Op-ed

Much ado about privilege

A few years ago, I was pulled over on my way to work. I sat there pleasantly, turning down my music as the cop approached my window, and when I rolled it down for him, he simply told me, “Sorry, sir, I thought your inspection said 2012. Have a good day.” And just as quickly as he pulled me over, he was gone, and I was able to return on my way to work.

Thinking that I had a semi-decent story to tell, I went in and walked up to my black coworker, and when I told him the story, instead of giving me the reaction I expected, he looked at me wistfully and said, “Man, no cop has ever called me ‘sir.’”

While my experience can be described as anecdotal at best, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about because there is a massive discrepancy between cultures in America, and it isn’t something that people like me — a white, straight-appearing man — can ignore.

I can and will call myself privileged, and while that has been taken by many to be an insult, it’s actually far from it.

Having been in arguments on this topic before, when someone gets called privileged, they assume that it means the same thing as being ignorant. They assume that being called privileged is the same as being blind to the ills of the world. It’s almost akin to being told that you’re living in a fantasyland, and you need to wake up.

But being privileged isn’t like that. Being privileged is actually a fantastic thing, but the problem stems from the fact that many people aren’t. To be able to live in a world where trans people aren’t actively being erased by the government, where the president’s first reaction to a madman killing people in a synagogue isn’t being told to always be on guard and to hire private security for a baby-naming ceremony and where black men dealing with suicidal thoughts don’t view ‘suicide by cop’ as a viable option is something all people should be privileged enough to experience.

The only time that being privileged is bad is when it causes you to turn a blind eye to problems people who are not like you face through a lack of knowledge or a refusal to see beyond the group in which you currently reside.

This is not to say that your life doesn’t have hardships when you’re privileged, either. There seems to be some kind of conspiracy going around the Internet that men are under attack, and the newest wave of feminism is staunchly anti-men. One piece of information I’ve seen to defend the idea that “men have problems, too” is that male suicide occurs at a rate three times higher than female suicide. But consider this: why have none of those arguments moved to any sort of call to action for the awareness of male vulnerability? I have been heavily involved in the mental health community, and many people who come through are men willing to share their experiences and be vulnerable in a way that they can not outside. So why do you not hear these arguments trying to support a man’s right to cry and erase the social stigma against men who deal with mental health problems (which is something I admittedly go through).

You see, everyone has problems, and no one wants to hide away the fact that men have to deal with an ever-changing landscape of issues and deal with them in ways they’ve never dealt with before, but no one is trying to shame an average, everyday man into changing who he is.

The only ones that are being exposed and ostracized by our community are the ones who deserve punishment because of the crimes they committed and hid away; just because one or two women are awful people who have committed crimes themselves does not devalue the hundreds of other women seeking justice for their abuse by joining the #metoo movement and abdicating Weinstein or Cosby from  rapes and sexual harassment.

In fact, that is another reason why people are upset with the Kavanaugh case. It is not a statement of whether or not the man is guilty, but that those people who accused them are having their right to due process denied in the face of a political gain by outside groups. To go through with a trial and find him innocent would satisfy those outraged that there was no trial at all; not because of a natural political agenda, but rather one forced upon them due to the identity they were given without choice and thrust into a world where those unchosen markers have put them at a disadvantage.

This is why many of the movements that are created in response to minority group movements have been criticized. It is not because people do not believe that all lives matter or that men have problems, too, but that these reactionary groups are bred out of ignorance for the subjects at hand. These groups are being created by privileged people who can live their entire lives not knowing the point of these movements.

#BlackLivesMatter was not created to say that any other lives did not, but instead included an implied “too.” That is what the movement is trying to say. Because it’s true: Black Lives Matter, Too. And when people who kill innocent black men or taze a famous black athlete for publicity get off without jail time or punishment, or even due process, it starts to seem like we live in a world where not all lives matter.

Feminism is not about putting men down or trying to diversify workplaces, but to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity regardless of how they happened to have been born. And trust me, you’d be angered too if you were only given 70% of your expected pay because you have certain genitals.

It’s also about making sure that no one can hide in plain sight any longer. Everyone should be privileged enough to walk down a street alone and not have to worry about being attacked and feeling like they need to have a  weapon on them 24/7 so as to be able to take action against someone who has wronged them.

So, yes, I’m privileged. I have a lot going for me, and the reason I believe in these groups is because I want the same rights and privileges that I have to be accessible to everyone. And I’m not trying to take away anyone’s First Amendment rights or stop you from saying something that ‘offends’ me (if you think people are overly offended, I’m sorry, but you’re not interesting enough for people to care about what you have to say anyway). All I want to do is ensure everyone is educated, respected and loved. And if you believe me naive for wanting that, you can continue thinking that, but just know you’re one of the people in the way of that vision, and I want you to at least reflect on why that might be.

Eric Ryan is a fifth-year student majoring in English. ER821804@wcupa.edu

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