This is basically a follow up from the last post. An Iowan student newspaper published an article about privilege
The article is all kinds of stupid, peaking at the “cognitive privilege”, but at its core, it still fits at what I explained earlier, so why not take it apart?
The relevant notion of privilege I define as the receipt of certain benefits wholly through accident of birth.
Which is interesting in this case, since the author, Williams, is also talking about white privilege there. He may want to say being white is nothing but advantegeous, but this is the line of thinking that leads to racism. Color does not grant you anything others couldn’t achieve the same way. I’m aware the US is still more racist than most other countries on this side of the Atlantic, but it’s not so extreme, that it will stop your career in the tracks. Blacks, too, can go to school, as bad as it is, graduate, go to college, pay high fees, and eventually hit off well. They can also fail in the process or luck out with a good idea. None of this has much to do with skin color though.
There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example. We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important.
Of course intelligence is a deciding factor for success and parts of it are linked to birth, yes. John Stuart Mill would’ve never started off as the genius child he is, if his father didn’t have a huge library he could basically devour in his early years. It fostered his already existent potential.
But when doing so, we must also bear in mind the purpose of drawing attention to privileges. The purpose is not to instill a sort of Catholic guilt in someone’s psyche, nor is it an excuse to make oneself feel better by demonizing another. The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual that they know very little about. The purpose is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are.
To me some of this privilege babbling sounds more like an excuse for your own failure. “He’s just smarter than me, it’s no wonder he doing better than me.” or “Well, he was born white, naturally he’d end up on top of me.” don’t really increase your self-esteem. We need challenges to overcome ourselves. To go back to Mill, he didn’t become a genius just through by being smart, he actually had to read hundreds, thousands of books to acquire the knowledge he later used. The same goes for Gauß or other mathematicians. They sat down and calculated for hours, days, weeks, months to come to the conclusions that made them famous. Seriously, Gauß didn’t have a calculator, so he had to go through his calculations over and over again for more than half a year, using tens of thousands pieces of paper in the process. That’s the sort of dedication you need for real success. It doesn’t come “naturally” to those who are born “privileged”.
Feelings of guilt are natural when coming to consciousness of one’s place in the scheme of things — and noticing that one has been conferred benefits through sheer accident — but guilt is an impediment to social-justice action, not a motivator (guilt slides easily into resentment). Keeping the general notion of “privilege” in mind allows us to notice that there are different species of privilege. We can debate whether “whiteness” is a sort of “master privilege” that overrules all others.
And lastly, don’t guilt trip people for no reason. I don’t and never will feel guilty over my birth. I’m lucky enough to not be born into poverty or a family of abusive, irresponsible parents, yes. But that shouldn’t be seen as something to feel guilty about. It should rather be seen as the norm and not something to feel negative about. Likewise, why should it be a bad thing to be born off well? Even if you raise awareness of those who were lucky, what does it help them? Yeah, they had a pretty simple life, they’re well off, but they can’t change anything about it either.
It certainly doesn’t help that the left’s goals, motivations and reasons are all over the place. While this fellow doesn’t want to demonize whites and intellectuals, others do exactly that. Another group guilt trips whites. Yet they have very similar views, so they mix up in some twisted mindset that contradicts itself. Thinking about it, that’s pretty interesting in itself.