Harrison Phipps Opinions Editor
I was torn apart when I realized my opinions did not matter. I was crushed, but realized that I had some massive rethinking to do; it was truly enlightening. Let me back this up a little bit.
It all started one day after I finished talking about the unfairness of the diversity hire at my office. I knew several of the other applicants, and they were well-qualified, but Dedric, according to my boss, was only hired because he was black. My friend, Erika turned to me and told me, “your privilege is showing.”
“My privilege is showing? What on earth does that mean?” I asked her. She explained to me that my white, middle-class, heterosexual Christian background clouded my judgment and that it was the reason I could not understand why Dedric was hired.
It all made sense. Because I did not share the same experiences with Dedric, his black, middle-class, heterosexual Christian upbringing was incomprehensible. Because I could not understand him, my moral judgments clearly must have been off. The same concepts of right and wrong, of what was deserved, and what qualifies someone for a job did not apply whatsoever.
This destroyed me. Everything I thought suddenly did not matter. For all I knew, the color red was not even red anymore. Who was I to say what a color was? Everything had become subjective. I had no idea what to do, so I remembered to words of a wise social justice warrior: “Check your privilege.”
I resolved to do just that. I thought about everything that made me privileged. I was white, so I could not speak in any matters of race. I was middle-class, so I had no concept of money.
I was heterosexual, so I could not understand anything about sexuality. I was Christian, so I was bigoted and hateful toward anything that did not conform to my faith.
I was able-bodied, so I could never understand disability. I was male, so everything I ever received was a perk of the patriarchy.
The list went on and on until I realized that everything was a privilege in my life. Because I was privileged with life itself, I could no longer comment on any of it. I had absolutely no power.
So, when I realized this, I immediately realized that we are all privileged with life that we did not deserve. It all made sense! This is what Erika was pointing me toward! When she told me to check my privilege, she really wanted me to check everyone’s privilege and realize that absolutely nothing that anyone says matters!
Those that are oppressed are truly blessed because they have no systematic privilege stopping them from speaking out. At the same time, because they very well could not be alive, they have the privilege of having lived at all. Therefore, they still have no objectively valid opinion.
It didn’t matter that my boss was hiring Dedric as a diversity hire, and it didn’t matter that I thought that was wrong. Absolutely nothing mattered at all!
The thought did cross my mind that I might be taking this too far, that maybe this wasn’t what Erika meant, but then I realized I just needed to check my logic privilege.
After checking my privilege, and then everyone else’s, I knew I had no obligation to treat others with respect, or inherent worth; the way I treated people didn’t matter at all, because I was privileged with the ability to (mis)treat people, and others were privileged to be alive to receive that treatment.
So, the next day at work, I went in and told Dedric that he shouldn’t have been hired, and that he needed to check his black privilege. He didn’t take too kindly to that, but why should his emotions be valued over mine?
I was sent to talk to Mark from HR, and I explained how he and everyone else is blinded by their privilege and couldn’t possibly understand my frustration. He just couldn’t open his eyes and understand it all, but I was insistent.
My boss and Mark moved to get me fired, and now I’m talking with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about how they have no right to fire me for “improper conduct within the workplace.”
While others might tell me that I’m wrong, I know they just need to check their conscience privilege.