children, and dinner on the table.

This time, though, it doesn’t work. No wife, no kids, no food. Confused, he repeats the invocation, as if he must have said it wrong. After searching the house, he wanders out into the rain and plaintively questions this strangely malfunctioning Universe: “Where’s my dinner?”

Privileged distress. I’m not bringing this up just to discuss old movies. As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

So I think it’s worthwhile to spend a minute or two looking at the world from George Parker’s point of view: He’s a good 1950s TV father. He never set out to be the bad guy. He never meant to stifle his wife’s humanity or enforce a dull conformity on his kids. Nobody ever asked him whether the world should be black-and-white; it just was.

George never demanded a privileged role, he just uncritically accepted the role society assigned him and played it to the best of his ability. And now suddenly that society isn’t working for the people he loves, and they’re blaming him.

It seems so unfair. He doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy. He just wants dinner.

Levels of distress. But even as we accept the reality of George’s privileged-white-male distress, we need to hold on to the understanding that the less privileged citizens of Pleasantville are distressed in an entirely different way. (Margaret Atwood is supposed to have summed up the gender power-differential like this: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”)

George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.

Tolerating Dan Cathy. Now let’s look at a more recent case from real life.

One of the best things to come out of July’s Chick-fil-A brouhaha was a series of posts on the Owldolatrous blog, in which a gay man (Wayne Self) did his best to wrangle the distress of the privileged.

The privileged in this case are represented by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy, who stirred up a hornet’s nest when he denounced the “prideful, arrogant attitude” of those who support same-sex marriage, saying that they “are inviting God’s judgment on our nation”.

His comments drew attention to the millions that Chick-fil-A’s founding family has contributed to anti-gay organizations, and led to calls for a boycott of their restaurants.

To which his defenders responded: Is tolerance a one-way street? Cathy was just expressing the genuine beliefs of his faith. As an American, he has freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Why can’t gays and their supporters respect that?

“Nothing mutual about it.” Self starts his post by acknowledging Cathy’s distress, but refusing to accept it as equivalent to his own. Cathy is suffering because people are saying bad things about him and refusing to buy his sandwiches. Meanwhile, 29 states (including Self’s home state of Louisiana) let employers fire gays for being gay. There are 75 countries Self and his partner can’t safely visit, because homosexuality is illegal and (in some of them) punishable by death.

The Cathy family has given $5 million to organizations that work to maintain this state of oppression. Self comments:

This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.

Christian push-back. That post got over a million page views and (at last count) 1595 comments, including some push-back from conservative Christians. Self’s follow-up responded to one commenter who wrote that he supported Chick-fil-A as

[a] company with a founder who speaks for what seems to be the minority these days.

In other words, I specifically feel BASHED by the general media and liberal establishment and gay activists for simply being a Bible-believing Christian. From TV shows, movies, mainstream news and music, so much is Intolerance of my conservative beliefs. I am labeled a HOMOPHOBIC and a HATER. … I neither fear nor hate homosexuals.

Self brings in a blog post by Bristol Palin, in which she scoffs at an interviewer’s implication that she might refuse to have a gay partner on “Dancing With the Stars”.

In their simplistic minds, the fact that I’m a Christian, that I believe in God’s plan for marriage, means that I must hate gays and must hate to even be in their presence.  Well, they were right about one thing: there was hate in that media room, but the hate was theirs, not mine.

… To the Left, “tolerance” means agreeing with them on, well, everything.  To me, tolerance means learning to live and work with each other when we don’t agree – and won’t ever agree.

Like Bristol Palin, Self’s commenter sees himself as the victim of bigotry. He isn’t aware of hating anybody. He just wants to preserve the world he grew up in, and can’t be bothered to picture how others suffer in that world.

He wants dinner.

Aesop II. Self answers with a story: a sequel to the Aesop fable of the mouse who saves a lion.

[A story is] the only way I know to address some of these things without resorting to words that hurt or offend, or shut down discussion.

Aesop’s tale ends with the mouse and the lion as friends, but Self notes that they are still not equal: The Lion is King of the Jungle and the Mouse … is a mouse.

In Self’s sequel, the Lion hosts the Kingdom Ball, to which mice are never invited, because they disgust many of the larger animals. Nothing personal, the Lion explains to his friend, it’s just the way things are.

At this point, Self breaks out of the story to explain why (in spite of the fact that his commenter feels “BASHED by the general media and liberal establishment”) he is casting conservative Christians as the Lion and gays as the Mouse: It is not illegal to be a Christian in any state. You can’t be fired for Christianity. Christians may feel bashed by criticism, but gays get literally bashed by hate crimes. Christians may feel like people are trying to silence them, but the Tennessee legislature debated a bill making it illegal to say the word gay in public schools. (The senate passed it.)

There is a vast difference between being told you’re superstitious or old-fashioned and being told you’re an abomination that doesn’t deserve to live. There’s a vast difference between being told you’re acting hateful and being told God hates you.

I’ve been gay and Christian all my life. Trust me: Christian is easier. It’s not even close.

Leonine distress. But does the Lion have reason to be annoyed with the Mouse? Of course. The Mouse is making trouble by asking to go where he’s not wanted. The Mouse is “prideful” for expecting the rules to change to suit him. However, Self admits that the Lion probably doesn’t hate or fear the Mouse.

I don’t think you hate me. I certainly don’t think you’re afraid of me. Neither is Bristol Palin. She probably even has LGBT people she calls friends. She just disagrees with them about whether they should be invited to the party (the party, in this case, being marriage).

But here’s the problem: the basis of that disagreement is her belief that her relationships are intrinsically better than ours. 

There’s a word for this type of statement: supremacist.

Ah, now we get to “words that hurt or offend”. Here’s what he means by it:

Supremacy is the habit of believing or acting as if your life, your love, your culture, your self has more intrinsic worth than those of people who differ from you.

Self sees a supremacist attitude in the commenter’s

sense of comfort with yourself as an appropriate judge of my choices, ideas, or behaviors, … unwillingness to appreciate the inherent inequality in a debate where I have to ask you for equality … [and] unwillingness to acknowledge the stake that you have have in your feeling of superiority rather than blame it on God.

[The third point is one that is not made often enough: A lot of interpretation and selective reading is required to find “God’s plan for marriage” in the Bible. Did that doctrine arise on its own merits, or because it rationalizes heterosexual supremacy? Elsewhere, I made a similar point about right-wing Protestants’ adoption of the bizarre Catholic ensoulment-at-conception doctrine: Anti-abortion politics came first, and theology changed to rationalize it.]

Now let’s finish the fable: Uninvited, the Mouse crashes the party. The shocked guests go silent, the Lion is furious, and the ensuing argument leads to violence: The Lion chucks the Mouse out the window, ending both the party and the friendship.

The lesson: Supremacy itself isn’t hate. You may even have affection for the person you feel superior to. But supremacy contains the seeds of hate.

Supremacy turns to hate when the feeling of innate superiority is openly challenged. … Supremacy is why you and Bristol Palin have more outrage at your own inconvenience than at the legitimate oppression of others.

We can talk about the subjugation of women later, honey. Where’s my dinner?

George Parker’s choices. All his life, George has tried to be a good guy by the lights of his society. But society has changed and he hasn’t, so he isn’t seen as a good guy any more. He feels terrible about that, but what can he do?

One possibility: Maybe he could learn to be a good guy by the lights of this new society. It would be hard. He’d have to give up some of his privileges. He’d have to examine his habits to see which ones embody assumptions of supremacy. He’d have to learn how to see the world through the eyes of others, rather than just assume that they will play their designated social roles. Early on, he would probably make a lot of mistakes and his former inferiors would correct him. It would be embarrassing.

But there is an alternative: counter-revolution. George could decide that his habits, his expectations, and the society they fit are RIGHT, and this new society is WRONG. If he joined with the other fathers (and right-thinking mothers like the one in the poster) of Pleasantville, maybe they could force everyone else back into their traditional roles.

Which choice he makes will depend largely on the other characters. If they aren’t firm in their convictions, the counter-revolution may seem easy. (“There, there, honey. I know you’re upset. But be reasonable.”) But if their resentment is implacable, becoming a good guy in the new world may seem impossible.

Only the middle path — firmness together with understanding — has a chance to tame George and bring him back into society on new terms.

Privileged distress today. Once you grasp the concept of privileged distress, you’ll see it everywhere: the rich feel “punished” by taxes; whites believe they are the real victims of racism; employers’ religious freedom is threatened when they can’t deny contraception to their employees; English-speakers resent bilingualism — it goes on and on.

And what is the Tea Party movement other than a counter-revolution? It comes cloaked in religion and fiscal responsibility, but scratch the surface and you’ll find privileged distress: Change has taken something from us and we want it back.

Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them.

At the same time, my straight-white-male sunburn can’t be allowed to compete on equal terms with your heart attack. To me, it may seem fair to flip a coin for the first available ambulance, but it really isn’t. Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt, but don’t consent to the coin-flip.

The Owldolatrous approach — acknowledging the distress while continuing to point out the difference in scale — is as good as I’ve seen. Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world.

Update: I’ve written a number of other things about privilege since this post first appeared, some here, and some on my religious blog Free and Responsible Search.

  • The Web of Privilege” is a talk I gave to a men’s group in Ann Arbor. It reviews some of the material presented above, and then tries to move beyond the privileged/oppressed dichotomy to deal with the notion that we are almost all privileged in some ways while oppressed in others. The “web” metaphor is intended to replace the metaphor of privilege as a wall.
  • Recovery From Privilege” responds to the frequent response (typified by a comment on this post) that the whole point of talking about privilege is to make people feel guilty. Guilt actually isn’t the response I’m looking for, because it’s a dead-end state that does no one any good. Instead, I outline a recovery process.
  • Privilege and the Bubble of Flattery” is my response to the Princeton freshman whose essay in Time says he’ll never apologize for his privilege, as if that’s what anyone wanted.
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  • Anonymous  On September 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Very nice examination! Thanks for using my post. I look forward to reading more from you!

    • bengali  On September 25, 2012 at 8:04 am

      The author got at least one fact wrong. People in fact can, and have been, fired for being Christians.

      • not willing to provide it  On September 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

        They have also been fired for NOT being Christians. I don’t think worshiping a Godsicle is a good thing anyhow. If you look at those who call themselves ‘Christians’ and the preachings of Christ, mostly by actually reading the Bible, you will see that the two are diametrically opposed. By the way, what do you call a guy who hangs out with his twelve drinking buddies, and none of them actually ever dates a woman, even when the women throw themselves at the guy? Doesn’t that sound like a gay man to you? Well, guess what. That also sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

      • savinavvenkova2012  On September 27, 2012 at 9:23 am

        But that has usually happened after they have done something inappropriate “in the name of” their religion”.

      • Julia  On November 9, 2012 at 9:19 pm

        Yes, Christians have occasionally lost their jobs. But, as the article points out, that does not BEGIN to compare to the discrimination faced by Jews, and Muslims, and Blacks…. The article explains why the argument you are using doesn’t hold water.

      • Invictus_88  On November 11, 2012 at 6:43 am

        Who cares about losing jobs? Occasionally or not? Christians are persecuted in many countries, not just ‘marginalised’, but assassinated, bombed, kidnapped, tortured.
        The killing of Christians did not end with the Roman persecutions or the Reformation.

      • Doy  On December 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm

        Your reference to the persecution of Christians in other countries is irrelevant. Every religion becomes different depending on the context. Christians in Islamic cultures are not the same as Christians living in the US, where the majority and very often the authority is Christian. I don’t think the argument is really about “Christians vs. Gays” but more about “Majority vs. Minority.”

      • T  On December 8, 2012 at 8:17 am

        If you are aware that it is wrong to oppress Christians in nations where they are the minority, yet don’t believe its wrong for Christians to oppress others in nations where they are the majority, than you believe Christians have a special case for not being oppressed. If that is the case than you are a supremacist as outlined in the article. I agree the world is big and full of pain, but that pain does not justify creating more.

      • K  On December 31, 2012 at 11:07 am

        I’m pretty sure that it’s illegal in all states in the US to fire someone specifically because of their religion. I guess that someone technically can fire someone for being Christian, but the law is on their side. The issues in this post seem to be very specific to the US.

      • Sara  On January 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm

        You mention that people have been fired for being Christians. This is true, but in the U.S., it is illegal. If my employer were to fire me solely on the basis of my Christian faith, the law would be on my side. However, if my employer were to fire me because I am a lesbian, in many states I would have no recourse.

        This points to what the author was writing about — the difference in scale.

        I do not mean to minimize the very real persecution and danger that Christians and other minorities face in other parts of the world. But in the U.S., Christians are a majority who generally enjoy a privileged status. This status alone doesn’t make us bad. But refusing to listen to and try to understand the marginalized and let go of privilege seems to me to be a very poor way of imitating Jesus. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. My sexual orientation may put me in the minority, but I am also white, middle class, and do not struggle with any physical or mental disabilities. I have had to learn about the existence of white privilege, class-ism, and able-ism and how I am sometimes complicit in these currents in our culture, whether I mean to be or not. When I accept structures that unfairly favor me instead of fighting to change them, I am part of the problem. Part of following Jesus for me has meant being open to ideas that challenge me and make me uncomfortable, because Jesus calls us to work for justice for the oppressed. And that means listening to the ways that I’ve been an oppressor without even meaning to and doing my best to change.

      • Just me  On January 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

        This post is very thoughtful and very well-written. It made me think about some things in a new light. Despite disagreeing with some of the examples you used, I think the perspective itself is important.

        Thank you..

        It’s unfortunate that you (presumably inadvertently!) placed these sentences next to each other:

        “There are 75 countries Self and his partner can’t safely visit, because homosexuality is illegal and (in some of them) punishable by death.

        The Cathy family has given $5 million to organizations that work to maintain this state of oppression.”

        I suspect that the groups that Cathy gave $5 million dollars to do not spend funds given to them to support or encourage the judicial execution of homosexuals in Islamist countries. However, I have not researched them at length, so I’d be happy to be proved wrong.


        To make a wider point here, it is statements like these, when *purposely* made, that make folks like me feel that some activists in the gay community are purposely demonizing their opponents and have no interest in treating them with kindness and courtesy.

        No, most folks who disagree with gay marriage do not also believe that gays should be slaughtered.

        No, most folks who believe homosexuality is sinful do not believe that gays should be lynched for practicing it, much less for simply experiencing homosexual desires. Many folks who fall into this group would be happy to accept gay marriage.

        Many folks who fall into both groups would be happy to support laws in their states, or at the Federal level, that would make it illegal to fire someone solely for the reason of being homosexual.

        You’re right that there are degrees of injustice and that some folks feel attacked simply because they feel a privilege of theirs is under attack. But let’s not pretend that that always applies. Each person should be evaluated based upon what THEY believe and how THEY act, not based upon what some percentage of some group to which they might belong believes and acts.

        When some person mentions that they believe that homosexuality is a sin, do not also *assume* that they oppose gay marriage. Do not just *assume* that they would defend an employer who fired a gay person simply because he was gay, do not assume that he would support violence against gays and the like.

        Before you accuse *me* of supremacism, or privileged distress, or hatred, or supporting hate, or whatever the hell else, ensure that *I* actually support the particular injustices that you oppose.

        Too often, folks who simply disagree are accused of immoral acts without a jot of specific evidence. For example, white people who disagree with a specific policy President Obama prefers are accused of racism, despite there existing literally zero evidence that they are motivated by race. Often enough, these are policies that these same people opposed when President Clinton or leftists in Bush’s congress proposed them. Other times, circumstances and along with them the appropriate solution to certain problems change. Whether or not these folks happen to be privileged according to some measure doesn’t change the fact that they are being accused of a vile and hateful offense despite there being no evidence that they are party to that offense. That’s unjust too.

        To treat them differently based on some imagined connection to an activity they may or may not support, *would be unjust.* Is making that accusation and treating them accordingly *as* unjust as the supporting a law that allows homosexuals to be fired for being gay? No, of course not. But that doesn’t make it right or reasonable or nice or fair.

        If you, dear reader, are one of the “not-privileged” people who make those unsubstantiated accusations, then you are acting unjustly too. Less unjust than those you condemn, but still unjust.

      • obscurestar  On April 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

        And this will be your foundation for ignoring everything that was said.

        In certain regions/times you can certainly find cases where what you say is true but it is extremely dishonest to attempt to compare the outliers with the average. This is a common logic fallacy.

        Tell me, when was the last time in the US that you heard of someone walking into a Christian museum and shooting people at random or a christian being tied to a barbed wire fence, urinated on, and set on fire, or grabbed by a gang of men and dragged behind a truck down a gravel road, or raped because you were wearing a short skirt?

        You are terribly dishonest if you can claim that christians in the US receive anywhere near the kind of abuse that other groups do. Or maybe just terribly naive. So here, if you don’t believe, I propose an experiment: Try crossdressing for a week. Doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Try it. Even if you go about telling people it’s a prank or for science. Come back next week and tell us how you felt getting lunch at McDonalds or putting gas in your car and how it compares to being a christian.

      • Just me  On April 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm


        You appear to have ignored everything I said.

        I *explicitly* pointed out the fact that I am not talking about injustice rising to the level of that perpetrated against some minority groups. I pointed out more than once that the mistreatment of Christians is less severe. How one could type your message in response to mine is beyond me.

        I simply pointed out that it is unjust to *assume* that when someone holds one belief that you find somewhat repugnant, that they *must* also hold to other beliefs you find even more repugnant. Especially when that assumption leads to contempt and derision, as it so often does.

        “[summarizing] Christians aren’t abused much less, when compared to minority groups in the US.” OK. I more or less said as much. That doesn’t mean that they are never mistreated, nor that deserve to be blamed for opinions that they don’t even hold.

        As far as I can tell, the author of this article did precisely that, though it was almost surely inadvertent.

      • Danny  On May 21, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        Ironically, the “anti-religion” crowd are ALSO supremacists.. oh sweet irony. 🙂

      • Plutosdad  On December 9, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        And they have won lawsuits when that happens.
        Sorry but the tiny minority of times this happens pales in comparison with the many thousands of times over the opposite happens – when people are fired for not fitting in to the regular society.

      • J.R.  On April 20, 2014 at 2:04 am

        I’m sorry to have to quote Grandpa Caligula–Ronald Reagan, that is to say– on this, but I’m a “Trust, but verify” kind of fella. I’m going to want to see proof. And not tortured, strained, seen-through-a-lens kind of proof: I’m going to want to see someone directly staring “I fired her because she is ELCA Lutheran,” or other words to that same effect.

      • Anonymous  On July 7, 2015 at 6:08 pm

        It is almost as if you have not read the article. A simple Internet search yield two examples : one a Navy Chaplain and counselor who , despite the Navy becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, could not bring himself to simply refer the people who came to see him to another counselor. He simply decided to reiterate his faith instead. He chose to portray any life choices not consistent with his own as not allowed and as a result was “separated from the Navy” for not being able to change.
        The other example was of a Atlanta fire chief who wrote a book on religion available at his church. In it he likened homosexuals and lesbians to pederasts (pedophiles). He too was not fired for his beliefs but because you cannot lead a modern fire department if you articulate these thoughts to the public. I’m sorry to say that this kind of hate is no longer allowed. Neither was fired for being Christians, but just as segregation and intermarriage are now allowed so too is homosexuality. They were fired for not adjusting to the times they are in currently.

      • Ernie Dunbar  On November 6, 2015 at 6:22 pm

        Oh sure, you *can* fire someone for their religion.

        But don’t expect to win the ensuing lawsuit. The ACLU will literally hand you your ass.

        The difference is that if such discrimination is encoded in law (like it is for homosexuality, but not religion), then that makes such an action legal, and the state can’t force you to change.

    • Anonymous  On June 1, 2013 at 5:14 am

      It is interesting, but very difficult to tell from your blog which statements are original thought and which are plagiarism. Well, I guess it isn’t really that difficult as it would appear to be almost entirely plagiarism.

      • weeklysift  On December 20, 2013 at 7:56 am

        Weird use of the word “plagiarism”. There are explicit references, links, and direct quotes. I go on to summarize, restate, and elaborate, mixing my ideas with the person I’ve quoted. It’s a fairly standard way of participating in an ongoing discussion. I’ve heard from the author of Owldolatrous, and he likes this piece.

        If you go through the trackbacks below, you’ll see lots of other blogs do the same thing with this post: link to it, quote parts of it, and summarize or elaborate on the ideas I discuss using their own words and frameworks. I don’t feel plagiarized by them.

    • ou812  On December 17, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      In almost every instance I see the word “privilege,” used by a member of a group that is considered to be disadvantaged, it is used to convey victim status in relation to the dissenter, and to shut down all discussion other than that which confirms the group’s beliefs. Moreover, they will often insist that because they are disenfranchised by virtue of their membership in the group, there is no way they could also hold privilege due to their membership in the same group.

      • weeklysift  On December 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

        Far too often I see “shut down discussion” used to mean “refuse to accept my hidden assumptions”.

      • ou812  On December 18, 2013 at 11:28 am

        “Hidden assumptions” such as?

      • weeklysift  On December 20, 2013 at 7:49 am

        It varies depending on what discussion is claimed to be shut down. But think about it: Why should a claim that you have privilege of some sort shut you down? Why can’t the discussion include that idea?

        I have just about every kind of privilege you can think of: I’m male, white, heterosexual, able-bodied, married, educated … . When more privileges are discovered, I’ll probably turn out to have them too. But I don’t feel shut down when someone points this out. I don’t see why anyone else should either.

      • ou812  On December 20, 2013 at 6:53 pm

        I don’t have a problem with the discussion including the idea, as long as the concept of privilege itself is open to debate and not just blindly accepted. I agree that whiteness and heterosexuality are big advantages in society, but I have serious doubts about maleness. From my standpoint, it’s hard to tell if the privileges of my gender outweigh the disadvantages, i.e. forced Selective Service registration, reduced life expectancy, higher rates of suicide and alcoholism, harsher sentences for similar crimes, etc. (Of course some people will just dismiss those as examples of “patriarchy hurts men.”)

      • weeklysift  On December 21, 2013 at 8:17 am

        BTW, I should mention that I agree with one of the points you made: “they will often insist that because they are disenfranchised by virtue of their membership in the group, there is no way they could also hold privilege due to their membership in the same group.” Black women, for example, have often had a hard time being heard in both the civil rights and the feminist movements, because the black men and white women in charge couldn’t grasp the possibility that they could be oppressed in one way but privileged in another.

        This is something I addressed in a sermon “The Web of Privilege” that I gave to a congregation of working-class white people, who were well aware of the ways that they’re not privileged, but have a harder time grasping the ways that they are.

  • Anonymous  On September 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    I have nothing to say but thank you… you have provided words that I have struggled to form and say. Again, thank you.

  • Nancy Minter  On September 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I just had to share again. Your post was so sensible, I wanted to make sure as many people as possible see it.

  • Mike Sugarbaker  On September 10, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Have a look at Corey Robin’s _The Reactionary Mind_ if you haven’t; it’s all about conservatism’s basis in the story of having power, losing it, and fighting to regain it. (It doesn’t fully delve into the connection to privilege – I’d love to find something that does – but he fully covers the conservative philosophical tradition. Not a perfect book, but immensely clarifying and invigorating.)

  • Invictus_88  On September 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

    It’s in interesting an refreshingly intelligent analysis, but in order to keep a neat symmetry it seems to me that it has been necessarily to overstate the identification of “revolution” with “marginalised” and “counter-revolution” with “privileged”, however in historical and practical terms both revolutionary, and counter-revolutionary thinkers and agents have been from privileged and marginalised backgrounds. Indeed, it is not always easy to make even a judgement as to which side has a majority of privileged or marginalised members.

    Your analysis was a good read, and certainly sharp, but it does seem to be cutting reality down and folding it up in order to fit the theory.

    • D'n  On September 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      He isn’t saying that revolutions are perpetrated by the oppressed. Rather, revolution is a change and in the specific cases of which we are talking about the change is initiated by, or at least beneficial to, the oppressed.

      • Invictus_88  On September 19, 2012 at 11:45 am

        The blog post itself doesn’t seem to be quite so reserved as your defence of it is, and even then I’m not entirely certain that I agree that in this case it is a marginalised party which is the instigator or chief beneficiary of the revolutionary changes we’re talking about here.
        But having had a quick skim-read, I don’t think the matter can be settled with proper certainty in either direction.

  • ophelia24  On September 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    I like how this post takes on and explains privilege sympathetically; it really, articulately fits my model of “by far, most people have good intentions.”

    I think, however, that there needs to be a distinction between what is “effective” and what is “just.” It’s easiest to make change when we do what you imply, by remaining firm but understanding, helping the privileged ease into the recognition of their privilege and their responsibility to change. However, I don’t think it’s just to expect people who aren’t privileged to continue to be pleasantly patient with those who dehumanize, delegitimize, and consistently harm them.

    I think that’s the space where allies matter most. Allies can afford to be pleasantly patient with those who share their privilege because the privilege isn’t harming them (and, indeed, because they benefit from it they arguably have a responsibility to use it justly). As a trans woman, it does me all kinds of good to have cis allies successfully engage transphobia, because it helps me trust them more, it hurts me less, and because they’re likely to be more effective (although much of that is privilege in that their opinions will carry more weight than mine, too).

    What doesn’t help, though, is the constant expectation that I and I alone have a responsibility to program, educate, and patiently reexplain, and when I start to let my own hurt out I’m immediately greeted with defensiveness and offense. It would certainly be more effective if I shouldered that responsibility cheerfully and with vigor, but I’m increasingly finding just destructive such an impulse can be over the long term.

    • Renee  On September 14, 2012 at 1:44 am

      Thanks for this, you summed up my feelings very well.

      As a trans woman myself who’s been through these wars, I know what this article is addressing, and I feel like it’s intent is misplaced. The burden to fix things has always been on the shoulders of the disenfranchised, and as you point out, it can be destructive in the longterm. Furthermore, the mere existence of various human rights movements, and the fact they’ve had any success at all, suggests that the lessons contained herein are redundant for most of us on the front lines. As someone who ostensibly “gets” privilege, the author’s time would have been better spent addressing privileged people directly, educating them about their distress, and encouraging them to look beyond their own walls. I.e., join the fight we’ve been fighting, rather than trying to teach us what we’re doing wrong (when you really have no clue what it’s like to be us).

      • Jacqueline S. Homan  On September 14, 2012 at 9:56 pm

        For 6,000 years of patriarchy, women have been patient. Women have begged and pleaded with men and attempted to educate and reason with them — to no avail. And our oppression rests entirely on policies of rape and forced childbearing, no matter the harm to us and regardless if we want to go through it or not. I am offended by transwomen who claim I have ‘cis privilege’ — that’s real rich coming from a group who will NEVER be forced by law to carry an unwanted/medically risky pregnancy to term against their will, which is nothing short of compulsory organ donation when you get right down to it. And this rapists’ rights culture buttresses cis male supremacy and is violently enforced and reinforced by rigid gender compliance — something that transwomen as a group ACTIVELY SUPPORT without ANY regard for the harm being inflicted on women born women and all the oppression we’ve had to fight for several thousand years (and are still fighting today), long before there was the medical technology for sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatments making it possible to be a transwoman.

        The oppression and discrimination transwomen face in society is the same that those of us born women have had to suffer from the day we’re born— minus the cruel and sadistic torture of FORCED CHILDBIRTH. The only difference is that transwomen were born with male privilege that was automatically conferred on them whether they wanted it or not. Women born women never had that privilege; instead, our oppression and suffering PAID for it in terms of real blood and death for male benefit and unjust enrichment.

        Sorry, but being forced to go through pregnancy and childbirth at great risk, trauma, pain, and disfigurement against our will by men in a male-dominated society is NO privilege at all.

        There is no privilege to be had in premature death from unmitigated cycles of pregnancy and childbirth, suffering obstetric fistulas, pelvic organ damage, permanent fecal and urinary incontinence as a result of giving birth, plus the painful and sometimes permanently disabling episiotomies which can destry a woman’s future ability to ever fully enjoy sex again, and to be made to suffer that against your will by force of law that deprives you of the right to prevent or terminate an unwanted pregnancy and robbing you of the basic human right to have control over what is done to your own body as if it were public property, as if you were nothing but a disposable fetus container.

        When transwomen can get on board with radical feminists about this major issue — women’s deservingness of full and equal human rights to bodily autonomy and bodily integrity, only then will we have common ground as allies.

      • Invictus_88  On September 15, 2012 at 5:07 am

        Wow, Jacqueline S. Homan! Might I hazard a guess that you were born before the 1970s?
        Reading your post is like being caught in the mad destructive energy of a Communist riot.

      • timberwraith  On September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm

        Let me fix that quote for you, Jacqueline:

        When radical feminists can get on board with trans women and other feminists about this major issue — trans women’s deservingness of full and equal human rights, bodily autonomy, and bodily integrity, only then will we have common ground as allies.

        The reality is, radical feminists have effectively marginalized themselves from much of the rest of feminism because of the supremacist attitudes they have foisted upon trans folks on an almost daily basis online. Keep on sharing your prejudiced and privileged attitudes, and those feminists outside of your minority faction will continue ignoring you. I’ve seen the tides of time turn against the hatred of trans people so widely found among radical feminists. Your days of relevance are fading.

        However, I do believe conservative Christians are looking for more folks to share in their fetid attitudes toward gender/sexual minorities. I’m sure there’s a mega-church nearby that you can attend. Nothing builds group cohesion quite like commonly held forms of hatred.

      • timberwraith  On September 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm

        Btw, Renee and Ophelia, I completely agree with you. I simply don’t have the stomach for playing nice with my oppressors by helping them ease out of the “distress” of suddenly having to treat other human beings as fully human. I have to kiss the ass of someone who is unwilling to treat me as a full human being because the consequences of behaving like a decent human being are distressing? Boo fucking hoo. After a while, that privilege attitude gets really, really old, let me tell you.

        I have to say, when that request comes from a cis, straight, white, man, I find the proposition to be particularly self-serving. I refuse to coddle you because my existence is an uncomfortable circumstance in your life. I’m sorry, but no. No, no, no.

        George Parker can make his own fucking dinner or alternatively, he can starve while he cries over his distress at being forced to act like a decent person. I’m sorry, but my empathy for the discomfort of the privileged and powerful ran out a long time ago.

      • Teresa Nielsen Hayden  On September 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm

        Rene On said:

        “…the lessons contained herein are redundant for most of us on the front lines. As someone who ostensibly “gets” privilege, the author’s time would have been better spent addressing privileged people directly, educating them about their distress, and encouraging them to look beyond their own walls. I.e., join the fight we’ve been fighting, rather than trying to teach us what we’re doing wrong (when you really have no clue what it’s like to be us).”

        Ooookay. What we’re looking at here are better rhetorical strategies for dealing with people who feel threatened by the loss of privilege. That’s a problem that affects everyone who’s oppressed, everyone who cares about the oppression of others, and everyone who’s got a stake in maintaining an engaged and civil public discourse.

        He’s not saying he knows what it’s like to be you. No one is. He’s talking about oppression, and the difficulty of having a real conversation with people who are afraid their privilege will go away if oppression ends. On that subject, he really does know what he’s talking about.

        Even if you assume that it’s always going to be someone else’s job to talk to those people (which I think you must, if you believe there’s no point in you getting better at it), it still makes far more sense for him to teach others how to understand and deal with those situations, instead of spending the same amount of time arguing with the benighted.

        It’s like the proverb about how if you give a man a fish, you’ve fed him for a day, whereas if you teach him to fish, you’ve fed him for as long as the fish keep biting. The people who read what he’s saying, and internalize his suggestions, will thereafter be more effective in their conversations with frightened oppressors. It’s actually a very economical use of his available oppressor-smiting time.

      • not willing to provide it  On September 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm

        First, as a straight man, I take offense at being lumped in with everyone else who is straight. That said, I am not directing that comment at the transwomen who posted here alone. I am also addressing the female supremacist who posted a reply to your post. Male dominated society? That is funny. When I want to go on a date, I ask a woman out and she has the right to say ‘no’ to me. If I talk to a woman in a bar, and she does not want to talk to me, she ignores me, walks away, goes over and pretends to talk to a gay man or kisses her girlfriend as a signal she is not interested. If it were truly a ‘rape culture’ as the psycho below pointed out, I would not have to worry about it, I would hit her over the head with a club and drag her back to my cave and have my way with her. That said, I actually replied to a woman’s ad one time when she identified herself as a ‘big beautiful woman’ (she wasn’t beautiful, just fat and ugly inside and out) and insisted that any man who dated her must be in excellent physical condition. Now I, having a little bit of a spare tire, get turned down by ‘hot’ women, and even the slightly overweight women. I can take that because every once in a while, one of those women will actually go home with me, usually when she is drunk enough. Getting back to the post, I commented on how arrogant the “BBW” was to insist that a man be in perfect physical condition for her to even consider going out with him. She ranted that women always had the right to refuse to date any man they felt like, simply because they were women. Now, if that is the case, doesn’t that negate the ‘policies of rape’ that Jaqueline S Hohman pointed to? I will say that again. Women have the right to CHOOSE when and where they have sex, and with whom. If she was a victim of rape, I feel sorry for her, but I did not rape her. I did nothing to her and do not even know her, and do not like being treated like shit because someone else pissed on her Cheerios. Am I wrong?

      • madhatr  On September 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

        Dear straight dude above who refuses to leave a name:

        I too am a straight male, and this is me calling you out on your privilege. No one here gives the slightest shit about your viewpoint, or how offended you are. Suck it up and deal. You need to do a lot more work in educating yourself about how our culture still truly is one that considers women to be less human than men, in everything from video gaming to politics to pay scale. For that matter, it’s also a culture that glosses over (and in many cases, celebrates) rape. Your claim that they have all the power in dating is nothing but a strawman argument. Speaking of, your anecdotal experiences with women do not necessarily correlate with data on a larger scale. (Also, your judgmental attitude about their attractiveness just shows how shallow and self-centered you really are.) But while we’re at it, you do not have the right to demand that they be polite to you. They do not owe you their companionship, and you need to respect them not only as equals, but also as a repressed class of people. This means you need to shut up and listen when one of them tries to tell you that the world she lives in is vastly different from yours; because in your attempt to explain how wrong she is, you are continuing to oppress her, and marginalize her experiences.

        Furthermore, your observation that the women you *do* sleep with always being drunk? This serves only to reinforce the ‘rape culture’ discussed by others in this thread: If she’s not sober, it doesn’t count as consent.

      • malu  On November 24, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        thank you for being an ally, madhatr! 🙂

        this dude above can’t even see how absurd is his expectation about women he harass, when he complains about how women deny his desires and HAVE TO move away from him ou fake an excuse to avoid him. what about this woman who have to stop doing what she was doing just because a jerk refuse to let her alone? it’s rape culture, stupid!

        i love the post and always try to help people learn to be good. but it’s hard to deal with the distress of privilegeds because of their entitlement.

    • nonviolentrage  On September 21, 2012 at 3:09 am

      Oh my goodness, ophelia24, I agree with your whole comment, but especially thank you for the “place for allies” part!! As my feminism has got more intersectional, I’ve realized more and more that carving out roles for allies is essential to save energy. In the last couple years I’ve learned and acted on enough trans feminism to stop being insecure as a cis ally, and increasingly found myself in the role of “the patient but firm one” in the 1000th iteration of some cissexist argument, or just doing the 101 or directing people to resources. Because I have can use my privilege to take time and be emotionally prepared for those arguments…and I can recruit more privileged allies of my own to do that for me.

      But there’s always a trade-off there, because allies with less stake in the argument may concede too much. And yet again, arguments are often “won” by realizing that you can only draw your opponent so far, this time. So…anyway, your thoughts make a lot of sense.

  • Jamaris  On September 12, 2012 at 1:59 am

    This is a really astute essay. However, I would counter that opponents of gay marriage, specifically, are even less worthy of sympathy than George Parker. George’s life has to change in big ways if he is to acknowledge his wife’s desire for justice. He doesn’t GET dinner when he wants it anymore. He needs to adjust the way he lives his own life and gets his own wants fulfilled.

    Those who oppose gay marriage are more akin to George’s next door neighbors looking in his window and trying to prevent Betty from achieving anything for herself, as though on George’s behalf.

    When gay marriage exists, nothing material changes for heterosexuals whatsoever. They simply have to deal with the uncomfortable knowledge that people they disagree with are having their own way. And some people deep down have an inescapable vindictiveness, a sense that folks they don’t like simply can not have their way, even if it makes no difference in their own lives.

    So ultimately, the “privilege” we are talking about is really just the privilege to hate people and deny them things as a function of your place in society, just enjoying that power for its own sake. I don’t have any sympathy for such people at all.

  • debmcalister  On September 12, 2012 at 10:18 am

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. Cogent, reasonable, well-researched, and beautifully phrased. Thanks so much for putting this complex issue into language we can all understand!

  • weeklysift  On September 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    As happy as I am to accept compliments, this post leans heavily on the thinking Wayne Self did. I’m just generalizing and framing his ideas in a larger context.

  • Anonymous  On September 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    As others have commented, well said. Some thoughtful metaphors for discussing various forms of privilege. 🙂

  • Blarzan  On September 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    So many fucking white tears.

    All I’m seeing here is that you want us to “be nice” to the racists who can’t even figure out their own racism.

    Whitey, you need to check your privilege before if you think telling oppressed people to calm down when their LIVES are at stake is anything other than racism.

    Allies like the above is why whiteness continues being the most oppressive thing in society, and why whites like him need to be taken down a peg.

    • Sarah  On September 13, 2012 at 12:14 am

      Seems like you didn’t read this too carefully.

    • radparker  On September 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      I think you really misread this. I know about 14 people I’d love to staple this essay to the forehead of. Disagreeable people who say “but I’m not being mean by disagreeing with gay marriage or gay rights. I’m not trying to deny their existence!” And this is a very polite, very well written response to that, to explain why they are wrong, why they are being mean, and they should reconsider.

    • madhatr  On September 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

      It’s not so much about “Being Nice”. It’s far more about “Not being a dick”. If you go out of your way to break their stones and alienate the privileged, they’re far more likely to get angry about it, and make a serious attempt at using their privilege to fight back.

      If that’s how you want to have it, you can have it that way. But is it necessary? (And do the other people fighting the same battle as you want to deal with the fallout?)

      Sure, many of the privileged are vindictive, hateful people, for no other reason than “Because they can”. However, being equally spiteful in your approach serves nothing but to help their own agenda, that being to paint you as unreasonable in your demands. It drives off your allies and supporters, people who would otherwise get up and march down main street with you. People who believe your cause is just, but might not want to risk their lives for it.

      If you allow the anger and hatred of the privileged to cause you to respond in kind, you give them control of the debate.

      Don’t give them that power.

      Even beyond that: Negative Reinforcement may be an effective teaching tool, but still breeds resentment in the outcome. With how truly nasty humans can be to each other, do you want to risk it coming back to bite you later? I fully support your right to rage about the inequality and injustice of it all; but please, I beg you: Don’t let that rage give me reason to worry that we won’t be able to stop every privileged bigot who decides to “Do Sumthin ‘Bout It”. It only takes one disaffected nutbar to walk into a mosque with an assault rifle. I certainly wouldn’t want to see what an army of hundreds of them could do, much less thousands.

      Additionally, this isn’t just about race. Sure, race is one of the many ways of oppression; but there are so many more intersectionalities here than just that. Gender, sexuality, age, nationality, language, culture, race, religion, class, income, and disability are some of the big ones I can name off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting. (Hopefully someone else will speak up to assist me in remembering.)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy  On January 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

        Years ago, in a recreational-thinking session where the subject strayed onto Affirmative Action, this statement came up:

        “Problem with any Affirmative Action program is the side effect of resentment in those left out of the favored group. And wagging-finger scolding about Racism doesn’t address the resentment; it just makes it worse. Thing is, does the goal of the Affirmative Action program justify the side effect?”

    • Fred Fnord  On January 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Blarzan: Just because you don’t agree with and don’t want to adopt a tactic yourself, doesn’t mean you have to spit on those who might advocate such a tactic. Nobody’s going to try to force you to adopt it. (And I don’t think anyone would argue that there’s one and only one tactic that will magically stop all oppression, or even that this is the most effective tactic. It’s just *a* tactic. Some people will use it. You will use others.)

      Why spend your time spitting on people who are trying to be your allies? Seems like there are a lot of people out there more deserving of spit.

      • David Betz-Zall  On January 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

        People who want to spit tend to do it on those who are most proximate rather than those who are most deserving.

  • samuraiartguy  On September 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Very thoughtful and incisive examination. One of the best of the year. This goes past the noise and static of the day to day and looks at fundamental trends. It shines some light on a LOT of what’s going on out there. I’ve often wondered at the amazing intransigent clinging to the status quo, despite the revelation of massive social and economic injustice.

    I am vividly reminded of one of the few ideological fights I had with My father. My parents were a mixed marriage, and pulled it off so well that, growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I had no idea there WAS a race relation problem in America till I was nearly ten. When the riots broke out and Dr King was assassinated, it all seemed so inconceivable to me, and terribly sad. I was ten years old in 1969.

    My father was french/anglo/german and mother was Black/Native American, with a touch of old Virgina and colonial Jewish. Be that as it may, their one big disagreement was on the subject of Ethnic and Racial pride. He, the (actual!) Socialist and Unionist, had no use for it. He felt it was the source of an incredible amount of human suffering. He’d have painted the entire human race pale blue. But he was perceived as White and Protestant in a White and Protestant America.

    I am darker than father was, lighter than mom. In 1968, I suffered the unique indignity of being called a ‘nigger” and a “honky” within the same hour and having the experience underlined with a startling and confusing beating at the hands of neighborhood kids barely two blocks from my Grandmothers home in… Gary, Indiana. Much more a “checkerboard” sort of place. Black Squares. White Squares. No brown squares in 1968.

    I put it to him many years later.. “So WHO’S culture then? The While Dominant Society you grew up in is NOT home to Mom’s people, and you KNOW it. The persecution you’ve endured as a Union Man and a Socialist is hardly comparable to what Mother grew up with. You can repent, or choose to blend in. Mom will STILL be Black and Indian. Are they supposed to throw away everything that makes them who they are, and become honorary white people*.”

    [ *Was tried on a large scale with Native Americans – look into the Indian Boarding School history and the policy of Indian assimilation and termination, a true tool of institutional oppression. ]

    [ You might also enjoy this: “Leaving the GOP and Joining the Reality-Based Community: How I Learned to Stop Loving the Bombs” – By Jeremiah Goulka, TomDispatch | Op-Ed on;[ ] Very much addresses this issue. He chose to “learn to be a good guy by the lights of this new society.” It was hard. ]

  • HaifischGeweint  On September 12, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Reblogged this on HaifischGeweint.

  • caseyjaywork  On September 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I cannot strongly enough endorse what you’ve written here. I feel like you’ve articulated something I’ve been trying to say for a long time. Thank you for writing this.

  • jumeirajames  On September 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Ah, Christians and that mouth they have on them. I will respect Christians the day they follow Christ’s example. That should be around the time I’ve got an ice pick in hand trying to dig my way into hell.

    • David Betz-Zall  On January 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm

      There are plenty who do. But they’re not the ones you hear about being horrible, natch.

  • Anonymous  On September 13, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I simply find it ironic that people think superioty is what’s important here. When gay people wanna get married no court of law will stop them. Nor should they. But if you want to pick and pull about it, marraige has been defined already. I’m sorry that you don’t like that’s its between a woman and a man. Noone is going to change that. You may have an equal commitment that’s probably based more so upon love and respect than a lot of hetero married people but its not how things begun. Your new yet equal commitment has its own name. Figure out what you wanna call it, you don’t fit into the definition of marraige. That was your choice, not mine.

    • Adam  On September 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

      The only problem there is that marriage is defined in so many legal documents when it comes to PRIVILEGES given to married couples by society in legal terms. To call same sex marriage anything other than marriage is to, in the end, deny them the same legal rights that married couples currently receive.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 15, 2012 at 2:05 am

        Couldn’t we have an overriding law that says, “In all instances where laws refer to ‘marriage’, we also include same-sex legal unions.(or whatever we call it)”? Wouldn’t that take care of the laws?
        On the other hand, why not call same-sex unions “marriage” and make different-sex unions come up with a new name? (If that shocks you, you know you have hetero privilege.)

      • akismet-ae3d04c97eceb5d84ad9204c893e845d  On September 16, 2012 at 12:15 am

        The problem with that is expecting two separate laws, or ideally one law, in EACH STATE (so really 50 or 100 laws) that do this. First, the one that makes civil unions ok. Then, one that specifically TAKES AWAY marriage from the books. That second one, even if it’s part of the first one, will never fly because of overriding Christian privilege thinking. They want their word, “marriage,” to remain. It’s a perfect way to create the counter-revolution as a jab at the privileged.

        The best way to do this, I think, is to just give marriage to same sex couples. Basically, the argument that really your marriage stays the same as it always has, it’s just a same sex couple gets those same rights, is a better way to handle it because of splintering the privileged who might go against it. Because really, it’s just giving rights to another group, not taking them away from the privileged group.

      • Invictus_88  On September 15, 2012 at 5:10 am

        It doesn’t shock me, because when one lives in the world one becomes used the the bizarre imperialism of modern liberalism. “Hetero privilige” my hairy arse, Kim Cooper. It’s just left-wing bigotry. 😉

      • Erica  On September 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

        Oh, and Kim Cooper, I think this is the research you may be referring to:

        Now, admittedly, the fellow doing this research is only a professor of history at Yale. If some random internet commenter says “it is simply not the case,” I think we need to bow to that superior evidence.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

        @Erica — Thank you.
        @invictus — I didn’t need to know you have a hairy ass. by the way, read some sociology or psychology or something — Authoritarians and egalitarians think differently, so it doesn’t make sense for you to project onto us how you would think.

      • Invictus_88  On September 18, 2012 at 6:59 am

        I’ve studied more than enough psychology to smell the pseudoscientific bullshit behind your categorisation of people as simply ‘egalitarian’ and ‘authoritarian’ personalities, and I’ve studied enough political philosophy to know that your equation of phychological outlook with political viewpoint is unsound.
        So maybe less of an assumption that I’ve not studied these things? One of them was the subject of my thesis.

    • Patrick Haggood  On September 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      ‘Free American’ was defined in 1776; as a Black American I’m kinda glad my country didn’t stick with ‘how it was defined already’ in the following two centuries since then.

      • Invictus_88  On September 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

        To be fair, “anti-miscegenation” laws are a bit of an anomaly, occurring at they do in the American world and consequently having had very little pedigree. The real analogy to the repeal of race mixing legislation would be a repeal of the innovation of same-sex marriage.
        In the European history, there is no pedigree to the idea that marriage is defined as something between two members of the same ethnicity, whereas there is to the idea that it is by definition something uniting men and women.

    • gilcori  On September 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      You do realize even the Catholic church allowed same sex marriage at one point right? If you want to go back to the history of “this country” Native Americans allowed two spirits or gay and transgendered people to marry. This concept that marriage has “always” been between one man and one woman is a lie and I’ll say that as a Roman Catholic. It is what the church says now but not what has always been so. Do you realize the bible was written in Sumerian, a language isolate that no one spoke but was translated (supposedly properly) not long ago, then translated into old Greek. In that language words have multiple meanings and you have to pick the “best translation”. Do yo know how many bibles are running around with different versions of texts? There are also missing books of the bible because it was literally edited for content. Keep in mind the word “marriage” wasn’t in the bible either. It isn’t from a Greek or Sumerian word origin. That word was put into English bibles in modern days and is French in origin. The concept of a union is in the bible though. Such as joining with your slave or a woman that you captured in war and then we have polygamy. Yup, great modern day Christian values that are traditions that haven’t been altered and changed for the current world right just like slavery (also in the bible)?

      No church owns civil marriage. If someone wants to say people can’t get married “in their church” then no problem. The word marriage doesn’t belong to anyone. When will people learn that Christian isn’t a noun it is a verb. Start acting like Christ and stop being so greedy and hateful. This article is all about not being “entitled”, “supremacists”, or “privileged” but that is your stance. Marriage is defined! Marriage is between a man and a woman! It is ours and you can’t have it! You can’t play in my sandbox! you can’t touch my toy! Don’t you realize that you sound like a really badly raised child but you aren’t even sharing something that costs you anything. It is like sharing the air you breath but you are looking at people and saying, “No! Gays can’t share our air! This is straight air! Go get your own air! Actually, air is only for straights! Go breath something else but not as good as air! If gays breath air then air won’t be good enough for straights anymore!” It would be laughable if you weren’t marginalizing a portion of society just because you “got here first”.

      No one wants to take anything from you. Wake up and realize yes, gays are being kept from having equal rights to make partnerships that give them rights equal to marriage no matter what name you put on it because people who are selfish and privileged, under the guise of God’s name, are stopping it. So relax and practice what Jesus preached. Enough with the exclusive country club treatment! History will unwind and you will all just be remembered as bigots. Here is a quick and easy test for you. If the KKK agrees with you on an issue of civil rights then you are on the wrong side of history.

      • Invictus_88  On September 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

        1) Paragraphs. You need more of them.

        2) The CC has never approved same sex marriages.

        3) The Bible was not written in Sumerian.

        4) The rest of your post is so jumbled and crazy that I don’t even know where to do from here.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 15, 2012 at 2:09 am

        @Invictus — Actually, there is a whole book about it: the CC did have same-sex marriage at some point. Sorry I don’t remember the name of the book, but someone else will surely supply it.

      • Invictus_88  On September 15, 2012 at 5:02 am

        Then the book has misinformed you. It is simply not the case.

        I could read a book telling me that the world is run by shape-shifting reptoid aliens – but this would not make it true.

      • Katie German  On September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

        The book was by John Boswell, a Yale historian. It was called “Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe.”
        Made some valid points, but received only a lukewarm acceptance by the academic community. He did an excellent job with correcting and explaining a lot of the translation issues related to same-sex partners in pre-modern times. Most scholars felt that Boswell was overreaching in his interpretations in order to make a point.

        Just FYI to Invictus_88 and Kim Cooper

      • Kim Cooper  On September 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm

        @Katie German — thank you for the info. That’s the book we have somewhere here….

      • Invictus_88  On September 18, 2012 at 6:58 am

        Thanks Katie, I’ve read parts of it already actually. It was interesting, but the bias is very obvious, and the personal agenda of the author is impossible to overlook. Even with those biases excised, the hard evidence doesn’t add up to any RCC approval of sacramental same-sex marriage.

    • Erica  On September 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

      There are a lot of replies to your argument. For one thing, the Bible spends exactly as much time – one sentence – talking about homosexuality as it does about eating shellfish and wearing mixed fiber clothes, and I’ve yet to see an anti-gay-marriage “Christian” explain why they care so much about the gays and so little about the shrimp.

      But ultimately, it boils down to: we should not have second-class citizens in America. (Or any other country for that matter.)

      We went through this already in the Civil Rights movement and Brown vs. Board of Education. “Separate but equal” is not equal. Every citizen of this country should have the exact same legal rights, not some second-class variation thereof. What churches want to do in their own private religious ceremonies is their business. But before the law we must all be equal.

      • Kim Cooper  On September 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm

        What Erica said here is completely right. I just want to add emphatically that the law must not take one religion’s idea of “morals” as its standard: all religions are to be equal before the law. Therefore legal marriage should not discriminate. What you do in your church is your business — our church performed its first gay marriage ceremony in 1956.

      • Jai  On March 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm

        Erica – then you’ve missed a number of patient references to various parts of Acts, and explanations that the entire point of Christianity is to pick and choose which bits of the Old Testament to keep and which to discard. I’m not a Christian, and I’m firmly pro equality, but the bible does in fact deal with “Which bits of Jewish law do we have to keep?”, and the short answer is “Keep the bits about sex, don’t worry about fashion or diet”. I absolutely agree with the rest of your post.

  • Ginger  On September 14, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Exactly the argument I’ve tried to get my right-winged family to see for years. You hit the nail on the head. Thank you.

    P.s. Who is the racist guy that clearly misunderstood the meaning if the article.




  • Joe  On September 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Heterosexual white males…….why don’t we just kill them all? That would solve the problem.

    • akismet-ae3d04c97eceb5d84ad9204c893e845d  On September 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      The government made a second amendment so we could kill the white males. Trufax.

      (Disclaimer: I am a white male and this is a parody of the idea that the second amendment allows us to violently overhrow our own government at the founders’ blessing)

  • Josh  On September 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Seems like much double talk trying to justify bigotry.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 15, 2012 at 2:14 am

      Josh — Try reading it again, when you’re in a more contemplative mood.

  • Anonymous  On September 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    NOt really a complete analysis. THis essay creates a paper lion and then attacks it, Doesn’t even consider that an opposing viewpoint is valid, either, so there’s really no point in making one as a reply. I’d like to see this author tackle the other perspective, for comparison

    • Dan B.  On September 15, 2012 at 12:11 am

      I’d like to know what your definition of the other side is, and how you would define it.

  • Anonymous  On September 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Newsflash: Christians will not, can not, ever accept homosexuals as being married. Ever. At least, not true Christians who believe the Bible and follow Christ (which He also defined marriage as between one man and one woman). Yeah there are some “liberal Christians” (oxymoron!) who think that, but they know neither their Bible or the God of which they speak. And besides, let’s get down to the real issue… MONEY. The fight for gay marriage is about MONEY. It isnt about “love,” it isnt about civil rights, it’s about insurance policies and hospital visits. Nobody prohibits gays from living together, sleeping together, getting a job, or even showing affection in public. I’ve never seen a gay person have to sit at the back of a bus, drink from a different water fountain, use a different bathroom, or be denied the right to vote. So PLEASE stop saying gays are oppressed, it really is offensive to the groups and races who HAVE been oppressed. And yes, Christians ARE persecuted, tortured, and killed around the world, it happens every day (check out Voice of the Martyrs). You want to boycott Cathy because of his beliefs? Fine. When are you going to stop buying gasoline because OPEC nations execute homosexuals because that’s what the Quran tells them to do?

    Give me a break.

    • Kim Cooper  On September 15, 2012 at 2:12 am

      You’re a great illustration of what the article is talking about.

    • Adam  On September 16, 2012 at 12:09 am

      “So PLEASE stop saying gays are oppressed, it really is offensive to the groups and races who HAVE been oppressed. And yes, Christians ARE persecuted, tortured, and killed around the world, it happens every day (check out Voice of the Martyrs).”

      Seriously? You must not be aware of people being BEATEN in THIS country for being gay. Sure, maybe only a few get killed for it. Maybe that only happens to black people instead. But even if you ignore those facts, you are pretending there’s a comparison to be made between gay treatment in this country and the Christian persecution in the WORLD. WTF!

      No. YOU stop pretending CHRISTIANS have been persecuted HERE! The name of the Christian God is on U.S. money, fealty to the CHRISTIAN church leads to voucher programs that are all cool until it is discovered ONE MUSLIM SCHOOL might apply, Christian groups have the most influence in politics of this country, and most public officials are Christian, prayer in schools ISN’T banned and if all of the school is run by Christian people atheist children get death threats from students and students cheer when one of them says they are happy to have driven the lone atheist from their midst on stage. Much of what you said is the PICTURE PERFECT EXAMPLE of privilege. Do you not GET THAT?

    • Anne  On September 18, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      This made me want to cry. Seriously – it made my heart hurt more than a little bit.

      “Newsflash: Christians will not, can not, ever accept homosexuals as being married. Ever. At least, not true Christians who believe the Bible and follow Christ (which He also defined marriage as between one man and one woman). Yeah there are some “liberal Christians” (oxymoron!) who think that, but they know neither their Bible or the God of which they speak.”

      Never perfectly – because I’m not perfect. I’m glad that you, “anonymous”, feel secure in your belief that you know the mind of God well enough to judge whether the rest of us are true Christians or not, based on whether we want to deny the rights of other human beings to have a successful discovery of companionship and love recognized by a governmental institution. If that is your key precept in your definition of Christianity – then I am not a Christian – I’m merely someone who prayerfully searches their Bible, and tries their best to follow the example of Christ.

      If your inability to acknowledge a problem exists because you haven’t personally witnessed or experienced it is an indication of faith, then perhaps faith isn’t what I want to have.

      As for persecution and oppression – the level of pain and anger that shows up in threads like these should make one thing clear – every group of people, whether you define “group” by race, gender, religion … has been hated, called names, been marginalized, villainized, misunderstood, and pronounced inferior at SOME point in it’s history. People get bullied, and people bully. In the United States, many Christian groups enjoy the privilege of being seen as a moral compass by some, and by others simply as the status quo. But being disagreed with or challenged does not equate to persecution.

      To the Author of this blog:
      Thank you for a thought-provoking post. No metaphor, simile, parallel, etc ever written has ever been perfect – to my knowledge, but that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to give people a way to understand a bigger idea that they may not otherwise have a good reference point for. Kudos.

      • Jason Vincent  On September 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm

        The Bible isn’t a menu.

    • Nick J  On September 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      No-True-Scotsman fallacy.

      And are you really comparing chicken to oil?

    • Not a Privileged Christian  On September 20, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Thank you, Anonymous! That was very well put. And of course will be criticized for not being the ‘popular’ opinion. 😉

      • Amy  On September 21, 2012 at 4:31 am

        Anonymous wasn’t criticized for voicing an unpopular opinion. Anonymous was criticized for an argument that was flawed in many ways.

    • Sara  On January 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Hello Anonymous. I can’t speak for every GLBT person out there, but I can tell you that marriage equality isn’t all about money for me.

      For me, it’s about a lawfully-married man being allowed to petition for his husband to receive an immigrant visa so that they can spend their lives together. It’s about someday being able to adopt a child that I can love and provide for, and worry about like any other mother, without having the added worry that my state will someday change its mind about same-sex adoptions and take him or her away. It’s about GLBT employees not having to worry that putting up pictures of their families on their cubicles will get them fired. It’s about trans-men and trans-women not having to fear violence from people who feel threatened by them. And it’s about knowing that if I die before my future spouse, she could be eligible for the Social Security Survivor’s benefits that I’d payed into my whole life.

      You see, marriage equality isn’t just about money (though money issues matter and are a part of equality). It’s about my right, and the right of all GLBT individuals, to fully participate in our society.

      And I don’t imagine you will believe me, but I am both a Christian and a lesbian. I cannot change my orientation, and I will not change my faith. Thankfully, it is God, and not anyone else, who gets to say whether or not my faith is genuine. I read the Bible and take it very seriously. But I also read with context in mind.

      I imagine this whole thing must make you feel threatened, but if you could only open your mind enough to listen for a little while to some of the people you are judging, we might surprise you.

      Remember, the Bible’s first evangelist was a Samaritan woman that the disciples thought Jesus shouldn’t even have been talking to in the first place. Sometimes Jesus turns up in the strangest places with the strangest individuals. And if you are too busy judging us to take time to listen, you make the world harder for us, and you also miss out on encountering Jesus in these unlikely places.

      I know that comment sections almost never change anyone’s minds, and long posts like mine tend to not get read at all. But if there’s any chance this has given you, or anyone, food for thought, I strongly recommend checking out “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate” by Justin Lee.

      Anonymous, I am one of the people you are judging, fearing, and angry with. I am a human being, made in God’s image, and dearly beloved. And so are you.

      • Kimc  On January 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

        Sara — I applaud your comment and want to let you know that the only thing untrue in it is that comments on the computer don’t ever change anyone’s mind. I have seen it happen. Back in the old days when Beliefnet was a true discussion site, the Homosexuality Discussion Board changed more than one person’s mind. Many of the regulars stayed around and made the same points over and over again because every once in a while someone’s mind and heart would open and they would see that homosexuality doesn’t define who a person is, and they are just another human being struggling to do what’s right.
        Thanks for what you do.

      • Sara  On January 14, 2013 at 12:41 am

        Thank you, Kimc.

  • Kay (@Murfomurf)  On September 15, 2012 at 12:21 am

    Love it all! Those Republicans have been in their pink fairy-floss bubbles so long they no longer believe the rest of us REALLY EXIST! They’ve forgotten whole spectra of comparability! [They probably won’t understand this comment].

  • Zophorian  On September 15, 2012 at 9:19 am

    You say: “Anti-abortion politics came first, and theology changed to rationalize it.”
    Here you are wrong. The idea that the soul becomes present at the time of conception goes back to the early ideas and thinking about the conception of Jesus. It gets formalized when Thomas Aquinas incorporates Aristotle into christian theology- if not before.
    The same can be said of the christian theological position against gays. (And it is essentially a prohibition against sex acts, not the people themselves. But it gets turned into the latter.) There are passages in the bible against wasting ‘male seed’ and the like. And at least with the introduction of Aristotle’s concept of potential into christian theology you have a problem with homosexual sex. But that same problem exist with birth control, oral sex and masterbation.
    I am not saying that those arguments don’t need to be re-examined and maybe modified, but they are deep and complex issues of theology and biblical interpretation. They are not rooted in senseless hate, thought they do often result in that. The issue is much more complex that you paint it as, at least in intellectual and theological terms.

    • weeklysift  On September 16, 2012 at 10:46 am

      Actually the opposite is true. The idea that the soul enters the fetus at about 120 days was pretty universal until about 1300. I’d like to see your Aquinas reference, because I believe he’s on my side. Protestants didn’t pick the idea up until the 70s.

      • Angelus Historiae  On December 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm

        Wikipedia isn’t a reference. Cite me the Aquinas, the original, preferably in Latin. Moreover while Aquinas’ writings were authoritative, they were not always conclusive, and tend to confuse those who do not realize that in good scholastic fashion Aquinas cites both sides of every argument. He concluded that it was heretical to argue that the soul was transmitted by semen, so presumably he concurred with De Eccl. Dogmat. xiv that “the rational soul is not engendered by coition.” (De Summa Theologia I, q. 18, art 2 – that my fifi is a citation). More to the point, his question was not your question. Pre-modern people understood the relationship between sex, semen, and babies, but they’d no idea about the fertilization of the ovum.
        And if you want to get biblical on the question, Exodus 21.22, before it was re-translated to fit modern politics, says that if two men struggling cause a woman to miscarry and nothing else, her husband may exact a fine, but if any further “disaster” – ason in Hebrew – transpires *then* the punishment is a life for a life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

  • Iamcuriousblue  On September 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    So let’s be clear what you’re proposing. Any loss by the proverbial “straight white male” or –insert privileged– group here merely represents a return to equality. I have to wonder if you even acknowledge the possibility that in some kind of Jacobin rush to overturn the old order it is possible to take away a right of the privileged to such a degree that it now represents inequality. After all, if one buys your “distress of the privileged” argument, then there was really little to criticize the Chinese Cultural Revolution about, which was, after all, simply turning the tables on a privileged class. Those of us with more liberal views and universalist ideas about human rights would say otherwise.

    By the same token, this is why I would argue that anger towards branches of feminism that seek to suppress pornography in the pursuit of equality or impose penalties for buying sex but not selling it are in a very real sense violating basic rights, even if the target is the rights of the privileged. (Of course, in this case, many social justice types haven’t gotten on board with that kind of feminism because of the splash damage to the rights of sex workers, who are absolutely a marginalized group.)

    • weeklysift  On September 16, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Of course turnabout is not fair play and can go too far. What I ‘m saying is that attention typically goes to counter-discrimination at the first sign, when it’s still trivial compared to the discrimination that’s still continuing.

      • Chucklingabit  On June 2, 2013 at 2:59 am

        It doesn’t matter if it’s “trivial.” One can rail vociferously against ill treatment of minorities, and yet still defend *individual members* of some “oppressor group” who haven’t actually committed the specific offenses they are being “punished” for.

    • looking for justice in the middle ground  On February 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      This is the kind of rationale my ex-husband used when saying that if women have the right to to be safe on the streets after dark because they want to be out after dark, then men have the right to rape them because they want to rape women.

      Faulty logic based on faulty reasoning.

  • Nate Abele (@nateabele)  On September 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    I appreciate the point you’re trying to make, but in doing so, you seem to have conflated separate, unrelated ideas about people actively working to maintain the status quo, vs. people who may be fine with the status quo, but are simply minding their own business. Taking your Bristol Palin example, yes, the adversity she faces by being a Christian is far less than a gay man faces, however, *that does not make her adversity okay*.

    Bristol Palin is not out campaigning against gay marriage. She has done nothing to deserve the bigotry of the Left, other than simply live her life by a certain set of beliefs (which, so far as we know, she has not tried to force on anyone else).

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, regardless of the asymmetry of one wrong compared to the other; they just add up to more wrong. Trying to compare the two just puts you in a race to the bottom.

    • Anonymous  On September 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm

      What bigotry is Bristol Palin suffering, exactly? You claim that her adversity is not okay, but who claims that it is? The injustice here is that her irritation at her unfair behavior being called out is “adversity.”

      Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it’s outrageous that you think it’s a wrong to insinuate that someone like Bristol Palin can be prejudiced.

  • samuraiartguy  On September 16, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Aside from this being one of your best, more insightful, and most widely read and commented essays. I also think you’re very much made your point. Watching the comment threads, I think I have seen a lot of expression of the very attitudes and behaviors you were striving to point out.

  • kyle  On September 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    love chick-fil-a. Will continue to eat there. Will support them more now that I know they aren’t afraid to take an unpopular stance which is merely them excercising their right to free speech. Others can call it whatever they want, but that’s their right too. The same people that want to burn this company down, are also probably the same people who can in some way rationalize what terrorists do, not because these people hate free speech, it’s because they hate Christians. It’s easy to hate a group that seems to have it all, successful families, less marital problems, better education and higher values when you’ve never had access to them. You go about your life wondering what’s missing and somewhere along the way you decide that you must not be missing anything and those who seem to “have it all” are simply liars. I don’t care about gay marriage. I don’t think the bible would support it, but then again I’m not sure Jesus would teach to harass those who have sinned since all humans sin. I’m sure He would let us know that since we are taught to love, to leave it at that and turn the other cheek even though we feel like it is immoral and wrong due to our interpretations of His teachings.

    • weeklysift  On September 16, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Check your assumptions. Divorce rates are highest in the Bible belt. Baptists, for example, have a far higher divorce rate than atheists.

    • Thomas M.  On September 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Lots of fun and wrong assumptions here. For the record, atheists tend to be better educated than Christians. Their divorce rates are also lower. And most have, in fact, had access to those “higher values” you cite – most, at least in the US, were Christians at one point – they just realized what a crock of crap those “higher values” were/are.

      • Jason Vincent  On September 18, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        actually, your making some rather hilarious assumptions yourself. For the record, Christians who go to Harvard are better educated than Atheists who dropped out of high school to become janitors. See? I can do it too. In your defense, that was a well crafted straw man.

  • Anonymous  On September 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    This is a really amazing article, but I do see a place where even this so-self-aware Mr. Muder (unintentional pun, considering his oft-quoted source material) has liberal blinders on — the very sort that he seems to be trying to work against. As such, there’s another counter-revolutionary movement that he fails to mention, one that I feel is a rather important example to discuss — and frankly, with his mentioning of the Tea Party movement in his conclusions, I find it a bit embarrassing that he doesn’t. I’m speaking, of course, of Occupy.

    For a very long time now, I’ve asserted to many who I end up in discussions about this with, that the loudest voices in Occupy — the self-same people who end up being the biggest organizers on the ground and the mouthpieces to the media — are made up of privileged, middle- to upper-middle class white people who would stop their protesting and go home, if only their college degrees resulted in the solid careers that society promised them all their lives. They are the same sort of cultural-victims-of-a-changing-world, as represented by the George Parker character and the anti-equal marriage folks; the world used to work one way, that option for expectation mechanics is now gone, and now [wah!] I will cry about it until I’m dragged, kick and screaming, into a world I don’t want to live in.

    With that in mind, I honestly think that the shameful truth at the center of the Occupy Movement — that they’re just the liberal side of a distress over the disappearance of the guarantees that class privilege provided for so long — is at the root of why the Occupy movement was never able to muster a cohesive political and social influence when it comes to the economic, class, and social issues (and rhetoric) that serves as set dressing for their willfully ill-defined “cause”.

    If the aims of Occupy were really about getting money out of politics, creating a more equal pay scale, and lessening class stratification, they’d have made headway into something marginally legitimate, long ago. Instead, it seemed like all of the myriad class and corruption related issues that got volleyed around never gained traction or built momentum; they never seemed to stick. This is because, as far as I can tell, what most of the voices of Occupy really want is an assurance of reward for following the expected path. They want the ladder to continue up beyond their bachelor degrees in a way that assures stability. Instead, they find that their college degrees are meaningless shreds of paper — a participation prizes in a race that no longer has defined rules or the assurance of reward when crossing the appointed mile markers. Openly whining about that sort of thing in our society is embarrassing, so the Occupy folks adopted the rhetoric of class inequality as a smoke screen to cover for their privileged, largely white, collegiate malaise.

    I do not think that this coverup was conspiratorial, by any means; these things have a way of organically evolving. That said, a bunch of trust-fund hipsters from Brooklyn, with their fresh new iPads, aren’t exactly the poster children for victims of class inequality. So, if one is going to discuss the “distress of the privileged”, I think that these people need to be just as center-stage as the those who resist the perceived threat to “traditional, Christian values” that things like gay marriage represent to them.

    In this argument, there is no cake to either have or to eat — no high ground from which a critique of privilege is safe.

    • Erica  On September 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      I agree with your observation that many of the more visible people in Occupy are middle-class people stuck with “broken promises” of college debt, and that many are unconscious of their privilege. (Although almost by definition, people with trust funds do NOT have college debt so I doubt there are a lot of “trust fund hipsters” concerned about this.) I don’t, however, agree that the issue of college debt is only a middle or upper class issue – the majority of debt, and the worst private loans, are taken out to attend for-profit colleges that overwhelmingly prey on the working class, selling classes that could be taken at a community college for a fraction of the price and hard-selling students into enrollment with shady business practices. And personally I am not embarrassed about protesting a system that is designed to permanently place people in debt in exchange for false promises.

      It was once possible for a working class student to attend a state university, graduate with no debt, and get a good job with financial stability. Several of my family members did just that. Now that opportunity is gone – along with good union jobs, another way to make a decent living. I hear you as saying that wanting to restore those opportunities is somehow oppressive to others. I understand that re-funding our state university system so it is affordable again and cracking down on for-profit colleges will not fix everything wrong with our system, but I don’t see how it is an instrument of oppression.

  • Anonymous  On September 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    So why are people complaining about not being able to get married before defeating world hunger? Where is THEIR dinner?

    • weeklysift  On September 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      That analogy would work if gays were blaming the hungry and anti-hunger activists for their persecution, the way right-wing Christians blame the gay-rights movement for theirs.

    • Erica  On September 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Because ending world hunger is tremendously complicated and difficult and not something that the US can grant like a benevolent present to the people of Africa (for example.) Foreign aid can have perverse consequences in areas with high levels of corruption – local officials or thugs often steal and resell food and supplies, direct food aid can hurt farmers’ livelihoods, etc. Not to say it’s not worth doing, but it’s fiendishly complex. Yes, there are things the US can do to help and places we should stop interfering, but even if trade discrimination and military invasion stopped tomorrow, the ultimate solutions must be home grown and run by the local people.

      Granting equal marriage rights to all, on the other hand, could be done easily, simply, and instantaneously with the stroke of a pen.

      BTW, I’ve worked in development and I’ve never met anyone actually working in the field who thinks people should abandon work on other causes until we’ve defeated world hunger. It’s generally people who have never done anything to help world hunger in their lives, who suddenly sound like crusaders for UNICEF the minute social justice issues in the US are brought up.

      • annoymous  On September 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm

        “It’s generally people who have never done anything to help world hunger in their lives, who suddenly sound like crusaders for UNICEF the minute social justice issues in the US are brought up.” Oh my god, thank you! I always wondered why I got a bad taste in my mouth when ever people say this stuff, and it’s because you’re right. It’s so often the people who aren’t doing anything to end hunger here or abroad.

  • donnell1  On September 17, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Reblogged this on Alexander / Swift Productions and commented:
    Here’s pretty smart assessment of the ongoing impact of Pleasantville. The world is a constantly changing place.

  • havoctechnoir  On September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am

    WoW what an arrogant stance to take. As if there is only one “New World” and only one way. This article lacks the viewpoint of the ages of evidence at our perusal available. Societies rise, crumble and fall. The current status quo of 1% ,”gays”, of the population having a platform totally out of line with actual numbers in society reeks of the so-called “supreme” ism’s (beliefs) in the article. Fallacious argument does not reality make–well maybe sometimes. Sorry I just cannot abide the circular logic. New is better? Not so if it is not, who is to say? We are. I do accept moderation and non-violence. There are very few things I will go to war for and I have gone to war–for our country. I may not believe in what you say. But I will defend to the Death your Right to say it…

    • Thomas M.  On September 18, 2012 at 4:18 pm

      Wow, that’s a nice word salad you’ve made there.

      • Anonymous  On September 18, 2012 at 11:58 pm

        lol @ word salad

        Maybe stop worrying about defending his right to say “it”, and worry about your right to say ANYTHING coherent.

  • Oliver Shank  On September 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    This blog entry was pointed out as an example of a well reasoned post from the left, and one finds the point, that fear of change is to be decried, is not taken enough. It is a welcome and admirable point

    Well…. Some change brings benefit and some does not. Cautious cost benefit analysis should be applied.

    It is considerate to give a “heads up” to persons whose lives are going to be changed in massive ways. They would like to be consulted. This applies to all people, and not just to the “privileged.”

    Arguments taken with examples from works of fiction are less impressive, especially surreal works. And I don’t like bowdlerization of famous allegories, but perhaps that is just me.

    And you don’t write as though you communicate with a lot of Tea Party people. Your misunderstanding is easy to understand: Your conceptions come from reading other bloggers and other opinion products. This is a case where it would be helpful to use available data.

    The Tea Party, a movement and not a political party, a diverse and spontaneous self grouping of people, would like:
    1. Government based on fiscal conservatism.
    2. Government which is small and federal.
    3. Government which exacts lower taxes.

    These three principles, because of their axiomatic nature, have irreconcilable differences with other movements such as the progressive movement.

    Religion and other markers doesn’t enter into the description of the Tea Party for most members.

    You did cover other issues which are important to some, but in which I have minimal interest. I do not associate myself with them.

    I associate myself with the Tea Party movement.


    • Thomas M.  On September 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      “I associate myself with the Tea Party movement.”

      That’s too bad. Did you ever consider that the very reason many of us reject the Tea Party is because we’ve actually listened to the people who associate themselves with it? I will say, though, your gross oversimplification (and bowdlerization) of their actual party platform is humorous. Or, at least, you seem to want to present a nice, easy-to-digest front for an organization that has many different goals, some of them contradictory. I also like how you ignore the many people that would be harmed if even those three policies were put into practice – and then wave away that slight problem by stating that you’re not interested in certain “issues” (meaning the interests of “other” people not like yourself.)

      On a side note – you don’t understand surreal art. You don’t quite seem to grasp that surrealism isn’t a complete removal from reality – rather, some of the most incisive and meaningful political and social commentaries come from that “genre” (or whatever you want to call it.)

  • Marie Johnson  On September 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Reblogged this on We'd be so groovetastical.

  • Alex Manuel  On September 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Wow. This is so clear and on-point, and I’d be a sad panda indeed if anyone — be they anti-marriage equality or anti-contraception or what-have-you — couldn’t easily understand it. (Whether they choose to respond with positive action is, unfortunately, another matter).

    Well done, sir. Well done.

  • Brian Phillips  On September 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Wonderful essay! I would also like to add to the list of distresses “the tyranny of political correctness” as a threat to self-expression.

  • Mike (@1954Drummer)  On September 18, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Great post. One of the best I’ve read in a long time on any subject.

  • RS  On September 18, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I have mixed feelings about this. I like your argument that it’s possible to simultaneously acknowledge that facing your own privilege and having it taken away is uncomfortable but being the unprivileged part of that equation is far, far worse. But your perspective really sounds like tone policing and prioritizing your own needs over others.

    Who are you writing this to? If you were crafting this message for other white privileged people, to say ‘Hey, I know this is uncomfortable for you but keep your discomfort in perspective – it’s not injustice’, that would be great.

    But at the end of the article, it really looks like you’re writing to everyone you has privileges over, asking them to set aside their own needs to pamper you. You probably didn’t intend it, but think about what your sentences mean. [side note: It’s easy for me to give you the benefit of the doubt because I share most of your privileges, but it’s unfair to expect this from everyone.] In statements like “Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt,” and “The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world,”, what you’re really asking for is for everyone you have privileges over to (1) calm down and be nice to me because my feelings are as important as your basic rights (despite what you said about the difference between discomfort and injustice), (2) give me the benefit of the doubt, even if you’ve been burned before, and (3) hold my hand and guide me through baby steps here, because I’m not going to learn it for myself.

    Neither you nor I nor any other privileged person should need “to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world” from someone we have privilege over. It’s not my job to explain why rape culture is bad to every man who hasn’t figured it out yet, just like it’s not the responsibility of every non-white American person to explain to me why cultural appropriation is bad. We should take some initiative and figure this shit out on our own. Countless people like Wayne Self have shared a wealth of first-hand knowledge online about all types of privileges others have over them and how it affects them, if we would just look for it, listen, and trust those voices.

    When you write about balancing privilege distress with true injustice, I think it’s more appropriate for your instructions for who has to adapt their strategies and attitudes to be targeted to privileged people dwelling on their distress, rather than asking for everyone else to continue to coddle us.

    • annoymous  On September 26, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Hm.. I agree with a lot of this. I’m curious about the cultural appropriation thing though. How far does that go? For example, am I as a white person not supposed to play or listen to blues or jazz music? For that matter, what about rock music, which is a pretty good example of appropriation, if I understand the term correctly. I just wonder how one avoids appropriation in an increasingly globalized world. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the objection to appropriation, but I also genuinely find other cultures interesting, and I object o the idea of limiting oneself to those things which are considered part of your culture, particularly when a disdain for other cultures is one of the things that stems from racism. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

    • KT  On October 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      RS, I agree with you completely. I thought this was a very well written essay like most others, but I re-read it at least two more times and found that it was perhaps a bit misdirected, although well-intentioned. I think it was a great analogy and a good starting point to open up the discussion, but a lot more could have been elaborated on better (right when the major points were driven home, it was on to the next topic and left you wanting a more forceful driving point). I don’t think that the Betty Parkers of the world should have to walk on eggshells for fear of a counterrevolution – heck, you already made the point that the Tea Party already DOES exist, so what’s left? A counter-counterrevolution? The Tea Party is already angry and misguided – I think most of these types need a swift kick to the head to show them that their “injustices” are nothing compared to the REAL people who have suffered injustice. I really think those who suffer the real injustice need to say it OFTEN and LOUD. I mean if you think about the fact that women were jailed, beaten, and killed for daring to demand voting rights not all that long ago, a silent whisper just won’t do. Anyway, a well thought out essay but I definitely agree that it would be more powerful if you had changed the major recipient of this message to the distressed and acknowledged their distress but also gave them a major reality check which is what I really think they need.

  • Aquariusstar  On September 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Yeah…what a bummer.

    Mom stayed at home and took care of the kids…now we have daycare.

    We rode our bikes all day without helmuts and without fear of crime. Came in just for lunch and then dinner with the family for a homecooked meal. TV was for Saturday mornings. A treat we looked forward to.

    We thought a weekly trip to the Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone was heaven.

    I have many fond memories of my childhood during the fifties. No amount of revisionist history is going to erase my fond memories of simpler times.

    • timberwraith  On September 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      You’re right. Segregation in the US south is also a fond memory from the 50s, too. Oh, and how about McCarthyism? Gosh, that was exciting, wholesome fun, wasn’t it? And society narrowing down women’s life paths to a few choices such as housewife, secretary, or teacher? Now, those were days of joyful freedom! Well, unless you were a black woman, that is–then you could always clean white people’s houses and cook for white people… all for godawful long hours while not having nearly enough time or money for your own family. But hey, look at how shiny white people’s silverware was! Ah, a veritable land of good, clean, opportunity! Oh, and gay folks had so much fun living in fear, shame, and quiet desperation. It was really nifty being thrown in jail because of who you love. And it was so romantic to be forced into relationships with the half of the human race you weren’t actually attracted too. Men were men and women were women! You always knew your place in the 50s! Not like now.

      Gee wiz, weren’t the 50s swell! Wouldn’t it be great if we could bring back that 1950s spirit? We can make America great, once again!

      • Kim Cooper  On December 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        timberwraith — You’re right about the 50s. But wouldn’t it be nice if we could bring back the good things without the bad things? And for everyone? Just dreaming….

      • Headless Unicorn Guy  On January 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

        I gotta keep saying this:

        The Fifties were a time of decompression from 20+ solid years of Great Depression and Global War. With the USA as the only First World power not only undamaged but made stronger by WW2, it was an age of prosperity that has not been seen before or since. Average working stiffs could now afford their own car, their own house outside the inner city in the new suburbs, and vacations. After grubbing for matches and/or being shot at in war for 20 years. It was Miller Time. And don’t nobody even TRY to rock the boat and jeopardize all this.

        That was the attitude, plus a “can-do” confidence (now lost) from overcoming the Depression and the Nazis. When things are going good, you don’t want to risk change; nonconformity becomes dangerous. And the stress along the fault line builds up until it let go in the earthquake of The Sixties.

        The Nifty Fifties is so demonized and The Sixties so deified these days. When both were like Charles Dickens’ prologue to Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… In short, it was a time like any other.”

    • David Betz-Zall  On January 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Eh, plenty of people have idyllic childhoods today, and plenty had very sucky ones whenever you choose to look. We have also always had our fears, although now they’re a bit more about accidents, strangers, and terrorism than nukes, other races, and communist invasion. There is plenty of good around today if one is willing and able to see it.

  • labatman24  On September 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Reblogged this on 4 HOOPS HEADS.

  • Anonymous  On September 18, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Amazing article. You really hit the nail on the head re. the current day’s great cultural divide. Thank you.

  • Evert Keller  On September 19, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I dont want to make a choice about where I stand on gay marriage. I want to explore outer space.

    Wrong and right are just things people make up. How do you know that? Because without one the other is meaningless.Without gay marriage, christian traditions are not right or wrong, they just are. Without christian traditions, gay marriage isnt right or wrong either, it just is.

    Thats why I say its always going to difficult to get people to accept new standards of right and wrong because inherently those standards are just based on smoke and ego..

    I just don’t feel Im equipped to make a judgement of right or wrong on this topic. In life I play by the rules so that my life easy enough for me to continue on pursuing the things I am actually interested in or that I want. I’m sorry to sound callous but the survival of your way of life means nothing to me.

    This issue brings no real emotion out of me except annoyance because it puts me in the position of having to make a choice I have no real interest in making. Its like when I turn on the TV, if people were just screaming “coke or pepsi!?!?!?” The whole thing just turns me off. That’s why I turn off the TV, or go look at another web site, one about space travel.

    I know Christians that totally cannot stop being Christians, and gays that totally cannot stop being gay. At the same time, I know people in both categories that have jumped back and forth over these seemingly uncrossable lines enough to make them as meaningless to me as anything else. How am I supposed to take anyone seriously?

    While Im being offensive to everyone, here’s something else I think about this issue: its only big for two reasons. #1 It involves some kind of sex or romance or whatever you want to call it, and that’s something that hooks people’s attention on TV and the cable news channels need lots of filler for 24 hours that will keep people watching. If your offended by me saying that sex sells, go talk to the news channels that are exploiting you. #2 it pits two incredibly wealthy constituencies against each other. Chruches pass the plate, and by and large gays are professional couples without children. They both have unlimited money to put this shit in my face and I resent it. Space travel has some big bucks behind it these days, but its no where near the the coin that TV preachers and gay doctors and lawyers have to throw around at their pet issues.

    Phwew, Ive been holding onto that tirade for years. Thanks for the author for giving me something to read that crystallized my thoughts enough to finally write it down.

    • Kim Cooper  On December 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Very funny, Evert. Good rant. but not being gay, you have the privilege of not being concerned about it. If you were gay, you would be pretty much forced to deal with it. Christians, on the other hand, are only “forced” to deal with it because of culture — Jesus certainly never dealt with it. Except to say, love your neighbor as yourself and judge not lest ye be judged.

    • K  On February 28, 2013 at 2:54 am

      I don’t want to deal with it either. But you know what? I don’t get a choice, because if I just don’t deal with it, my rights are gone. That’s what privilege means.

  • Anonymous  On September 19, 2012 at 7:27 am

    You know the “distress of the priviledged” is really only describes a crisis of decision. Reactions–the decisions made–stem from how that crisis is resolved in the minds of the perceivers. This article describes a self-righteous patronization on the part of the author, the author he seeks to critique, and his article’s commenters. By and large, they agree to the basic principle, “It’s not the fault of the conservatives or the “bitter clingers” or the Parker’s-of-the-world that they don’t easily accept Just change. Try to understand their confusion and pain. You’re right. They’re wrong. Pat them on the head and tell them, ‘Everything will be alright’, but remain strong and force them to accept.” That all such change is Just is clearly assumed throughout the article.

    It must be realized by the astute reader that a lot of genuine emotional opposition rests on the fact that open-mindedness is only a one-sided expectation of these proponents of change (no matter how loudly the contrary claim). And that a lot of genuine rational opposition rests on a reasoned belief (correct or incorrect) in the wrongness of what is being proposed. That moral certitude is generally the province of the self-righteous and the foolish. And that impressing one’s moral certitude upon another is all that and hubris tossed in for flavor.

    Too many well-meaning, thinking human beings are told, “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated by the New World Order.” This article approaches the issue of resistance to such change as being almost exclusively formed by a cognitive bias of the Happy (“priviledged” is far too inflammatory and loaded). It fails to adequately address the fact that many opponents simply, and without much emotional content, legitimately and justifiably disagree. In fact, it is true that emotion is just as much a driving force in those desirous of change as in those resisting it and the lack of objective rationality just as prevalent, if not more so.

    The author and all his friends of liberalism basically want to rid the world of the oppression–both societal and governmental–that they honestly perceive and the oppression they only imagine, but then want to replace it with their own forms of oppression, “It’s natural you’re resistant to change. It’ll all be alright. There, there, it’ll be over in a moment. You won’t feel a thing.”

    Now, some might argue that they’re not trying to oppress anyone, rather they’re trying to free them. It’s clear that this is not the case, although a Sophist might make that claim. Regardless, that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is a recommendation on how one should adjust one’s attitude when approaching the opposition. And that is, as I’ve said, a self-righteous, patronizing approach which is rather transparent and off-putting. Better would be to remain typically volatile, often incoherent, attacking, mocking, self-righteous, and rude. It has served the cause well so far. With all so many outlets of social programming (Hollywood, media, and academia), liberalism is winning the societal battle, anyway.

  • fusroy  On September 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Did anyone else here keep thinking of the in many ways similar “Hello friend, there’s still a remnant of the Petite Bourgeoisie out there, but sorry, you are no longer part of it.” theme of the horrifically dreary, and simply badly done, but forever haunting, underground classic “The Swimmer”? The complete evisceration of the P.B. is,
    btw, Chapter One in the rise of neoliberalism.

  • Rob Porter  On September 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    “Distress of the Privileged” a very useful term that clarifies issues that I had otherwise been percolating murkily under my direct consciousness. Very good.

  • Anon  On September 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Everyone must deal with their own sin. For some it could be anger, for others it could be sexual sins, gossiping, lying, the list goes on and on. For anyone who believes in God, you should open your Bible and discover what He has to say about all of this. For those of you who do not believe in God, I’ll quote Mark Driscoll and say that hell is hot and eternity is a long time.

    • Rebecca  On November 15, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      Just two comments – just because someone believes in God certainly does NOT mean it is they believe is the God the Bible, so “opening your Bible” wouldn’t be productive or relevant. And I lost all respect for you when you quoted Mark Driscoll, that bigoted sexist.

    • Kim Cooper  On December 10, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      ” For anyone who believes in God, you should open your Bible and discover what He has to say about all of this. ”
      There are lots of people who believe in God who do not subscribe to your bible.

      • moguesmysteries  On December 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm


        With all due respect, you are dodging. I’m not arguing from the bible. I didn’t mention the bible or my faith, which is completely beside the point.You don’t have to subscribe to any religion to know that killing someone is wrong.

        My argument is based in biological facts and basic universal human rights.

      • moguesmysteries  On December 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

        Whoa apologies. I was confused. I thought your post was a response to mine, and was confused. Obviously it wasn’t. Apologies.

  • danielleparadis  On September 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    I love this! Thank you for writing it.

  • Pamela  On September 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Excellent post! Tolerance requires that we look with eyes and minds open.

  • nonviolentrage  On September 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Reblogged this on nonviolentrage and commented:
    You wanted “marketing 101 for radical liberals”? Here it is. I’m really glad to see someone else writing about the need for allies and how to really win them.

  • Clare  On September 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Reblogged this on this camino called life and commented:
    I’m going to try to get my dad to read this…wish me luck 😉

  • Anonymous  On September 21, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I really, really like this article. It’s very fair and honest. But I’d like to – perhaps selfishly – point out that not all issues are as morally simple as sexual, racial, or religious discrimination. I’m pro-Choice, but I understand that for some of my friends in Kentucky, the slightest compromise on their pro-Life stances are, on their moral compass, tantamount to murder. Even racial issues in some circumstances become complex: race-blind colleges are dominated by Asian immigrants while African-Americans edging into top law schools on Affirmative Action tend to fall into the bottom tenth of their classes, severely damaging their future careers. To work into the author’s metaphor: the mouse and the lion may want to be equal friends, but the mice can’t control the gazelle population and the lions can’t live off cheese. Betty and George can’t just switch lives and do each others’ jobs. Change is good, but the complex fabric of our societal structure can’t just be ripped up and re-woven. Don’t expect the Tea Party-ers to change their minds; work to change the minds of their children.

    • annoymous  On September 26, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you, you’ve voiced something I thought about while reading this.

    • KT  On October 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      To be a devil’s advocate here…if you are pro-choice, why not question the anti-abortionists’ (I refuse to call them “pro-life”) stance on their murder argument? Instead of accepting it as their moral compass, why not ask them the tough questions, like, if abortion equals murder, do you hold funerals for the dead embryos? If not, why not? If you were to lose a newborn child or even have a stillborn birth, would it be the same feeling of loss as if it were a first trimester miscarriage? Why or why not? If really pressed, I think people who equate abortion to murder would be forced to reevaluate their stance. The problem is, most people who think this way are dead-set in their beliefs and won’t listen to anything else, similarly to a child with his fingers in his ears. But as a pro-choice person I think it would be an injustice not to challenge those beliefs, whether silently or not, instead of just accepting them as something definite and uncompromising. Doing so will give yourself and others a better chance at changing the minds of their children.

      • Robert Kendall  On November 3, 2012 at 3:50 pm

        The non-equiivalence of *emotional* feelings of loss does not tranlsate into an argument agianst an overall positon. Plus by law aborted fetuses are medical waste and holding funerals for them is illegal.

      • anastasiamcateer  On December 8, 2012 at 9:02 am

        Kendall makes good points; I would just add that every mother I know who has had a first trimester miscarriage (that she was aware of) grieved JUST AS HARD for that child as mothers who have stillborn or newborn losses. And yes I have known families to hold funerals for miscarried babies, and I know women who wear or carry trinkets to remember their losses. Mothers begin bonding with their children from the first moment they are aware of the fetus. Suggesting a woman doesn’t grieve a miscarriage belies a deep ignorance of this situation. For that matter, suggesting a woman doesn’t grieve an abortion too is ignorant, because everyone I know who has had one – and who HAD to – still grieved over it. It was just the best of the worst options.

        Also I’ve seen plenty of memorials for aborted fetuses. Hard core anti-abortionists set them up as political statements.

      • moguesmysteries  On December 10, 2012 at 4:40 am

        What kind of a society fights for the right to kill their children? How about fighting for supporting new mothers so that women who face unintended pregnancies have support in their duty of care. Because despite all the birth control and the best will in the world unintended pregnancies are going to happen. How about fighting for the right for prenatal and post natal support for new moms, to affordable childcare, financial support from fathers. Anyone who has had children knows it does take a village.

        All of us have a duty of care towards one another, all of us at multiple times in our lives will be totally dependent on others to take care of us. None of us knows whether tomorrow we will incapacitated and rely on our loved ones and society to help us through. Just because fetuses, babies, children whatever you want to call them are little, doesn’t mean they are not human, alive and people, people that deserve the same rights as we enjoy.

      • Kim Cooper  On December 10, 2012 at 5:22 am

        We aren’t fighting for the right to kill our children, we are fighting for the right to choose for ourselves; you know, freedom. There are several reasons for this. One is that a single answer rarely fits all circumstances. There really are some circumstances where abortion is the right answer. Another is that it isn’t a moral choice if it isn’t a choice. Another is that it is the sort of thing that shouldn’t be a law, it should be a choice according to what you believe to be right, which is not a legal secular issue. (If your church is failing to convince it’s members to behave according to its strictures, it isn’t the law’s responsibility to make them behave.)
        A friend was learning to do ultrasound, and had an internship in a facility that did second level ultrasounds on at risk pregnancies. One day she started doing the ultrasound, and found a fetus that had no skull — the brains were disorganized and free-floating in the amniotic fluid. This fetus cannot survive outside the womb, and carrying on the pregnancy can endanger the life of the mother. Would you deny an abortion in this circumstance? Later the doctor told my friend that they see about one a month of that kind of condition. So, it’s not all that rare. Another time, there was no heartbeat and they found the fetus had been dead for two weeks. Would you deny an abortion in that circumstance? It definitely endangers the life of the mother. Not to mention her psychological health.
        This issue just isn’t simple enough to make a one-size-fits-all answer to, so the best answer is to let the person in the situation decide.
        Or, every person who is anti-abortion could volunteer to adopt one of these fetuses. Oops, guess that won’t work until we learn how to transfer them to your womb, or build a womb in a man and then transfer it….

      • moguesmysteries  On December 10, 2012 at 7:34 am


        The choice to kill another person? Is that freedom or tyranny? As for the rest of your argument, life is complex, tragedies natural and otherwise occur throughout life accidents, disease, malformations. If and when they happen to most people, we feel a duty of care towards them, why not towards our children?

        To answer your question specifically. yes, I think there has to be options for medical abortions when the mothers life is in danger. But that’s not the societal issue in the US, right, there are not millions plus babies putting their mothers life in danger.

        Is there a societal issue with intolerance towards disabilities or otherness of any nature in the US. Most emphatically Yes.

        This is a place where upwards of 90 percent of kids with identified abnormalities are killed. Tolerance, diversity, not so much. As one of my favorite comediennes commented, “if they really wanted to reduce suffering in the world they’d create a prenatal test for A**holes.”

      • Kim Cooper  On December 10, 2012 at 11:22 am

        No, it isn’t the right to kill a person. In my religion, a fetus is not a person. That’s why we need to choose ourselves, because different religions have different viewpoints about what constitutes a person, and the government should not be choosing one religion over another. We (you and I) also have different ideas about whether there is such a thing as “a fate worse than death”. You, obviously, do not believe there is anything worse than death (shows you don’t have faith in God).
        by the way, why are we even discussing abortion issues on a blog about white hetero privilege? Why is abortion such an important issue to you that you want to force your position onto others with different positions? do you feel guilty about it?

      • moguesmysteries  On December 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm

        Posters including me have brought up abortion because the author referred to the “bizarre” catholic concept of ensoulment in his argument.

        I’m a person, so of course I am guilty of lots of things, but abortion is not one of them.

        You are wrong to say this is a question of belief. We are mammals, we carry our young. When a women is pregnant there are two bodies involved, her own and the second body she is carrying in her uterus. Fetuses are human beings (they are not another species) and abortion kills them.

        These may be uncomfortable facts, but they are facts. All throughout history human tragedies invariably involve de-humanizing the victims. Whenever the question has been asked is this person really a person, should they have the same rights as I do, history has always answered an emphatic YES, every single time, without fail.

        Just as a side note, I am a woman, and a feminist. I am American, but now live in a country where abortion has never been legal, but where we just elected our first male President in just over 2 decades.

      • Angelus Historiae  On December 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm

        Honestly, I think the organ donation argument is your better bet. Whether or not I morally or ethically ought to do so, I have no legal obligation to donate a kidney or my blood or my bone marrow, even if not doing so directly results in someone’s death. I have the choice to give or to withhold my body, to donate or not pieces of it to another.
        @moguesmysteries – I presume you are living in Ireland, where a woman recently died because her doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy although she was septic and miscarrying. Oh, and just so you know, while most mammals do carry their young to term, they do not always let them live after birth.

      • AP  On December 13, 2012 at 3:20 am

        Not to agitate anyone (merely to inform on a differing opinion)…

        Yes, people do celebrate life/death of pre-born children. It would be entirely hypocritical to believe that pre-born children deserve life & then act indifferently to their death if it is by natural causes. My family not only names, but mourns miscarriages the same as any family member.

        Also, the woman in Ireland could Not have been saved by a medical or surgical abortion. Her condition was preexisting & her pre-born child was already dead in the womb when she was in the doctor’s care. Savita (the mother) went into shock & septicemia because they were not aware of her pre-existing condition. Aborting the dead fetus would not have saved her.

        Also, to contribute to the thoughts about organ donation:

        Fact: “If you cause an issue, you are held liable for the damages.”

        Therefore, if you initiate sex then you should be willing to participate in the possible consequences (pregnancy) without harming the innocent bystander (child.)
        Compare that to a case of an organ donor, it would be similar causing the situation (like…shooting someone) & then refusing to donate a life-saving organ that you could easily live without.

        This comparison is similar, but is not a perfect comparison because pregnancy & fertility are not diseases.

        Hope that sheds some light on why people differ in opinion on the issue.

      • AP  On December 13, 2012 at 3:37 am

        (if you were curious) …Here is a video that states true facts about how Ireland has an astonishingly low maternal mortality rate & that a medical or surgical abortion would not have saved Savita H’s life:

      • o'doyle rules!  On January 27, 2014 at 2:46 am

        “if you are pro-choice, why not question the anti-abortionists’ (I refuse to call them “pro-life”) stance on their murder argument?”

        I’m not sure this is the right argument to make. I have no desire to challenge someone else’s belief system. If they think abortion is murder and hold that belief ardently they are free to do so. What I have a problem with is when they use their belief system to try and take away the rights of others to make decisions about their own bodies. I feel the same way about people who are anti-homosexuality, if that’s even a thing, it’s like being anti blonde, how dumb. We don’t have to agree and I don’t have to change your mind, you just have to resist the urge to foist your morality on the world at large.

      • weeklysift  On January 27, 2014 at 6:06 am

        I’ve come to believe that a lot of anti-abortion beliefs are ad hoc and not entirely genuine. For example, people will tell you that a fertilized ovum has the full moral standing of an adult human being. And yet, the fact that half or more of these ova spontaneously abort before the woman realizes she’s pregnant — that doesn’t hit them at all. Such an unparalleled tragedy that would be, if all those ova were complete human beings rather than just fertilized eggs. But I don’t think anyone really, truly believes they are.

      • Anonymous  On January 27, 2014 at 6:32 am

        “I’ve come to believe that a lot of anti-abortion beliefs are ad hoc and not entirely genuine. For example, people will tell you that a fertilized ovum has the full moral standing of an adult human being. And yet, the fact that half or more of these ova spontaneously abort before the woman realizes she’s pregnant — that doesn’t hit them at all. Such an unparalleled tragedy that would be, if all those ova were complete human beings rather than just fertilized eggs. But I don’t think anyone really, truly believes they are.”

        I disagree.

        As a woman who has had two miscarriages, I can confirm that they are very very painful events in every way.

        Everybody dies, it’s not an unparalleled tragedy, it’s a fact of life. Ideally and hopefully most of us die naturally from natural causes. A good few of us die very early in life, most die later in life. That sir is part of the cycle of life.

        What is unnatural and an epic tragedy is the purposeful killing of human beings. Killing each other to get a bigger slice of the pie is sadly part of human history.

        Abortion is economic warfare dressed up as feminism. It’s greed, plain and simple.

      • Anonymous  On January 27, 2014 at 6:44 am

        The connection between poverty and abortion is impossible to ignore. If abortion “empowered” women than surely the countries with the most access and highest rates of abortion would be places of female empowerment – right …wrong. There is an inverse relationship between women’s empowerment and abortion rates. Societies where women are empowered have the lowest abortion rates.

        The US has high abortion rates and ranks low on gender balance – unsurprisingly.

        Women don’t need the proverbial “choice” to abort their babies. Women need choices! They need subsidised childcare! They need healthcare! Unless people magically stop having any children if they can’t 100% afford them (you might as well support something as awful as mass sterilisation of the poor) – then women need more options, more societal support for societies number one job – raising children.

        It’s time to change the conversation in America. Please, please inform yourself. Open your mind, do some research – be a voice for actual female empowerment.

        My challenge to you

  • not willing to provide it  On September 22, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I have only one comment to make. You mentioned that whites believe they are the real victims of racism. Actually, the real victims of racism are the racists. Not white, nor black, nor Asian. Bigots are the true victims of their own bigotry. How can I say that? My father brought me up to be very prejudiced. I went into the military and got away from his teaching. I met African-Americans who were very decent men and women. I met Muslims who were friendly and courteous. I met Asians who did not carry cameras and calculators as well. I went to college and met people who further broke down my prejudices against homosexuals. Now, getting back to my statement about bigots being the true victims of bigotry, I have friends who are homosexuals, African American, and Muslim, and my fiance is Chinese. If I had clung to the beliefs my father instilled in me, none of this would be possible. I would be depriving myself of friendships, and of the love of my fiance. I struggle every day to keep that bigotry suppressed. It is a part of my early upbringing, and one that I am not proud of. In fact, just admitting it here could possibly cause my job search to go sour because we cannot admit that we all harbor these prejudices. It might even be misunderstood by my fiance if she reads it.

  • Trudy  On September 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

    The problem with pitting the privileged against the oppressed is that when you go back through human time, humans have always made it their quest to achieve privilege. To be safe, comfortable, well fed. Beyond the survival of the fittest there is the reward of comfort for taking high risk and doing the hard work. So, chances are someone who is privileged NOW was probably. through his ancestry, a product of an oppressed group. They have worked hard to escape the yoke of oppression and have achieved a level of privilege that is comfortable – and probably at the expense of someone who had achieved privilege before them. So this is a very natural, progressive cycle – and it rebalances itself periodically – and at no time is it ever fair and balanced FOR ALL. It is also natural that those who have achieved privilege will resist giving it up easily because that would go against their instinct for self-preservation. Evolution of the mind will acknowledge the instinct but will acknowledge that there is plenty of room at the table. Such an evolution could prevent revolution as well. In the battle for privilege between men and women, it makes sense for men to clear the sprawl for women, given that our population is outpacing, outeducating and outliving men. Eventually, privileged groups will be overrun by the oppressed – when the numbers become big enough, wealthy, soft and plump and too arrogant to protect themselves anymore. This is all very natural and instinctual. It just ain’t too pretty.

    • annoymous  On September 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      You may have a point..

  • Anonymous  On September 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    An absolute gem. Thanks for writing it, but even more thanks for believing in it enough to share it with those of us who are trying to deal with these distressed individuals (without losing our minds).

  • Eris Tirrem  On September 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    LOL @ timberwraith. I think it’s laughable how many posters there are here that are guilty of *exactly* the kind of mentality discussed in the article…sad…

  • Sean M  On September 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    This was perfect. Thank you.

    Now you just have to tackle the “It’s not that my relationship/race/sexuality/whatever is BETTER, it’s just DIFFERENT, which means it gets different PRIVILEGES” argument.

  • jennylmackinnon  On October 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Reblogged this on So Much Palaver and commented:
    This post is most perfect in its description of how privilege gets blinded. Very well written and a great desscription of these things work.

  • Eliot  On October 7, 2012 at 7:10 am

    What annoys me about “privilege” is that it’s just another excuse to put people into groups, and to make blanket statements. Sure, if you’re an upper class white male born with a silver spoon in your mouth, had the best education money can buy, don’t have any health issues, are very good looking, etc, then yes you’re at the top of the privilege ladder. But that doesn’t mean that a woman who was born into the same situation, is more privileged than a white man who was born into poverty and abuse, or who has an unfortunate appearance, or any number of other issues that any individual is likely to have to deal with. So to say, white men are privileged, as though all white men have privilege over everyone else, is rubbish. If you’re going to use “privilege”, you need to use it on an individual basis and you’d better take into account the whole host of things that society use to judge people, from socio-economic background, to physical appearance, because otherwise it’s just a completely false and frankly insulting assumption. I’m perfectly aware of where I sit in the scale of privilege in my society, and it’s no where close to the top. And I’m sick of being told how “privileged” I am, by people (especially highly educated academics) who are way above me on the social ladder. And I’m also sick of the assumption, that I’m resentful that something is being “taken away from me”, no, I’m resentful that other people presume to tell me I’m more privileged than other people when they know absolutely nothing about me or my personal circumstances. Frankly I’m amazed that somehow it’s okay to lump people into groups like this. Everyone has their own personal level of privilege, and I do not accept that there is not a person of a different race or gender than me who is more privileged than I am, because I know that there are.

    • Miranda  On January 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Thing is though, white men generally *are* more privileged than women and/or people of color regardless of where they fall on the socio-economic scale. There may be white men who are more privileged than you based on whatever economic class you/they fall into, but I can pretty much guarantee that wherever it is that you/they fall on that spectrum, you’re going to have more privilege than anyone who isn’t a white male.

      • Wadsok Lord  On February 4, 2013 at 8:14 am

        Thing is though, WOMEN are more privileged than men. Look at US law system. Every privilege that man has – woman has. And then women have some more privileges. Less time in jail for any crime, if found to be accusing man of false rape – woman is not punished in any way, better health care, plenty of women shelters (and almost none for men), has all the power on deciding to have child or not (man has no power and is forced by woman’s decision to support child for 18 years OR lose his own blood to abortion), lower requirements to work in police or firefighter force (thus paid more for less work), if some company has not enough women working there they must hire less qualified women or they will get in problem (this is more EU problem. Also in EU – min 40% of board rooms will be forced to be women. Because they are women, not because they are better workers or deserved that.). So why don’t you wake up?

      • The Septet  On June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

        There are things that will plummet you down that ladder in the eyes of others. I’m a straight, white male, yes, but I’m also a tattooed, longhaired Pagan. I was kicked from the Navy because of my faith, and I can’t get a job that I’m qualified for because of my appearance. Trust me, there are ways for a white male to be kicked way down.

  • transynchr0nicity  On October 7, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Reblogged this on Little Earthquakes.

  • Becky Potter  On October 14, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    EXCELLENT examination! I discovered seeds of privileged distress in myself as I read this. The DIFFERENCE in distress is such a good point. Thank you for this!

  • 300baud  On October 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Nicely put. True equality comes from compassion. All of us have privilege we need to shed, and most of the progress I have made is been through quiet words and self-reflection, not abuse.

  • Aftermail  On October 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Let me see if I understand what you are saying?
    1. Change is good if enough people want it.
    2. Those who fight against change because they believe it to be morally wrong are simply old-fashioned bigots.
    3. The circle-of-life is crap because the Lion should never want to eat the mouse, or throw it out of a party.
    4. Marriage is about the right to declare your sexual preferences legally, not about a commitment to God and Family.
    5. Privilege is wrong and we should all have the same amount of money and no one should start off benefitting from the hard work or good choices of their parents.
    6. If I believe something to be right, but you don’t, and you feel that my very belief is offensive, I should shut up and not be allowed to vote or fight for what I see to be right, because you see it to be wrong and therefore you are oppressed?
    7. This article means you are right and I am wrong because you say so and I’m just Christian and heterosexual because I’ve been spoon fed “morals” and brainwashed.

    • nevermind  On November 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      If marriage is currently “about” a commitment to God and Family? I need a divorce.

    • Xeno  On February 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Nope. You’ve missed the point completely.

    • weeklysift  On October 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

      I think the best answer to this is in Dan Savage’s interview with Chris Hayes in 2012, in which he pointed out that straight culture has changed in such a way that opposite-sex relationships are really no different in practice than same-sex relationships, so the ban on same-sex marriage is increasingly seen as arbitrary.

      The law isn’t changing society, it’s reacting to the way in which society already has changed. And as the Christian Right’s sky-is-falling predictions again and again fail to come to pass, it becomes increasingly clear that what lies behind them is simply bigotry.

      And no one is making you shut up. You are within your rights to promote whatever point of view you want. But the rest of us are within our rights to say that point of view is bigoted. What you have lost is your right to take a bigoted position and face no criticism for it.

  • rward  On October 22, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    One aspect of this article that is missing is the idea of moral relativism. It speaks of change as a natural progression of ideas and standards. Tolerance is the idea that we can love and respect one other and still coexist peacefully, but the important missing truth is that there are moral absolutes. This isnt something that changes with the passing of time. But we often focus on the exceptions when formulating policies and cultural norms to inculde everyone and everything to the exclusions of the rule.

    • weeklysift  On September 24, 2014 at 8:36 am

      If something really is a moral absolute, then ignoring should lead to obviously bad consequences. If we ignored murder, say, I imagine society would stop functioning.

      However, a lot of the things that people imagine to be moral absolutes are actually just social conventions, and when you ignore them society changes, but functions as well or better than ever. Same-sex marriage is an example of this second kind of thing. States that allow it have been perking along as well as ever. Their gay and lesbian populations are more secure and generally happier, but that seems to be the only noticeable difference.

  • Mental health doc  On October 30, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Do you folks not realize that Invictus_88 has a mental illness? Seriously, as a mental health practitioner, his wording and sentence structure are fairly telling. So, calm yourselves down. You are arguing with someone who has an extra-normal sense of rationalization (and probably should be medicated).

    • MadHatr  On October 30, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      No genuine licensed health practitioner would attempt to anonymously diagnose someone’s mental health issues just based on their comments on a blog post. Neither would they then turn around and ‘out’ that person’s metal issues, if they honestly felt that such an issue existed; as it’s a violation of HIPAA rights. You’re full of shit, and I’m calling you on it.

    • Invictus_88  On November 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      As others have said, you’re clearly not what you say you are! Your eagerness to make an online diagnosis is “fairly telling”. 😉

  • tressiemc22  On November 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Reblogged this on tressiemc.

  • Anonymous  On November 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Sorry, but refusing to pay for something isn’t the same as denying it to someone.

    YOu did make one very good point; supremacy contains the seeds of ahtred. I’m an egomaniac who hates everybody, so I’m livng proof

  • anonymous  On November 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Why is it necessary to play games? Everyone has problems. Is it always necessary to say which problems are worse than others? And keep in mind that personal and cultural bias skews how the magnitude of the problem is portrayed. It’s terrible to be raped, and terrible to be falsley accused of rape, and trying to make the case that one is worse than the other is just going to piss people off, justifiably. How about we just tackle individual problems as they come up, and not be forced into unidirectional privilege?

  • inmyinternest  On November 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Reblogged this on inmyinternest and commented:
    This is a perceptive treatment of the priviledged distress, and I am sympathetic to that distress. Really, I am. But it also gets old, trying to be understanding about it. When I discuss feminism with anti-feminists, I’m nice as long as they’re nice to me. I’ve tried being nice even when the priviledged person isn’t. I’ve tried it and it didn’t work, and I lost my patience. Now I just use the same tone with them as they’re using with me. Seems more fair that way.

  • Cory  On December 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I very much like your article! It is well written and gives pause for thought. Unfortunately I do not agree. You say it yourself – to get compassion, it must be given (paraphrased). They offer no quarter, so we give none. This is a great argument for Darwinism: only the most adaptable will survive. The privileged get enough, and they are certainly not stupid. They do, however have a knack for twisting things to fit their own interpretations and their own benefit. It is what made them successful in the first place.
    In a country where a man can filibuster his own proposed bill, or where the rights of workers can be withdrawn in – what should be – illegal methods, where kids can starve, and where medical benefits for the elderly can be bandied about like poker chips – we have to GIVE something MORE to the privileged?
    NO. America is where all men (and women) are created equal. If the privileged can’t acknowledge that, then they can pout and throw a tantrum like we are used to. But I for one am sick of people demanding the party be in their favor, instead of sharing the good time with everyone. We have fought wars over this. We didn’t give compassion to Hitler when he subjugated the Jews. I am not going to sit idly by and allow someone to patronize the privileged because they feel they aren’t understood. I won’t do it for a racist, and I certainly won’t do it for – what amounts to – a sexist. It is their turn to get with the program. Except in this program, we want them to stop treating people like less. If not, they can rot in jail.

  • Bryce  On December 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    This is an excellent article that helps me greatly. I have often struggled as a person of mixed race to explain why my experience is not equivalent to white Americans getting discriminated against. It is very frustrating when people in power lash out at you for supporting policies aimed at ending a long-standing inequality and call you racist for doing so; this will help me accept their viewpoint without submitting to it. Thank you very much.

  • Link Skywalker (@linkskywalker)  On December 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. Righteous anger is well and good, but unless it’s tempered by a little compassion it can be horribly divisive.

    This point is actually very relevant to my own experiences as a white male. I grew up in a very traditional family. My mother stayed home, my father was the head of the household. Gays were bad and George Bush was great. My parents did a good job instilling within me the desire to be a good person, they just have no idea what a good person is. My journey away from their way of thinking was long and difficult. When I moved out of my parents home for the first time, I felt very proud of how far I’d come.

    At the time, I was reading a number of atheism blogs with vaguely feminist undertones to them, and decided this was something I needed to learn more about. I came upon a small humor website where women shared stories of men being sexist. I began reading–and commenting. Let there be no doubt that I wrote some seriously privileged, and outright offensive things in those comments. I was trying to respectfully engage with people I disagreed with, but failed to notice that my disagreements were often based on a fundamental disrespect for the other person.

    The reaction from the community was downright venomous. I tried to explain that I wanted to understand their viewpoint, but that I wasn’t going to change my mind simply because someone on the Internet told me to do so. And while I feel I was trying to be reasonable, I now understand I was also probably invading a safe space. The experience left me sour, and I was seriously ready to write modern feminism off as an excuse to hate men. But one woman, named Susan, took me seriously.

    The two of us spent several weeks exchanging emails. Thanks to the time she devoted to engaging with me directly, I was able to make the transition out of my old ways of thinking.

    Women have ever right to demand that men give them the rights and respect they deserve as equal members of the human species. Just as ethnic minority groups in the U.S. have the right to demand the same from whites. Just as homosexuals have the right to demand it from heterosexuals. Just as trans people have the right to demand it from cis people. Just as atheists and religious minorities have the right to demand it from Christians. They don’t need to ask for it. It’s not a courtesy we straight, white, cisgendered males extend to them. It’s an inalienable right and if I’d been denied it for as long as those groups have, I would be furious.

    But improving our society will be a lot faster, easier, and more harmonious if we all take the time to help each other make the transition.

  • Anonymous  On December 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    This is absolutely excellent. Coming from a highly privileged position (white straight hetero cis male) it’s honestly difficult at times to conceptualize privilege when you’re always on the right side of it. The analogies within this post both explain it perfectly without direct hostility, which helps people like me unpack it, understand it, and counteract it. Like Mr. Parker expecting dinner, we love our family and friends and probably just don’t understand everything that we do that enables their oppression. Understanding is the first step… thanks for helping me out.

  • anastasiamcateer  On December 8, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Reblogged this on LiturgiGal and commented:
    “Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them.

    At the same time, my straight-white-male sunburn can’t be allowed to compete on equal terms with your heart attack. To me, it may seem fair to flip a coin for the first available ambulance, but it really isn’t. Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt, but don’t consent to the coin-flip.

    The Owldolatrous approach — acknowledging the distress while continuing to point out the difference in scale — is as good as I’ve seen. Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world.”

  • anastasiamcateer  On December 8, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This is really so good and I’ve reblogged it. I just felt I needed to nitpick a couple things, because one thing I’ve learned as a blogger is that if you aren’t fair & accurate on ALL counts, people won’t listen even to your good points.

    So, FWIW: you say that people not wanting to buy Dan Cathy’s sandwiches isn’t as bad as people being fired for being gay. BUT if enough people didn’t buy the sandwiches, that would put CFA out of business (something many people want to happen), so in essence, that is firing Cathy. I suppose it is letting the market do it, but it’s still a targeted firing. Not saying it’s not justice, but I dunno, I might just lose the firing reference (esp since I see commenters above jumping on it re: Christians being fired). Seriously why do we all care so much about firing anyway? Oh yeah, because we put our self-worth into our jobs…

    Second, you describes the Tennessee bill as not being able to “say the word gay” in classrooms. So I was thinking maybe it has to do with using that term in a denigrating fashion, which actually is a problem. However, no, when I clicked through and read the link, it’s not about the word “gay” at all – it is about not discussing homosexuality in classrooms prior to ninth grade. Now I have my own issues with that, but it’s a misrepresentation to say it’s just about using the word “gay”. Seems like a broader (and more troubling) issue. So that might need clarification just to be sure it’s not confusing or misrepresenting the bill.

    Take it or leave it, just my thoughts for tightening up! 🙂

  • Catholic Feminist  On December 9, 2012 at 7:22 am

    The unintentional irony of this piece is astonishing. For much of it is incredibly true, time marches on, dynamics change and people, cultures and customs are left behind. Adjusting is part of life. What was astounding was the author’s huge glaring blind spot – yes, thankfully discrimination against sexual orientation is diminishing. Anyone two people who want to publicly and legally affirm love and commitment to each other should be celebrated as a beautiful thing. Fantastic. This is important step forward for civil rights and welcome. In the very same piece, the author reinforced the US culture of mass and fatal discrimination, i.e. the real “Lion” in the US.

    A million plus people are killed every year in the United States, because they are inconvenient, or have some sort of detectable imperfection – the author claims as “bizarre” the idea that people are people and everyone should have the same duty of care towards each other that we “real” people enjoy.

    According to the author discrimination is deplorable, unless of course you are not born, in which case it’s open season! In the history of humanity this of course is not new, almost every large scale human tragedy dehumanizes the victims. They are not like us, so what we are doing to them doesn’t really count. Yet every single time the question has been asked “is this human being a person?” history has always answered with a resounding YES!

    The author does not address the tricky questions of when a person becomes a person, nor the biological reality that when a women is pregnant there are two bodies involved, not just one (we are mammals, we carry our young). What is law in a civilized society if not the rules of conduct about how we can and cannot treat other people? All of these sticky questions are swept right under a rather large carpet in the United States as distinctly unpopular, reactionary and anti -women to boot.

    BTW I am a woman and I am a proud feminist. I live in a place where abortion has never been legal and in the past 10 years we’ve had 2 successive female Presidents.

    • A. Presco  On December 11, 2012 at 6:24 am

      Just thought I’d say that I ADORE your comment! Thank you for affirming that this piece has ample amounts of truth, but that the last few paragraphs take too many liberties & railroad over other unrelated issues.
      Seeing fertility as a disease & forcing skewed definitions of humanity on people are Not parts of a new society that ‘privileged’ people need to accept. Protecting life & standing up for holistic female health options are not issues that have ever oppressed anyone; quite the contrary.

      Ireland certainly has the best balance between feminism, pre-born rights & female presidents. I’m guessing that’s where you are from! So proud to have Irish roots because of that.

      • Miranda  On January 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm

        Individual women have the right to veiw fertility as a disease. As such, they have the right to not have childbirth forced upon them. Depriving them of this right is the very essense of oppression.

  • Stanton  On December 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    What a clever crock of rubbish. Anyone with whom you disagree can be assigned (arbitrarily by you) to some “privileged” category and then you can patronizingly demonstrate empathy for them in their depravity (demonstrating your superiority, er ‘supremacy’) in the noble pusuit of helping the misguided “to be good” members of the new dispensation as you see it. This arguement is but the latest rendition of the logical fallacy of the argumentum ad hominem. It is always employed by the dull or the venal to avoid the hard work of offering an arguement in defense of one’s position. Such work also assumes a level of equality with one’s opponent, a condition that is impossible by your construction; impossible by design, and this as much as anything betrays your hostility to those with whom you differ on issues. Clever but still rubbish, and since I see through it I am sure others do as well; and so, perhaps not clever enough. The self congradulating choristers having “aha” moments not withstanding….

  • Jeremy  On December 9, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Kind Avenue and commented:
    Good post from The Weekly Sift. Check it out!

  • Julia  On December 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Interesting that supremacy is actually infectious. I talked to some [white] immigrants in the US, which group was always historically oppressed. Their ancestors would’ve held low paid jobs. Yet, as they held good jobs, made possible by considering their skills, not ethnicity or ancestry, a few held strong racist believes against African Americans. Where does this culture come from? Certainly, not from a real privilege distress as those people never “got a dinner” from a Black nanny.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy  On January 14, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Just because your ethnic group/tribe was stomped on in the past doesn’t mean you’re incapable of turning around and stomping on someone else. This was proven in the many waves of immigration into the USA, where a group/tribe originally oppressed as “Not Real Americans” upon eventually being accepted as “Real Americans” often turned on and oppressed the next group/tribe fresh off the boats.

  • Ambient Malice (@Ambient_Malice)  On December 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    I dunno if Pleasantville is exactly a great example. The film was something of a contrived series of strawmen arguments against conservative ideology, and can’t really be used to demonstrate real-world ideologies, which are far, far less cut and dry than Pleasantville tried to portray them as.

    People have every right to fight over the basic structure of society. People have no more right to change society into something they perceive as more just or more fair than their opponents have to fight to preserve a status quo.

    In a real world example, the anti-abortion movement strives to change society. The pro-abortion movement strives to preserve a status quo. Who is conservative here? Really, conservatism is in the eye of the beholder.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy  On January 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      “I dunno if Pleasantville is exactly a great example. The film was something of a contrived series of strawmen arguments against conservative ideology, and can’t really be used to demonstrate real-world ideologies, which are far, far less cut and dry than Pleasantville tried to portray them as.”

      While Pleasantville has been read as a metaphor for the Fall, there is something else in it that rubs me the wrong way. (I am just old enough to remember the tail end of the Fifties, i.e. the First 1960s.)

      What rubs me the wrong way is the simplistic “Nineties Good, Fifties BAAAAAAAAD, Nineties Good, Fifties BAAAAAAAAAAAD!” when it comes to comparing and contrasting the cultures and moralities of the two. (Complicated by Pleasantville being a cartoon version of Fifties society as portrayed in the sitcoms of the time — the same mythic NiftyFifties society according to Ozzie, Harriet, and Donna Reed that colors all the Christian Culture Warrior views of “Real Christian America”.)

      The movie would have had more impact if it had shown the differences both good and bad of the Fifties and Nineties societies in contrast (even if both were sitcom fictional versions of the two) and presented the question “Things changed in The Sixties. Here’s what we gained, here’s what we lost. Was it worth it? Were there some things we should have kept but didn’t? Were there some things we should have changed but didn’t? Was it worth it?”

      • weeklysift  On September 24, 2014 at 8:41 am

        Actually, both of the Nineties characters learn something from Pleasantville, the girl in particular.

  • Matthew Green (@___rettiwt___)  On January 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

    There is some truth to this article, but there are some flaws to it as well.

    First, embedded throughout is the assumption that disagreement is equivalent to hatred, even if you don’t recognize that hatred (quote: “He isn’t *aware* of hating anybody.” emphasis mine). Unfortunately, that equivalency is only pointed in one direction as the author does not explicitly equate his own disagreement with hatred. He might do so, but he never states so, and his tone suggests otherwise. If disagreement is always equivalent to hatred, then diversity is impossible.

    Second, and related to the first, the author, quoting Self, defines supremacy as “the habit of believing or acting as if your life, your love, your culture, your self has more intrinsic worth than those of people who differ from you,” setting up supremacy as intrinsically evil and pointing to it as a seed of greater evils to come. Yet he is taking a side on an a cultural divide. Therefore, he holds that his subculture has more intrinsic worth than another. It doesn’t actually matter whether his side does or does not actually have more worth. It very well might. But by his definition, he is a supremacist and has laid the seeds for hatred and destruction.

    Third, the author correctly notes that some distress is worse than others. However, he fails to understand or at least acknowledge the manner in which the human brain functions. The prefrontal cortex makes comparisons and is therefore capable of identifying the difference in magnitude between one person’s distress and another’s. However, the amygdala and hippocampus are responsible for generating and regulating experience of distress and are not capable of making such distinctions. To these organs, the only message understood, “I have distress.” The prefrontal cortex can feed calming signals to these other organs, but there are more signals traveling from the amygdala and hippocampus than vice versa. Therefore, it is quite difficult (for the vast majority who have not been trained in auto-neurological manipulation) to simply note a distinction and change one’s experience based on it. Attempts to do so more often result in somatization or other repressive actions that do not solve the distress problem, but rather temporarily substitute a more subtle and potentially longer lasting one.

    All that to say, distress is distress. While it is true that one person’s may be worse than another, the body and portions of the brain are not capable of acknowledging this. Privileged distress may not warrant as much attention or effort as other distress, but it still must be addressed.

    I’m not attempting to deny non-privileged distress or even claim that privileged distress is as important as non. Rather, the author’s implication that privileged distress being less, it must be set aside in favor of non does not match with neurological function. Both must be addressed.

    A fourth problem that now occurs to me: measure of distress is not the only factor by which one determine law, rights, or the course of a culture. It is significant! But it is not singular. Other factors must be taken into consideration.

    The author brings up some valid points, ones that are particularly significant to a narcissistic culture such as ours. We must learn to look outside ourselves and note and attend to the distress of others, but we cannot negate the distress that we bear (which is often more significant than simply, “I’m not getting my dinner,” despite how he characterizes it.). In addition, we must learn to disagree without hatred, which he doesn’t seem to accept as possible.

    • Just me  On January 22, 2013 at 3:12 am

      “Second, and related to the first, the author, quoting Self, defines supremacy as “the habit of believing or acting as if your life, your love, your culture, your self has more intrinsic worth than those of people who differ from you,” setting up supremacy as intrinsically evil and pointing to it as a seed of greater evils to come. Yet he is taking a side on an a cultural divide. Therefore, he holds that his subculture has more intrinsic worth than another. It doesn’t actually matter whether his side does or does not actually have more worth. It very well might. But by his definition, he is a supremacist and has laid the seeds for hatred and destruction.”

      Thank you. Very good point.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy  On January 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

    Does anyone remember Archie Bunker from All in the Family? And the opening theme song of the show, “Those Were the Days”?

    According to an interview with show-creator Norman Lear (who at the time was about as beloved among Christians as Lucifer ha-Satan), that was the core of Archie’s character as a “likable bigot”, motivated not by hatred but by fear. The world has changed (op cit “Those Were the Days”) and become much more insecure and frightening, and Archie is reacting to Future Shock.

    The lesson: Supremacy itself isn’t hate.

    It’s the natural assumption that your tribe’s way is the best way. Everybody with a tribal identity has that assumption: Our Way is Best.

    It’s when that assumption becomes a Zero-Sum Game that things get ugly. Because in a Zero-Sum Game, the only way to get more is to take it away from the Other.

    And as Entropy sets in, Ethnic/Tribal Pride can slip into the Zero-Sum Game. And you don’t have to be white. I’ve seen Black Activists and Raza Boys who mirror the ugly side of Black Supremacist/Mexican Supremacist like funhouse mirrors of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Party.

    Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down. The ones who still want to be good people need to be offered hope that such an outcome is possible in this new world.

    Because coming at them as “You Owe Us, Whitey!”/”It’s Payback Time!” just means the Zero-Sum Game, except this time it’s their face being stamped on by the boot. Because when the only two choices you are given are wearing the boot stamping on the Other’s face or the Other wearing the boot stamping on your face, there is only one choice possible. Survival. Them or Us.

    In the First 1960s, MLK positioned the Civil Rights movement against Jim Crow and White Supremacy as a matter of Justice: It is Not Right and Not Just that this should happen. His successors went into the Zero-Sum Game and “Whitey Owes Us!” At which point, Self-Defense White Supremacy emerges as a survival reaction.

  • sophia daniels (@sophiadaniels)  On January 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    privilege distress is exploitable if you just want to get a bit of blood out of your oppressors to make yourself feel a little better. in fact if the privileged don’t want to listen to the polite people who would help ease their privilege distress and patiently explain things….. when those people get worn out the privileged usually find themselves talking to me. and i’ll poke every fear and concern the privileged person has. because i don’t want to educate any allies… i’m just the garbage collector.

  • Wilson  On January 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    This is nonsense. How is coming home from work and expecting dinner be prepared by the person living and eating there at your expense privilege? This exchange of labor is obviously most advantageous of the person doing the housekeeping, and to not only deny this, but to claim that the office worker actually owes the housekeeper more is depraved. Maybe the housekeeper is bored, maybe there is some artificial barrier to other fields of work, but the bottom line is that George would save money by preparing his own food and terminating the housekeeper. Paying a housekeeper who doesn’t work is not being “progressive”, it’s being a fool.

    And no, no one is entitled to take money from the rich, to discriminate against whites, to force others to pay for their contraception (though I’ll agree that no one is entitled to a job if they can’t meet the language requirements). Check your sanity.

  • Jane Denver  On January 31, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Thank you so much for this wonderful essay! I’m a feminist activist in a relationship with a kind, caring man who has lived a very privileged life. There are times when the degree of his unconsciousness and presumptions about privilege just completely blow my mind, and it makes it very hard to feel compassion for him. I had recently really gotten it into my heart that I need to truly listen to what he’s saying about his pain in relation to gender issues, even when it feels like he’s comparing his mosquito bite to women’s gunshot wounds and calling them equal. This essay has helped me feel more connected to that idea, and to hold it in a wider perspective. I know that what you’re saying works because the more I have acknowledged his pain, the more he’s been spontaneously bringing up other groups’ institutionalized oppression and acting compassionate about the pain I feel in relation to having experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment at work, street harassment, and other gender-based violence. Bless you for your complex, intelligent insight, and for sharing it. I’m looking forward to reading much more of your work.

  • Monica  On January 31, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I read this just today and I just wanted to say “Bravo!”.

  • Adria Richards (@adriarichards)  On February 1, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    My heart jumped out of my chest several times while reading this. Thank you for using analogies and pulling comments from other posts to show the different perspectives. I’m a Black, Jewish and female. This article was a breath of fresh air on how to deal with the bandaid vs the stabbing.

  •  On February 3, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    “The Distress of the Privileged The Weekly Sift” was indeed
    a extremely great post, . Continue publishing and I’ll try to keep reading! Thanks a lot -Bettie

  • phoenix  On February 4, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Absolutely brilliant description and explanation of privilege, its roots, and how it can be identified. One to bookmark and share, thank you for writing it, researching it, and putting it out in front of the world. Love it.

  • awesomesauciness  On February 4, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Must there even be a demonizing here? I am Christian, I am Southern, I am Conservative, and I am a strict Constitutionalist. I am also straight. It is part of who I am, and in no way affects my thinking or treatment of others. After all, I do not go around asking people what their sexual preferences are and then immediately dismiss them if they happen to be gay. I have gay friends, gay family members, and love them all equally. I respect everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit.

    What I do not respect is the endless need for validation. So a gay person cannot tolerate the statements by a CEO – don’t frequent that establishment! I have boycotted businesses that disagree with my beliefs or lifestyle choices, but what I don’t do is waste time and energy whining about it. I go on, I live my life, I persevere in spite of setbacks regardless of what, or whom, is providing the resistance.

    You ask why the ‘privileged’ don’t seem to get it.

    We do.

    What we don’t get, don’t tolerate, and have no time for is the constant screams for attention to matters that, frankly, are not going to be helped by the constant screaming. After a while, it just becomes noise.

    You want understanding, compassion, acceptance? Try practicing what you preach.

  • glmorrison  On February 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Reblogged this on Solid Rarity: realities of living the revolution and commented:
    An interesting read. I don’t personally agree with the “make the privileged” comfortable tact. I just don’t have the energy to invite lions to mouse parties and say “oops sorry he’s trying to better himself but his class/gender/junglecat privilege is such a burden” every time he eats my allies. At this stage in my life, I’m kind of at the “evolve or die” stage with the George Parkers. Oh yes, not showing them sympathy does result in roaring and hurt feelings but I think its better for their “Inferior” allies to see how the so-called nice guys show their teeth.

  • Anon  On February 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I take slightly offense at you implying that a ’98 movie would be a “old movie”, but ok 🙂

  • Terry Mcintyre  On February 10, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    It does not help discourse to explain one thing – the difference between the concerns of LGBT people and those of presumably well-meaning people who differ – and then to conflate it with an entire laundry list of others differences.

    I agree with you on the LGBT vs. privilege – well said! However, when you start to conflate practically all who dissent with today’s status quo with a counter-revolution, you’re far from the target. There are deep issues today with the privileged status of those who work within government, and the rest of America. That these privileged few are sometimes good on LGBT issues makes them no less privileged; their status and livelihood depend on their power over the rest of us. To disagree with the powerful and privileged elites is a revolutionary act.

    In Real Life, most people tend to select ideas as they select food from a smorgasbord – a little of this, and a little of that, with little coherent structure. Conflating this and that with the Revolutionary vs. Counter-Revolutionary just muddles things — all the more so when politics tends to drive coalitions together whose members often can barely stand each other; a visit to the smoky rooms of any political gathering will lay bare the deep fissures between members of the same coalition.

  • Noni Mausa  On February 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    “…Change has taken something from us and we want it back…”

    Over the past 20 years, “change management” in North America has been, in my experience, code for reducing wages, increasing workload, shifting jobs from full-time with benefits to part time or contract positions without benefits … While trying to convince the changees to enjoy and agree with the process.

    Largely the cost of those changes has fallen on the middle class and working class. These people are not stupid, and generally saw the changes for what they were. But the changes were imposed anyway, while blaming us for not being cheerful enough.

    So now the privileged are worried about changes to their lives? I will only sympathize once they have retired and are trying to top up insufficient pension income by under the table dog walking, newspaper delivery and yard sales.

    Embrace the change just like we did! If you really hustle and sell yourself, you could soon be prepping an IPO for your string of garage sales and lemonade stands!

  • Rebecca Cullers  On February 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

    The same issue of privilege plays out in a movie set a half century earlier as women fight for suffrage. This George… George Banks, finds the rug pulled out from under him and initially blames Mary Poppins, but learns to love his new role and life. Contrast his opening song: Lordly is the life I lead: with its reprise, A Man Has Dreams:

  • This is what I came for so now I can go  On February 27, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    “Ultimately, the privileged need to be won over. Their sense of justice needs to be engaged rather than beaten down.” THATS hitting the nail on the head of something I haven’t been able to describe to my friends very well and I see too often– that hating, name calling, ridicule, and re-oppressing etc, isn’t going to influence people, redirect their habits, or help them beyond the comfort of their paradigms. People aren’t ‘evil’. They have different frames of reference, different environments, different opinions, which are not ‘wrong’, but may be misguided or undereducated. We ALL know it is difficult to change one’s nature anyway. If you want to help someone to change their opinion, respect it while you debate. Why should anyone come over to a new model for society if what they see of it not only conflicts with their belief system and their entire life’s upbringing, but challenging their extant belief systems is done in a purely negative and oppositional way? Under that 1-2-3 punch, there becomes nothing at all for them to buy into. You’d have to wait till they die off. In short, your traditional grandma was right–you catch more flies with honey than vinegar

    • urusigh  On April 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Well said. While I prefer rigorous logic, history has shown that personal opinions change primarily on the basis of personal feeling toward people who hold those opinions, rather than consideration of those opinions by themselves. In short, whether liberal/conservative, pro-choice/life, or otherwise finding yourself on one side of a inescapable ideological divide… why expect any person to jump the gap to your side if everyone he sees or hears from on your side proves themselves by their insults and actions to be entirely unfriendly, unworthy of respect, or hypocrites of the worst sort? Our lives are all finite, so we choose to give our time and support to those we like, respect, and with whom we feel some commonality. If the other side contains nobody meeting that description, than one must stay on his own side if for no other reason that he is not welcome anywhere else.

      As my Mother used to say, “A man convinced against his will… is of his own opinion still.” I don’t agree with the writer of this article, for his assumptions do fall somewhat prey to his own arguments and bias, but I offer his position far more thought and care than that of the many commentators decrying his efforts on their behalf as “too nice”, those who call him wasteful of his time for not doing as they do by attempting to rhetorically bludgeon me into some manner of fearful submission rather than inspiring considered agreement by patient persuasion.

      Perhaps they are correct and it is impossible for their position to win any mannered debate, but if so, by what right can they claim their position to be any more correct than mine? If there can be no persuasion, no conversion, no transition, than it is indeed a matter of pure survival that will end only when one side is so thoroughly crushed as to offer not even potential threat to the winning side. This seems to be the author’s own fear, or at least the strongest argument for his approach. Even if patient persuasion fails, it offers no loss of status or existing condition, whereas violent confrontation takes its price of the initiating side in not merely time but life. In that sense if none other, the author is both conservative and compassionate. His existence is privileged (as he sees it anyway), so he eschews tactics that entail significant risk to those not similarly entitled. I can respect that. People who curse at me, insist they are superior to me on the basis of history or skin color or religious belief, then demand that I provide them tribute in the form of social validation or my money or my time? Them I have no respect for at all.

  • Bob  On March 3, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Good article – its nice to see a discussion that at least attempts to acknowledge that there are two sides to this argument. That being said, I do think there are some major flaws to be addressed.

    First, the blanket assertion that scratching the surface to the tea party could easily discover that the movement is based in distress at change. This fails to recognize the legitimate concern that government spending is at best plagued with incompetency and at worst a corrupting affair. I am not part of that movement, but know some who are and they are not rich, but do care about the trillions of dollars we spend without any concern for economic reality. They are not, however, concerned with race or gender.

    Secondy, you offer no solutions (aside from the inference that gay marriage would solve that group’s problems.) What do women want? What do African Americans want? Free abortions? Reparations? Do Latino’s all want open borders and they will be subjugated until we do away with nation-states all together? I support gay marriage, I care little for abortion (it is a nasty practice as anyone who has spent time in a neo-natal care facility can tell you babies are not only alive the moment they are delivered – but I’ll leave that argument for a higher power to solve – theres no turning back now). Anyway, you act as if there are knowable solutions that white males choose not to enact because they’re greedy. What do African Americans need? Better than a 70% illegitimacy rate? I agree – they’re homes are broken and suffer greatly for it – but where is the blame? Before the Great Society, African Americans had higher rates of children born in wedlock than whites – then the state eliminated the need for a father and the family broke up. Now children are born in empty homes with little chance of advancement and no father figure to look up to. Yes this is a generalization, but only because it is a widely prevalent scenario. I would posit that government action is the root of the problem, not any lack of affirmative action or opportunity. And certainly not because I am doing anything to keep anyone back.

    Third, you lump all straight white males into a category as if there is no difference in background at all. My family emigrated here last generation to escape the ravishes of Soviet Russia. My ancestors played no part in America’s development so should I be absolved my white maleness? Not according to you. But its not only white males you lump into conveniently compact greivance-groups. My wife and countless other women chose not go back to work after they gave birth because it simply was too hard to leave their kids at daycare. Partners at law firms who drop everything to stay at home foresaking decades of proefssional achievement. Black academics like Artur Davis who change sides politically when the sheen of greivance politics is tossed aside. Gay repuclicans who today cannot tell their friends of their politics affiliation because of the real ostricization that occurs. You sir place people in groups that hold no meaning anymore. It is convenient for political reasons to gerrymander these groups and then call them uncle toms or race traitors when they choose not to follow your enlightened example.

    So I would take your olive branch for what it is: An empty offer for those who think differently than you to politely get in line.

  • chipperdyke  On March 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm


  • Anonymous  On April 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    One of my favorite phrases that applies here: “Meet them where they are.”

  • Martine Picot  On May 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    I don’t want to get all crazy argumentative about the topic. I know where I stand. I think the article was well-thought-out, and tried to be as considerate to all as possible. I’m going to follow this blog from now on.

  • Casey Blase Donegan  On May 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    The distress of the privileged has caused a few abnormalities in American society to cause people to vote against their self-interests, and preserve myths that cause people to make bad decisions. The privileged in knowing the debate was always on their concern, well the safety net is for them. Middle aged straight white married people with 2.5 kids and a house who have done everything right, the safety net is there in case something goes awry with the myths. These people have what the others don’t have: This middle class spirit.
    As such, when the privileged speak about how they want to cut food stamps or lower taxes. They aren’t talking about doing so for themselves. They assume they are cutting for the others in aid, and cutting taxes for their future selves.
    The distress of the privileged in this modern era is that their problems have become the same as the poor, and in order to preserve a belief in free economic will, or a belief in that the others deserve to be others, the privileged, the new poor, will fight to preserve their right as being the center of attention. The conversation will always be on what is holding them back, and it will never be who represents their future selves, it will be an invisible force. And those others will be asked to sacrifice for the privileged, because these privileged are privileged, and as such they have a rightful place that they are being denied. They are being denied their health coverage, and their two weeks paid vacation, and their promotions, and their economic free will… and as such they deserve to have my sacrifice to maintain the status quo. Because if the privileged started learning that they were now others… they would start voting like others.
    Just remember folks, middle class is no longer an income bracket, it’s a feeling!

  • anonymous  On May 29, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Some of us are just overwhelmed by the Internet constantly telling us that we’re trying to oppress and hurt our friends. I’d point out the similarities to emotional abuse (name-calling, gaslighting, put-downs, blaming, being made to feel as if you deserve it), but I would just get the same condescending, “Aw is the poor wittle privileged…” line as always.

    I don’t want some return to the 50s or an end to change; I just want to be seen as an individual as opposed to being painted as a stereotype because of my sex, gender, race, or sexuality… and isn’t that what everyone wants?

    • Chucklingabit  On June 2, 2013 at 2:15 am

      OH COME ON! Don’t you realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to treat individual members of majority groups as undifferentiated, their behavior and moral culpability exhaustively determined by their mere membership in that monolithic group?

      Don’t you realize that two wrongs make a right, and that even if you’ve never personally espoused a bigoted belief, you’re responsible for all the beliefs *perceived* by others to be emanating from that group, whether you decided to be part of that group or were delivered into it by fate?

      And don’t you dare consider complaining, because, RACISM! If you think that people should be judged by the content of their characters, and not by their genitals (“eww, shut up if you don’t have a vagina, k dude?”), skin (“another pastie white person …”) or age (“another old white guy”), that’s only because you belong to one of those groups! It’s time for revenge. We need to encourage tolerance by being intolerant, and encourage unity by division..

      So check your PRIVILEGE, you micro-aggressing mope.

  • KiplingKat  On May 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    To the final proposition, we did not get Civil Rights through by quietly letting racism live and hoping it would do away. Women did not gain suffrage by sitting quietly and hoping men would give it to them. At some point, the people have to stand up to those who discriminate and say, “No more.” We did, as a society, and we have kept trying keep sexism and racism from taking root again by open rejection and ridicule. When we have pastors preaching from the pulpit that gay people should be put in concentration camps, that is the point when you slap your opponents across the face and say “NO MORE!!!!” I do not kiss the backsides of bigots just to make them feel comfortable, especially when they take silence as acceptance. The point is the world is changing. Change is always uncomfortable. Conservatives can put their big girl panties on and deal.

  • KiplingKat  On May 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I find this especially galling because whenever Evangelical Christians complain about “being oppressed,” it’s always when they are trying to oppress others. Why should we tolerate that for even one second? Bigotry has no valid argument to acknowledge. It comes down to hatred and fear. So screw them.

  • ifisaiditoutloud  On May 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Please let me thank you for your very eloquent expression of what I have been trying, badly, to explain to various people for a long time! My basic belief system is that informed, consenting adults should be able to organize their own lives, and live them as they see fit . Laws that restrict that right must be changed. Sometimes people actually don’t realize that they are really objecting to losing their privileges. They may believe that they are trying to maintain what is ” best” for everyone. If we can accept that they honestly believe that ( however mistaken they may be) we have a better chance of getting them to listen to our side. Robert Heinlein had a character say “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend” ( yes, I know I didn’t include the entire quote, and you know perfectly well why not!).
    Less rage and more communication on BOTH sides ( of pretty much any issue) could reduce the amount of violence in the world by a tremendous amount.

  • Will  On June 22, 2013 at 4:49 am

    This is by far the best, least alienating explanation I’ve read about this! Thank you so much! And the lack of theory jargon is great.

  • mothernatureearthmom  On July 16, 2013 at 8:17 am

    so here is an uncomfortable question – What if it is we liberals who are asking ‘where’s my dinner’?

    • opennow  On July 16, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      I’ve been mostly ignoring this thread for the past few months. But I really am curious what you mean by this. Could you elaborate?



      • mothernatureearthmom  On July 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

        Some time I tend to look at the bleak side of things. What if the freedoms we worked for, and in many many cases got, are to go to the wayside, and like George Parker, it is our world that is changing to something we don’t recognize and there is nothing to stop it.

      • opennow  On July 18, 2013 at 11:21 pm

        Thanks! That is interesting.

  • Kevin  On August 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    This is an AMAZING article! AMERICA should read this!

  •  On August 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

    What a load of bs. White guilt masquerading as enlightened tolerance while making false assumptions about why Emmanuel Goldstein believes what he does. According to the author’s logic, if you don’t agree with the values that have created dysfunction amoung inner-city black families, it means you must be a bigot who “hates” blacks. But he’s on to one thing: the term “privileged distress” will become one of those silly Facebook memes that can be parroted by those without any critical thinking skills, effectively shutting down any good-faith debate against class warfare agitprop. Nicely done.

  • waywardson23  On October 2, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    But there is a very real concern that this article glosses over: What to do when superiority is justified.

    Let’s take the lion and the mouse from the story. What if, instead of a party, the mouse wanted to join in on a hunt with the lions? Let us assume the following:

    1. The hunt is an example of “Leonine privilege”.
    2. The hunt is necessary for the well being of lions, independent of other species such as mice.
    3. For the mouse to go on the hunt would be dangerous to both the mouse and the lion.

    Yes, excluding the mouse from hunt is because of “leonine superiority”, but lions are superior hunters to mice.

    But if equality is your only consideration, then whether the mouse goes on the hunt or not, it is bad for the mouse. So the only way to eliminate this leonine privilege is to do away with the hunt.

    Now the lions have a real reason for distress. (See #2)

    The story of Harrison Bergeron is an extreme example of equality gone too far. The Pixar film “The Incredibles” has a similar theme. But when does our concern for equality make us “handicap” those who are superior.

  • antennas21  On October 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Hey Doug,

    Would you be open to this being republished on the webzine at We’d love to help this content reach an even broader audience! Very good stuff! Please let me know.

  • Joshua Perkins  On November 10, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Opposition to so-called same-sex marriage is not about “supremacy”; it is about sin.  It is not supremacist (at least not in the pejorative sense in which the author uses the term) to say that homosexual activity is categorically sinful.

    Further, even if we accept the author’s definition of “supremacy” (as “the habit of believing or acting as if your life, your love, your culture, your self has more intrinsic worth than those of people who differ from you”), it still has nothing to do with the thoughtful Christian’s opposition to the redefinition of marriage.  Those things mentioned (life, etc.) are irrelevant to my support for traditional marriage; rather, choices are what matter.  I can (and do) affirm that all human beings have equal intrinsic worth, but that in no way means all actions or inclinations also have equal worth.

  • Shauna Aura knight  On November 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Shauna Aura Knight and commented:
    Excellent article on privilege, and why people who are considered privileged have a hard time saying, “I’m privileged,” and renegotiating their role in the world.

  • brucelynn  On November 29, 2013 at 3:34 am

    The piece is essentially getting at the Opt-In/Out Fallacy. Basically, the fallacy equates both “Opt-ions” as equivalent…but they are not. It is a lot harder to “opt out” of something (that entails other benefits), than it is to “opt in” to something (like a perspective, opinion, or group). Most freedoms are about opting in. But, “opting out” is never a untethered freedom. “If you don’t like this job, then you are free to leave”, “If you don’t like the prayer in the classroom, you are free to step out.”, “If you don’t like the one-man-one-woman requirements to marriage, you are free to opt out from getting married.” All of these proposedly “free” options are not free at all and have real costs with choosing to opt-out.

  • June  On January 23, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Fantastic article. Your line about the resentful privileged forming counter-movements reminded me of the men’s rights movement…

  • Anonymous  On January 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    A Different Story: The Company

    Once upon a time there was a large company in a single office building. One day, an employee named Bob began watching pornography at work with the speaker volume turned up so all those around him could see and hear what he was viewing. At first, the other employees in Bob’s department were shocked. Many employees were deeply offended by this behavior and asked Bob not to watch pornography at work. Others were not offended and agreed that Bob should be able to practice his pornography viewing activity at work without being harassed.
    One day, Bob’s friend, Jan, approached him and said, “Bob, I really care about you and enjoy our friendship, but I believe that your porn-viewing behavior is morally wrong.”
    Bob was offended by these words and chose to not stop watching pornography at work. He defended himself saying, “This is who I am, you supremacist bigots! You are intolerant and believe your morals are better than mine. Who gave you the right to judge me?”
    Soon, a number of employees in every department began openly watching pornography with the speakers blaring for all around them to see and hear. They joined together into a group and described themselves as the PV (Porn-Viewing) Community.
    Eventually, the department managers decided to step in. Some managers decided that pornography could be watched at work, regardless of the offense it was causing to many of the other employees. Those who spoke out against the behavior were labeled “bigots” and “supremacists.” The offended employees were given the choice to move to another department or to simply leave the company. Meanwhile, other managers forbid the watching of pornography all together while at work.
    In the end, the company CEO and the Board decided it was time to step in and make a decision. The final decision was between 2 alternatives:
    Choice #1: Allow the managers to decide what the policy should be in their own respective departments, or
    Choice #2: Make a company-wide decision to allow pornography viewing at work and to protect porn-viewers from discriminatory behavior by any employee or department manager. What should the decision be?

    The Company represents the United States.
    The employees represent all US citizens.
    The PV Community represents the LGBT community in the US.
    The departments represent the 50 states.
    The department managers represent the State governments.
    The CEO and Board represent the Federal government.

    • weeklysift  On January 25, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      I had a longer response, but it seems pointless. You really can’t see the difference between “I want you to stop watching porn at work” and “I want you to stop being gay”?

      • Anonymous  On February 3, 2014 at 6:32 pm

        Think about the perspective. One sees homosexual actions as a choice that is morally offensive to a huge segment of the population. Your view sees homosexuality as part of someone’s identity … something they have no choice in. Those with the opinion that homosexual acts are morally wrong are being driven right over in our society. They are labeled as bigots and supremacists. In a way, this segment can also be seen as victims, just like our poor mouse friend in Aesop’s tale. Your refusal/inability to even try and see the issue from this perspective ends this conversation.

      • weeklysift  On February 3, 2014 at 8:20 pm

        OK, now you’ve told me enough to fix your analogy. Remove the “at work” aspect of watching porn. If one group of people were insisting on firing the porn watchers just because they did something that (from the insisters point of view) was morally reprehensible, which had no effect whatsoever on them other than just the knowledge that people were doing it, then the comparison works. It doesn’t support the point you want to make, but it is at least analogous then.

  • Mr Haver  On February 4, 2014 at 4:00 am

    Nice tagline on the where’s my dinner poster. thanks for sharing this great article with us.

  • Anonymous  On February 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Once again, I need to feel bad for being white and male.

    • weeklysift  On February 13, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Being white and male myself, I get where you’re coming from. But I think the focus on guilt is misguided. Rush Limbaugh talks a lot about white guilt or male guilt and how pointless it is. In one sense he’s right — white men feeling guilty doesn’t help anybody and it makes us feel bad, so if feeling guilty is the whole point, it’s a bad point.

      But if that initial feeling of guilt is just one step in a process, and that process leads to a truer evaluation of ourselves and a positive redirection of our efforts, then there is a point.

      I don’t think being white and male is anything to feel guilty about. But discovering that I’ve been ignorant about the injustice of society, and that I’ve been taking full credit for achievements that are only partially the result of my work and talent, and partially the result of unfair advantages I never bothered to notice — that’s legitimately something to feel guilty about. Unlike whiteness and masculinity, though, ignorance and misguided egotism are things I can work to overcome.

    • weeklysift  On September 24, 2014 at 8:58 am

      My long-version reply to this point is in a sermon I gave at the UU church in Billerica, Mass. “Recovery From Privilege”.

  • stewpidmonkey  On April 17, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I loved how you broke things down in your post. I have only one point of contention for you.

    Yout mentioned English speakers against biligualism. I think you missed the nail on the head on this one.

    As an American male of Hispanic and Ehtiopian roots, I speak three languages ( I was born in the Bronx, NY). Yet I feel that this countrys national language should be english and those that move here or migrate here should speak the langauge of the land. Don’t get me wrong, in my household and with my friends i speak spanish or Amahric. But we do business in English, I served in the military and everything was in English.

    I don’t think it’s supremicist views. It think is cementing some of the principles of our founding fathers who where English.

    • weeklysift  On April 20, 2014 at 10:06 am

      What I’m pointing to isn’t people who believe English should be the official language, it’s English speakers complaining that they are discriminated against. You can make a case for the former, but the latter is a little nutty.

  • cheshirekit  On May 29, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Radically Mad.

  • pawnyourhalo  On October 28, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Reblogged this on pawnyourhalo and commented:
    This is strictly for personal reference, so I can re-link to the original post more conveniently. I think it should be re-posted on a regular basis, possibly on the cover of every newspaper and magazine, lest ye forget.

  • Daya  On May 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Reblogged this on Notes from the Novel and commented:
    My auntie sent me this one while I’m musing on Tirania…and it’s perfect.

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  • search  On July 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Good article. I will be experiencing many of these issues as well..

  • shadowcentaur  On July 10, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Straight white dude here. I haven’t really bought into the whole social justice thing, but I found this essay persuasive. This rhetoric is effective in converting people who are one the fence about this whole thing.

  • Odette  On July 12, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Why viewers still use to read news papers when in this technological world everything is accessible
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  • Carrie  On July 17, 2015 at 10:11 am

    This is a beautifully written, clear illustration of privilege and a possible solution toward real progress.

    I would point out, however, a fatal flaw in your explanation of the Christian rejection of homosexuality. You say,

    “But here’s the problem: the basis of that disagreement is her belief that her relationships are intrinsically better than ours.”

    Here is the mistake: Christians don’t believe that their relationships are “better”, they believe that their relationships must be Righteous, as defined by a Righteous God. The boundaries and prescription of righteousness are not written by us; misunderstanding who authors these standards is a fatal flaw of many Christians. Righteousness, as defined by the Bible, is the standard by which believers must live. The adherence to that description is so fiercely defended by Christians, because living righteously is a matter of eternal consequence. In other words, it is literally a matter of life or death (eternally speaking).

    Anyhow, I don’t intend on defending Christians who continue to block the civil rights of Americans. I just wanted the opportunity to explain why it is a matter of Biblically defined righteousness, and not superiority, that will always anchor this debate as unmovable by believers.

    • Larry Benjamin  On December 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

      “Righteousness” is just another way of saying “superior” while shifting responsibility to “God” instead of admitting that this is merely your own opinion. Every Christian I’ve spoken to who opposes same-sex marriage believes that heterosexual relationships are superior to homosexual ones.

  • Herbert Spencer  On July 20, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I’m glad that somebody finally has taken the time to consider the other point of view. However, I need a job to be able to stay alive, feed myself and feed my family. Evolution advanced by the survival of those who could get a meal for themselves and their own. You’re asking me to commit suicide by affirmative action. Homelessness happens to white and black alike, and nobody is putting me on the street. You’re damn right that I’m going to get dinner, hell or high water.

  • Bitchplease  On July 21, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    This is an Onion article isn’t it? Everything is relative you know. Take away my dinner, I’ll be hungry and crabby. Take away govt hands-outs for dinner and the ignorants will riot and murder people. What about the rest of the planet Earth? Stop thinking of just yourself and bashing normal people so you can feel self righteous. Fucking blue pill, feminist pussies. Should go cut off your dick like Mr. Bruce Jenner.

  • canyoncolor  On September 10, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Turning Tesserae and commented:
    An older article, but still excellent food for thought.

  • MistressPrime  On September 10, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Reblogged this on A Real Witch of Orange County and commented:
    This was something I had actually shared on my Facebook page 2 years ago, but I feel the message still applies today on not only the topics it directly addresses, but also with regards to racism.

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  • Kevin  On November 9, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    I like this perspective and the examples, and especially the broad perspective of your last paragraph. Two things come to mind. First, Prospect Theory provides a ton of evidence that losses hurt more than gains: people are more motivated to avoid losing a privilege than they are to gain it. Second, if the privileged are a majority and they can vote (and we don’t live in a dictatorship), then it makes sense to be conservative about change — or at least, for God’s sake, to avoid villainizing the distressed among the privileged — to avoid backlash on the scale of electing Trump. (Too late for that.)

    These are hard and painful things for a society to deal with, especially one that was originally founded on massive injustice. There aren’t easy answers and we have to have empathy for all the people who are hurting, not just those who match our preferred demographic.

  • hopemoreministries  On November 14, 2016 at 3:38 am

    I love this.

  • Susanna  On November 14, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Thank you for this article, it is the most cogent and easily understandable of any i have read. I have been trying to explain the middle ground you speak of, because I understand that i become defensive when people hurl accusations at me rather than explaining their positions. I am totally open, but not when I am demonized or threatened or called names. Talk to me and I will join you, scream at me and i will flinch.

  • bethboynton80539889  On December 2, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Great article and perspective. Thank you. Seems like “we” need to make collaboration and inclusion appealing to people who will loose power. Validate the loss AND help ‘them’ to understand that they will be safe and loved and maybe even enjoy equality.

  • leha  On October 22, 2018 at 7:18 am

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  • Tendy  On May 18, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Fantastic article. Thanks for using my post. I look forward to reading more from you!

  • joe  On January 1, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    reading this essay in 2020 and it’s so apparent that even in the first paragraph you predicted the crux of the last 5 years of turmoil.

    “As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

    If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

    Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.”


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