What does it mean to call someone privileged?

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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 2:11 pm

There seems to be a lot of instructive articles about how to identify privilege itself.

However, it can get a bit theoretical at times. It would seem even more instructive to identify those with privilege. The power of the example.

We already know at least one person of privilege:

Richard Dawkins: Male privilege, Rich privilege, Old privilege, Heterosexual privilege.

Who else, and which privileges?
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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby Tinjoe » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:30 pm

CFLarsen wrote:There seems to be a lot of instructive articles about how to identify privilege itself.

However, it can get a bit theoretical at times. It would seem even more instructive to identify those with privilege. The power of the example.

We already know at least one person of privilege:

Richard Dawkins: Male privilege, Rich privilege, Old privilege, Heterosexual privilege.

Who else, and which privileges?


While it might be good to use specific instances to help demonstrate privilege, I don't think it's useful to make a list or people that may/may not have certain privileges. In isolation, Prof. Dawkins' maleness, wealth, age, or sexual orientation isn't that informative. How those aspects make it harder (maybe impossible) to comprehend what life is like for people who don't have those comparative "advantages" is what is useful.
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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby mcbender » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:42 pm

In addition, singling certain people out as "persons of privilege" is likely to foster the illusion that not being on that list means that either you don't have to worry about your privilege or are not a person of privilege, which is almost certainly not the case. Privilege is a manifestation of systemic inequalities, and using it as a way to label individuals strikes me as very counterproductive (although it can be useful in some discussions to be able to say, e.g., "Richard Dawkins' response to the elevator incident likely stems from male privilege", that is different from labelling him a "privileged person").
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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:02 pm

Tinjoe wrote:While it might be good to use specific instances to help demonstrate privilege, I don't think it's useful to make a list or people that may/may not have certain privileges. In isolation, Prof. Dawkins' maleness, wealth, age, or sexual orientation isn't that informative. How those aspects make it harder (maybe impossible) to comprehend what life is like for people who don't have those comparative "advantages" is what is useful.


Richard Dawkins has already been used as a specific instance to help demonstrate privilege, from the now famous "Elevator incident" debacle. It was most enlightening to learn how privilege was described, not only by Rebecca Watson, but also by other main figures in this particular movement, Atheism+.

Therefore, such a list would definitely serve as very useful examples of what the debate was about. Privileges are of a different nature, and some have different causes than others. If we are to fully understand the problems with privilege, a list of famous people with privilege is crucial.

mcbender wrote:In addition, singling certain people out as "persons of privilege" is likely to foster the illusion that not being on that list means that either you don't have to worry about your privilege or are not a person of privilege, which is almost certainly not the case. Privilege is a manifestation of systemic inequalities, and using it as a way to label individuals strikes me as very counterproductive (although it can be useful in some discussions to be able to say, e.g., "Richard Dawkins' response to the elevator incident likely stems from male privilege", that is different from labelling him a "privileged person").


There is that risk, that's true. However, naming only Richard Dawkins, but not others, especially given the much repeated claim that the atheist community is ripe with misogynists and would-be rapists (due to various privileges), it would certainly foster the illusion that Rebecca Watson wanted to wage a personal war against Dawkins himself, claiming it was due to his privileges, when in reality it was not, while at the same time protecting said misogynists and would-be rapists by not naming them. I cannot believe that this is the case.

And, since Richard Dawkins has already been singled out, the cat is out of the bag: Once one name is named, as an example of privilege, it must be followed with others, also famous people like Dawkins undoubtedly is.

So, who has privilege? Who are these people with privilege that Atheism+ must fight, the same way Richard Dawkins is to be fought?

Atheism+ is meant to be a movement that acts, and not merely talks. What is it going to be?
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What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby ischemgeek » Fri Aug 31, 2012 7:32 pm

CFLarsen, you misunderstand: Having a given type of social privilege (or even all of them at once) does not mean that you are a bad person that must be fought. It means that in some or all aspects of your life, you have less hard a time on average than those who don't have that privilege. That's all. Privileged people can be (and most are) good people. Privileged people can be progressive.

Further, privilege is not an all-or-nothing. It is subjective and context-specific. I do not have gender privilege, so in issues of sexism, I'm usually going to have a harder time than a man. I do have racial privilege, so in issues of racism, I'm usually going to have an easier time than a person of color.

Furthermore: naming people in the context you want to is not helpful. It is counterproductive to draw up such a list, as even stopped clocks are right twice a day and good thoughts do occasionally come from unexpected directions. If Kirk Cameron were to lend his support to better math education, the fact that he's a creationist and has a history of intellectual dishonesty doesn't detract from the idea that better math education is in general a good thing, and making list like you call for could blind us to that. Better to call out bad behavior and situations as we see it and act to oppose those who are engaging in such behavior and supporting the status quo. As well, that a person has privilege does not mean they are incapable of seeing social injustice, understanding it, or working to correct it. It does mean that, due to their social circumstances, they have to work at understanding the reality of people who don't have that privilege. Finally, there is the fact that people occasionally learn from their mistakes and people do change, and some may eventually progress from 'stopped clock' to 'ally' - but only if we don't treat them as an enemy even after they've learned their lesson because we put their name on a list ten years ago when they were an ignorant jerk.

Even ignoring the that side of it, it is also counter-productive for the same reasons mcbender pointed out, which I will QFT:
In addition, singling certain people out as "persons of privilege" is likely to foster the illusion that not being on that list means that either you don't have to worry about your privilege or are not a person of privilege, which is almost certainly not the case. Privilege is a manifestation of systemic inequalities, and using it as a way to label individuals strikes me as very counterproductive (although it can be useful in some discussions to be able to say, e.g., "Richard Dawkins' response to the elevator incident likely stems from male privilege", that is different from labelling him a "privileged person").
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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:01 pm

ischemgeek wrote:CFLarsen, you misunderstand: Having a given type of social privilege (or even all of them at once) does not mean that you are a bad person that must be fought. It means that in some or all aspects of your life, you have less hard a time on average than those who don't have that privilege. That's all. Privileged people can be (and most are) good people. Privileged people can be progressive.


Can be, yes. However, there is absolutely no doubt that Richard Dawkins is a person to be fought, given the boycott.

ischemgeek wrote:Further, privilege is not an all-or-nothing. It is subjective and context-specific. I do not have gender privilege, so in issues of sexism, I'm usually going to have a harder time than a man. I do have racial privilege, so in issues of racism, I'm usually going to have an easier time than a person of color.


It is indeed context-specific, as you describe, but if it is subjective, Atheism+ cannot fight privilege, since the movement is supposedly based on evidence, not opinion.

ischemgeek wrote:Furthermore: naming people in the context you want to is not helpful. It is counterproductive to draw up such a list, as even stopped clocks are right twice a day and good thoughts do occasionally come from unexpected directions. If Kirk Cameron were to lend his support to better math education, the fact that he's a creationist and has a history of intellectual dishonesty doesn't detract from the idea that better math education is in general a good thing, and making list like you call for could blind us to that. Better to call out bad behavior and situations as we see it and act to oppose those who are engaging in such behavior and supporting the status quo. As well, that a person has privilege does not mean they are incapable of seeing social injustice, understanding it, or working to correct it. It does mean that, due to their social circumstances, they have to work at understanding the reality of people who don't have that privilege. Finally, there is the fact that people occasionally learn from their mistakes and people do change, and some may eventually progress from 'stopped clock' to 'ally' - but only if we don't treat them as an enemy even after they've learned their lesson because we put their name on a list ten years ago when they were an ignorant jerk.


Sorry, but that would be in conflict with the already established procedure, namely to out and boycott those with privilege.

ischemgeek wrote:Even ignoring the that side of it, it is also counter-productive for the same reasons mcbender pointed out, which I will QFT:
In addition, singling certain people out as "persons of privilege" is likely to foster the illusion that not being on that list means that either you don't have to worry about your privilege or are not a person of privilege, which is almost certainly not the case. Privilege is a manifestation of systemic inequalities, and using it as a way to label individuals strikes me as very counterproductive (although it can be useful in some discussions to be able to say, e.g., "Richard Dawkins' response to the elevator incident likely stems from male privilege", that is different from labelling him a "privileged person").


Already addressed.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Ginny » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:03 pm

This thread has been split off from the original thread, as it became off-topic.

CFLarsen: I have never once heard a call for a boycott of people with privilege. To do so would be absurd, as having privilege doesn't make you a bad person, and everybody has privilege in some areas and lacks it in others. And privileged people are fully capable of becoming strong allies for the underprivileged.

Please provide examples of places where somebody has called for a boycott of someone else solely on the basis that they are privileged.
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Re: Introduction To Privilege

Postby maiforpeace » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:17 pm

CFLarsen wrote:There seems to be a lot of instructive articles about how to identify privilege itself.

However, it can get a bit theoretical at times. It would seem even more instructive to identify those with privilege. The power of the example.

We already know at least one person of privilege:

Richard Dawkins: Male privilege, Rich privilege, Old privilege, Heterosexual privilege.

Who else, and which privileges?


I have the privilege of where I live. The house itself is a tiny, 1.5 bedroom shack - but I do live in one of the most liberal places in the entire state of California, and in the entire US. I live in paradise with a gold mine of healthy food resources, and an amazing natural environment. I love the community - it's pretty diverse, though it can be a bit wooish at times, yet still very progressive. I respect and support my local congressperson. I also think we do a decent job of caring for the disadvantaged members of our community - though it still needs lots of improvement.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby ceepolk » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:23 pm

Look, I don't care about Richard Dawkins, I really don't.

What I care about is getting to the day where I don't have to try and teach people that I am a human being worthy of respect, because everyone on the planet knows and understands that, because their worldview includes that.

I won't be alive when that day comes, but it doesn't matter. That's what I care about. And I don't care about people standing up against Richard Dawkins and blaming people on a list who have it good for the ills of the world, and believing that list and that emnity is how to fight privilege.

I care about the people I meet and interact with every day. I don't want to have to pretend to be something I'm not just to minimize the risk of violence and ostracism. I'm already facing enough of that risk because of the things about me that I cannot make invisible in meatspace as it is.

Don't turn the anger and hate outward onto some rich white dude. I don't want people to hate him.

I want people to love me. I want people to value me. I want people to understand that the risks and hardships I face are systemic and the fight is to protect the vulnerable while changing values that will make it easier to be different from the "norm." I'd really much rather that happened than naming the privileged.

Don't fight Richard Dawkins. That one dude is just a potential symbolic antagonist. Fight stuff that actually affects vulnerable people. Ignore that guy, he's not relevant to what I actually face in my life. Pay attention to what it actually means to be marginalized, and take note of how many ways a person can be marginalized.

Get curious about that. Don't waste time making a list of "enemies of privilege." That might feel righteous, but it's seriously ineffective.

I have to stay home tonight. I had plans. I was going to go on a social group bike ride under the full moon. I was very excited about this. I spent a little extra money and a lot of effort to bring beautiful food to share with everyone.

And now I can't go.

Why can't I go? well, I had gotten friends to agree to go - a man, who is an enthusiastic cyclist, and his wife, who is very much a beginner at cycling, who is nervous on city streets, who is sedentary and so riding long distances is currently discouraging. They live way, way out in the sprawl, but it's a short ride to the LRT, so they could ride there, take their bikes, get off at a station near the meeting point. one of the stations is closed for the weekend, and trains aren't passing through the station without stopping - they're turning around and going back. There's a shuttle bus to get over the gap, but no bike racks on the bus. So my beginner cyclist friend won't want to go, and my enthusiastic cyclist friend only agreed to go because she did.

So I don't have anyone to go with me. So I can't go.

I'm a woman. I was depending on them to be with me at the event because there will be strangers, and I don't know what kind of strangers. I was also depending on them to ride with me as an escort home, so I don't have to ride alone at night. Without them along, I'm not safe. I have to stay home.

Bitching at Richard Dawkins isn't going to magically change the reasons why I can't be a woman alone with strangers in a park in the dark, why I can't be a woman alone riding on the secluded, unlit bicycle paths where a serial stranger rapist is currently operating. I'd rather you spent your energy on something that actually builds toward the day where I don't have to worry about that and I can just bring all my baking and have a good time.

I won't be alive when that day comes, but I don't care.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:25 pm

Ginny wrote:CFLarsen: I have never once heard a call for a boycott of people with privilege.

To do so would be absurd, as having privilege doesn't make you a bad person, and everybody has privilege in some areas and lacks it in others. And privileged people are fully capable of becoming strong allies for the underprivileged.

Please provide examples of places where somebody has called for a boycott of someone else solely on the basis that they are privileged.


Ask, and you shall receive.

Why Rebecca Watson called for the boycott:

PPS: Some are wondering if it was really Dawkins, and yes, that was definitely confirmed by PZ Myers. Also, some of you are wondering if I’m criticizing all rich, white, old, etc men when I call out those attributes. No! I am merely illustrating the unbelievable height of Dawkins’ privilege.
http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/


Did Rebecca Watson call for a boycott of Richard Dawkins?

So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.
http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/


That is a call for a boycott of Richard Dawkins.

And, before you or anyone claim that this was not really a call for a boycott, allow me to quote Merriam-Webster, on "boycott":

to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boycott


Likewise, Oxford Dictionaries:

withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest (verb)

a punitive ban on relations with other bodies, cooperation with a policy, or the handling of goods (noun)
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitio ... &q=boycott


And, yes, I am aware that Rebecca Watson later tried to claim that she was not calling for a boycott:

PPPS: Nope, I didn’t call for a boycott. I’m relaying the fact that I have no interest in giving this person any more of my money or attention. Other people have independently told me they’re doing the same. This is not an organized campaign, and no one is going to be vilified for continuing to give their own time and attention to Dawkins.
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitio ... &q=boycott


But the fact of the matter is: Rebecca Watson called for a boycott of Richard Dawkins: His books, and his lectures.

That is an indisputable fact.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby FeministWhore » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:29 pm

CFLarsen wrote:
But the fact of the matter is: Rebecca Watson called for a boycott of Richard Dawkins: His books, and his lectures.

That is an indisputable fact.


So tell us, was the boycott a success?
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Stephen T » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:34 pm

CFLarsen wrote

However, there is absolutely no doubt that Richard Dawkins is a person to be fought, given the boycott.


Why?
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby ceepolk » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:34 pm

oh, I see. CFLarsen is not actually discussing in good faith. Oops.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:36 pm

FeministWhore wrote:
CFLarsen wrote:
But the fact of the matter is: Rebecca Watson called for a boycott of Richard Dawkins: His books, and his lectures.

That is an indisputable fact.


So tell us, was the boycott a success?


Fortunately, no.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:38 pm

Stephen T wrote:
CFLarsen wrote

However, there is absolutely no doubt that Richard Dawkins is a person to be fought, given the boycott.


Why?


See my post about Rebecca Watson calling for a boycott of Richard Dawkins.

ceepolk wrote:oh, I see. CFLarsen is not actually discussing in good faith. Oops.


I am. Your perception is wrong.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Stephen T » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:40 pm

I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.


CFLarsen
Love your dictionary definitions. But I can't find where RW said that she asked other people to actively stop buying his books or attending his lectures.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Ginny » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:40 pm

CFLarsen wrote:
Did Rebecca Watson call for a boycott of Richard Dawkins?

So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.
http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/


That is a call for a boycott of Richard Dawkins.

And, before you or anyone claim that this was not really a call for a boycott, allow me to quote Merriam-Webster, on "boycott":

to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (as a person, store, or organization) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/boycott


Likewise, Oxford Dictionaries:

withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest (verb)

a punitive ban on relations with other bodies, cooperation with a policy, or the handling of goods (noun)
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitio ... &q=boycott


And, yes, I am aware that Rebecca Watson later tried to claim that she was not calling for a boycott:

PPPS: Nope, I didn’t call for a boycott. I’m relaying the fact that I have no interest in giving this person any more of my money or attention. Other people have independently told me they’re doing the same. This is not an organized campaign, and no one is going to be vilified for continuing to give their own time and attention to Dawkins.
http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitio ... &q=boycott


But the fact of the matter is: Rebecca Watson called for a boycott of Richard Dawkins: His books, and his lectures.

That is an indisputable fact.


She announced a personal boycott. She did not try to organize a public one. That is perfectly clear from the quotes you've just cited.

CFLarsen wrote:
Why Rebecca Watson called for the boycott:

PPS: Some are wondering if it was really Dawkins, and yes, that was definitely confirmed by PZ Myers. Also, some of you are wondering if I’m criticizing all rich, white, old, etc men when I call out those attributes. No! I am merely illustrating the unbelievable height of Dawkins’ privilege.
http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/


This brings up an interesting, and important, distinction. Privilege can be talked about in two ways: as something one has as an attribute due to personal factors beyond one's control, and as a pattern of thought or behavior. For example, I am white, and I have white privilege: that's not something I could or should change, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. However, every time I pay less attention to murders of black people than I do to murders of white people, I am behaving according to white privilege. That's something I can change, and something I'm trying to change.

The fact that the same word is used for both aspects of privilege can make it confusing, I admit. But it's clear from Rebecca's post that having the privileges of a rich old white man is not the problem (as she explicitly says she's not, and indeed mentions another rich old white man in the same paragraph); it's the second usage of the word she's referring to, the fact that Dawkins was acting and speaking from a position of privilege and failing to consider that reality might look very different from another point of view.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Ginny » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:42 pm

ceepolk: Beautiful post, by the way.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Stephen T » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:47 pm

Ginny said

ceepolk: Beautiful post, by the way.


Seconded. Thank you. And sorry about the cycling.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby CFLarsen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:04 pm

Stephen T wrote:
I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.


CFLarsen
Love your dictionary definitions. But I can't find where RW said that she asked other people to actively stop buying his books or attending his lectures.


You quoted it yourself, but I'd be happy to reiterate:

I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.


You may not see this as a boycott, but that is what it means.

Ginny wrote:She announced a personal boycott. She did not try to organize a public one. That is perfectly clear from the quotes you've just cited.


Then Atheism+ is officially attempting to rewrite history to accommodate its political goals.

Ginny wrote:This brings up an interesting, and important, distinction. Privilege can be talked about in two ways: as something one has as an attribute due to personal factors beyond one's control, and as a pattern of thought or behavior. For example, I am white, and I have white privilege: that's not something I could or should change, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it. However, every time I pay less attention to murders of black people than I do to murders of white people, I am behaving according to white privilege. That's something I can change, and something I'm trying to change.

The fact that the same word is used for both aspects of privilege can make it confusing, I admit. But it's clear from Rebecca's post that having the privileges of a rich old white man is not the problem (as she explicitly says she's not, and indeed mentions another rich old white man in the same paragraph); it's the second usage of the word she's referring to, the fact that Dawkins was acting and speaking from a position of privilege and failing to consider that reality might look very different from another point of view.


If you are making this about points of views - in other words, opinions - there is absolutely no way anyone should call for a boycott of someone, regardless of the boycott being personal or not, nor is there any way that Atheism+ could ever chide anyone for having privilege.

It would all be a theoretical discussion, with no room for action. Which, of course, would be very much against the tenets of Atheism+.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby piegasm » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:24 pm

Then Atheism+ is officially attempting to rewrite history to accommodate its political goals.


Please explain how Rebecca Watson stating what her own actions were going to be in the future constitutes exhorting other people to do the same.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby Tinjoe » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:41 pm

CFLarsen wrote:If you are making this about points of views - in other words, opinions - there is absolutely no way anyone should call for a boycott of someone, regardless of the boycott being personal or not, nor is there any way that Atheism+ could ever chide anyone for having privilege.


As far as I know we don't chide people for having privilege. People are chided for being blinded by privilege, ignoring real problems in people's lives because the privileged never experience them.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby ischemgeek » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:52 pm

Tinjoe wrote:
CFLarsen wrote:If you are making this about points of views - in other words, opinions - there is absolutely no way anyone should call for a boycott of someone, regardless of the boycott being personal or not, nor is there any way that Atheism+ could ever chide anyone for having privilege.


As far as I know we don't chide people for having privilege. People are chided for being blinded by privilege, ignoring real problems in people's lives because the privileged never experience them.


Yes. This. Exactly.

Trying to eliminate circumstance-based out-groups by creating a subculture with its own circumstance-based out-groups is absurd. Yet, that would be the effect of boycotting people with privilege as CFLarsen seems to think we want to be doing.

Atheism+ about fighting societal social injustice and trying to create a more equitable world. We can't do that by shunning everyone deemed too privileged. I will refrain from more heated analogies in light of the fact that we're in the Educational forum and not the Main forum.
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby maiforpeace » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:19 pm

Subject: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

What a great post ceepolk.

And I'm deeply sorry about the bike riding situation - I really am. I live in the rural woods where I also bikeride, and the only concern I have is possibly injuring myself or getting lost, both of which are so easily handled with a few simple safeguards.

You, however don't have an adequate safeguard for this rape menace. Fuck that shit. Image

Yes, we do need to fix these REAL problems.

Your post inspired me to start this thread. (though tigtog did all the work)

Up to 100 thousand Untested Rape Kits In the US
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Re: What does it mean to call someone privileged?

Postby ceepolk » Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:43 am

Off-topic, but just to update: my novice cycling friend isn't going to let our public transit system cancel our plans. So I do get to go on the ride tonight.

But I did eat all my slow roasted tomato phyllo wraps. They turned out ugly, but they were -delicious.- totally worth the labour of blanching, skinning, and eviscerating them.
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