No, you check your privilege

In my political science class, it is practically guaranteed that our day will start with a passionate discussion on current events and political commentary. A typical conversation will start at international matters and then quickly drift towards whatever is going on at the home-front, more specifically, whatever President Trump has tweeted this week.

One of my white classmates will invariably go on a tangent about how she wishes the men in the room would “check their privilege” or at least try and comprehend that they are blessed by the undefinable amount of privilege that can only come to cisgender men and exist to victimize and oppress women.

This is the negative side of the privilege-checking movement, where white liberals see it in their best interest to address these injustices, usually under the impression that they are being oppressed.

This is extremely evident in the victimizing culture between white women and men of color. When a white woman feels threatened and demands that a black man “check his male privilege,” she is blatantly ignoring the history of oppression of black men in the U.S.. In her mind, she cannot fathom that she herself has contributed to that suffering.

Macharia Belgrave, a criminal justice major and psychology minor at Georgia State, attributes this thinking to the difficulty so many white people have with empathizing with people of color.

“I believe that it is harder for a white person to understand or empathize with the racism and oppression of people of color experience,” Belgrave said. “They struggle to understand oppression outside of what they know and how they add to that oppression, and society teaches them that that thinking is okay.”

Studies have shown that white people struggle to empathize with not only people of color but societal issues in general; whereas 63% of black respondents agree that domestic violence is a critical issue, only 33% of college-educated whites agree with that sentiment.

This, however, does not extend to their perceptions of each other’s suffering. According to the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, white Americans believe that racial bias against black Americans is decreasing and increasing against white Americans.

White feminists, in particular, have created a narrative wherein they believe are one of the most oppressed groups in the U.S., often citing issues where they believe they are most often a victim of patriarchy, and that all men, regardless of skin color, are more privileged than them.

This ignores the history of racist lynchings against men of color, who not only have to fight against systemic efforts at treating them like eternal threats but also the way white women have leveraged “playing the victim” and added to their suffering.

White women are viewed as the perfect victim of the perceived savagery of men of color. White tears are commonplace in not only victimizing themselves against men of color but also in their supposed allyship with oppressed communities. White allies are quick to defend acts of racism among other whites.

Jayla Heard, a film major, sees white allies as all bark and no bite when it comes to standing up for their friends of color.

“I was at the [National Center for Civil and Human Rights] doing my assignment and in one of the videos, a man said that segregation is ‘a right of nature, a right of God,’” Heard said. “When I saw that video, I said, ‘Wow, that is such a stupid way of thinking,’ and my white friend defended, [saying,] ‘Well, that’s what they thought back then,’ and I said, ‘That doesn’t make it any less right.’”

Heard added that “when they defended it, that was unnecessary because, either way, it was obviously immoral, and there is nothing to defend about blatant racism.”

I hear my white classmates’ complaints about how they feel their rights are being threatened, how embarrassed they are of this nation’s politics and how they feel as if their voices are being ignored. I wonder if they realize that is a common experience for the rest of us.

Oftentimes, I wonder if they mean the things they say or if it is all just a shot at proving just how “woke” they are to other students. This idea of checking privilege, however, does not extend to their own white privilege.

This concept is pushed to the side as white liberals jump through hoops to align themselves with oppressed groups, but they no longer align themselves with the privilege they are given; instead, they choose to identify with the oppressed identity and completely ignore their own privilege.