Privilege Isn’t an Original Sin
We’ve said this many times before, but being born privileged doesn’t make you an active participant in bigotry. It makes you an indirect participant — a beneficiary of the acts of bigotry that favor the privileged group to which you belong.
If you’re a decent person interested in the truth, you’ll want to be aware of your privilege and how it benefits you unfairly so you can understand society at the deepest level possible, and have compassion for people who are stuck under the heavy boot of bigotry.
If you simply don’t give a shit about other people, fine. But it means you’re likely to go through life without full information about the social transactions around you, which can very well be to the detriment of not only those who are struggling under bigotry’s heel but also yourself. Full information > incomplete information. Ignorance might be bliss in a sense, but it’s destructive both to the ultimate growth of the self, and to those with whom you interact.
If you agree that bigotry is wrong, being an indirect participant (a beneficiary) of bigotry should at the very least make you uncomfortable, simply because it should make you aware of the flip side of the coin — the person who was born not-you, and hence subject to the kind bigotry you never will be (note that intersectionality means many people have overlapping privileges and that others are subject to overlapping bigotries or various combinations of privilege and bigotry).
Being a privileged person does not compel you to do activism. Neither does being discriminated against. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you don’t do activism, or a particular kind of activism. But why conflate gaining greater knowledge about the world and the other people in it with accepting some kind of “guilt” for being born privileged? It isn’t logical to feel guilty about how you were born (guilt-by-birth is, in fact, precisely what social justice activism is fighting against), since you didn’t have any control over it.
Understanding the extent to which society privileges you (or not) by birth isn’t accepting guilt. It’s courageously comprehending the full extent of the world you live in, warts and all. And it’s the decent thing to do, regardless of whether you’re a libertarian, anarchist, progressive, etc.
A system that’s based on incomplete information is highly unstable, especially in an age where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to shield people from information. For no other reason than self-preservation, you should try to figure out as much about the world you live in as you can. Which, in the case of privilege, means learning from people who don’t have the privileges you do about what it’s like to live without those privileges.
What’s the worst you think will happen with this new information? Answer: nothing will happen. You’ll still be the same person you were. You’ll still walk the same route to school/work, you’ll still eat the same lunches, you’ll still like to swim or paint or play or whatever you did before.
You’ll just be you + knowledge. Version You.2. And that’s a good thing.