The word galls me, and I suppose it’s intended to.  The word in question is “privilege”.  When I’m angrily told to “check my privilege”, it raises my hackles. I feel my blood heat up, the pressure rising.  I guess what is most galling about the comments is that it doesn't feel from my vantage that I'm getting any privilege, any special benefit from being a straight white male.   Rather, the level of access to opportunity and freedom from constraint that I experience feels like the baseline level that everyone should get.  Now, it’s clear that not everyone is granted access to this baseline level, and I agree that it’s unjust when this all too frequently happens.

 In my calmest moments I can see that, from another’s vantage, what I see as a baseline could look like an unwarranted boost.   We can only judge other’s reality through windows tinted with our own experiences.  But we’re never going to get a civil discussion going if we choose to tag the issue with volatile terminology. Phrasing this as “privilege” has implications of unfair advantage, even cheating - an accusation guaranteed to raise anyone’s temp, and to make further discussion difficult.

 But maybe that’s the whole point of using the word.  It’s not about discussion. It’s about getting a negative emotional response from an opponent.  Because when your opponent get’s mad, we get to feel just a little superior, a little more a member of a cause. If the goal is to get both sides throwing cash at their ringleaders, it’s probably pretty productive.

 But if the goal is to find solutions to the problems that people on all sides of the issue can live with, then it’s very counter-productive.  We don't have to be opponents.  We can be partners.  Loads of people who have put up walls after being accused of white privilege might have been happy to engage in a conversation about opening access to opportunity and removing unfair constraints.   These are difficult conversations.  Why would we want to make them more difficult?

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