Checking My Privilege

EricRLOKevYoung2When I evaluate my life, I’m always ready to acknowledge I’ve been blessed. I was born and raised in the US, nurtured and adored by two hands-on (and strict) parents, educated in high-standard schools and challenged at an early age to consider the ownership claims of my Creator. God blessed me at birth with a healthy body, an inquiring mind and a tender spirit with which to hear his voice.

I enjoyed the companionship of three brothers, two sisters, multiple aunts, uncles and cousins and numerous friends. The solicitous extended community included neighbors and friends who shared my parents’ values. Did I deserve the blessings I was afforded by being born when and where I was? No, no more than a child deserves to be born into a third-world society where the “blessings” of life are sparse and hardship the norm.

Was my life more perfect because of this fortuitous accident of birth? In all my years, has my life ever been perfect? No, but every mishap and misfortune along the way has been − in retrospect − an opportunity for personal growth and understanding. This isn’t Pollyanna thinking (as some might suggest), but rather a recognition that part of living is learning to embrace good times and bad, no matter the circumstances.

Now I’m hearing rumblings of an accusation (from various sources) that I’m privileged simply because I am white, born in the US and a Christian, among other things. (However, being female means I’m less privileged than if I were male.) Not surprisingly, there’s at least one test online to gauge my level of privilege!

Now, there may be tongue-in-cheek intention in the above scale of privilege, but over the past couple weeks, I’ve begun to understand there are people who view this issue quite seriously. First, I read about the Princeton student who was repeatedly scolded with “check your privilege,” a student who has steadfastly refused to knuckle under and apologize for being who he is.

Then, I heard about Harvard’s Kennedy School announcement of their plans to add a new orientation session for incoming students focused on the fashionable topic of Checking Your Privilege 101.

It was no surprise, then that my ears perked up instantly when I heard about the White Privilege Conference that was held in Madison, WI at the end of March. Through its WPC University, this group offers high school credits, Continuing Education Credits as well as graduate level certification in “diversity, social justice and inclusion.” The WPC website asserts that their annual conference draws “more than 1,500 [to] attend from more than 35 states, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, and Germany.” Their web page explaining What Is White Privilege is instructive. The six examples of “privilege” this page cites are (in my view) a laundry list for staking one’s unique claim to grievance and victimhood.

I’m sorry but I can’t help but be dismayed! While I’m usually the first in line to flog myself for perceived guilt (whether merited or not), this self-flagellation over privilege is way beyond the pale. Has it been so long ago since individuals gladly seized upon the opportunity to move up the ladder of success (no matter their skin color) but based only on their hard work, expended blood, toil and resources to improve the lot for their families?

For myself, I’m NOT willing to hand-wring and brutally lash my bare (white, yes) skin with a cat o’nine tails to demonstrate I’ve adequately checked my privilege! Nope, count me out.

Considering how poorly educated so many children are nowadays, this exercise in futility creates another needless distraction. Students may graduate without the requisite tools (knowing how to read, write and calculate, understanding how to think and reason), but they’ll be well-versed in the rudiments of diversity, social justice and inclusion.

Argghh! How many community organizers and grievance-oriented agitators must a society indulge before the society becomes unmanageable? I think we’re moving ever closer to finding out.

Renée