Privilege. No one likes admitting that they benefit from it. Many with it won't admit they have it. And there are different kinds of privilege, all of which people like to pit against each other.
Luna, wtf are you talking about?
Good question, me. I'm a little bit jumbled about on this topic and can't seem to make my brain create the words to describe what I want to say about it. I'm only going to talk about white privilege and class privilege for this. And that's barely scratching the surface. There's also gender, sex, thin/fat, ability, and any number of other issues.
Maybe we should do this by question and answer? First of all, wtf do you mean by privilege?
Sure. Why not? Go for the hard question first. Privilege: When something inherent about a person grants them special "rights" (i.e. privileges) and makes things easier for them. A certain awesome author and blogger described it in terms of the video game of life, where privilege gives you an easier difficulty setting. Straight, white male = easiest difficulty setting. You can fuck it up, you can still lose, but when all else is equal it was easier for you. There are other random variables that can make the game harder, like addiction, abuse, poverty (which I'll come back to), but in general straight white cis male = least amount of difficulty navigating the game.
But surely wealth and class is also privilege! Poor white folks have it as bad as black people and first nations, right?
Yes, class privilege is real. No, it is not the only privilege out there. Being poor and white has plenty of advantages over being poor and black. Or poor and Cree. Or poor and any visible minority. Seriously. Yes, I know cops are shitheads to people who look poor. But if you're poor and white, you're not as likely to end up on a Starlight Tour than if you're poor and aboriginal. And when was the last time a white person was mistaken for a burglar in his own house?
You say class privilege is real, but then don't describe it. You're not very good at this, are you?
No. And that's why you're asking the questions. Of course, it's a huge advantage to have lots of money. And POC who are also wealthy also have class privilege. They have access to the circles of power that poor people of any colour do not have. Telling white people who are dirt poor and wondering where they'll get their next rent cheque from to "organize the white allies", to change things within the white power structure, is patently ludicrous. They have no power. A rich black guy has way more pull in the power classes than a poor white guy. And a poor black guy has even less. And is more likely to get put in prison for trying.
Are you suggesting that there's a privilege hierarchy? So rich + white > rich + colour > poor + white > poor + colour?
Um, yes and no? Yes, in some circles. No, in others. That hierarchy is likely true in cases of "trying to effect change within a power structure" and completely untrue in "trying not to get killed at a traffic stop". In the former, money = power. That's why Barack Obama can be president of the USA and Oprah is one of the most powerful women on earth but white privilege is still very real and being black is a disadvantage. Just try shopping while black or native. Do ask Forest Whitaker about that. Rich black guy accused of shoplifting. When was the last time that happened to a rich, white guy? Right?
I was watching people argue about this on Twitter last night, and someone said that white people can do it just by going down to goodwill and buying a suit. They'll get in to places black people won't. Um, bullshit. I'm sorry, but bullshit. No. First of all, a goodwill suit will barely get you through a job interview. Ask any poor person trying to get a job - if you don't look the part already, you don't get the job, and people know the difference between a goodwill suit and an Armani.
Another example: When was the last time a poor person was elected to anything? Never. You cannot get elected without a lot of money. That's just how it works. And I mean a LOT of money. I do pretty well, and I wouldn't be able to afford to run for provincial politics. Municipal even. Oh yeah, I could run for mayor, put up my signs, go door to door, and have no hope whatsoever, because the incumbent has MONEY. Money he spreads around everywhere. Unless that guy is caught... I don't even know what would take him down. He's white. Drinking and driving? Nope, that got Gordon Campbell an ambassadorship to the UK. Even though it was rumoured he had a second family on the side (girlfriend and kid in Hawaii, is what I heard). Gay scandal? Nope, wouldn't matter in BC (and that's a good thing). Fucking the babysitter? Nope. See Vic Toews. Stealing from other rich white guys? THAT might do it. Because money and the knowledge of how to use it = power.
The knowledge of how to use it? What?
Yeah, it's not enough to be filthy, stinkin' rich if you want to be powerful. If you want to change the power structures from the inside. Even rich and white isn't enough. Suppose you won $50M and your goal was to raise awareness of disability issues in the public schools, effecting change in a way that would make public schools more accessible to people with a disability. How do you even start? You don't have the connections of someone born to it. You don't have the knowledge of the system passed down to you from your parents. And you may not even have much of an education. The latter can be bought. The other two? Not so much.
Remember the example of the Armani suit? Even if you're lucky enough to score an Armani (ha!) that fits (HA!), the second you open your poor, lower class mouth, you're out. They know you're not one of them the first second you speak if you don't have the education to speak in their register.
Now, again, you're not likely to be arrested, beaten, or killed for it if you're white. Not as good of odds if you're a POC. And that leads us back to the race problem. "Oh, he's so well-spoken!" = "Huh. I expected AAVE! [as if there's something inherently wrong with AAVE] He managed to speak a whole two minutes without saying motherfucker! Good, good black man!" Being black and educated enough to speak the upper class register is treated with suspicion, disbelief, and amusement. At least until that guy proves himself well enough. It's bullshit. And a perfect example of white privilege. A poor person can't get access and a rich person with an education can. But a rich black person with an education has a shitload of prejudice to wade through. And that shitload is too thick for a whole lot of people.
Class != Money. Class is inherent, something you're born to. It's evident the second you open your mouth. Unfortunately, if you're a POC, you may not get the chance to open your mouth.
So what was your point again? Give us the TL;DR version!
My point is that white privilege doesn't trump class privilege in all cases. And class privilege doesn't trump white privilege in all cases. And we really need to stop fighting amongst ourselves about this. Poor white people have obstacles. Poor people of colour have more obstacles. Class is privilege. White is privilege. Education is privilege. None of these alone will grant a person magical access to the world of power and control. Telling poor white people to just change things within their communities is not ever going to work. They have no power. Oh sure, white people get weaker sentences in the criminal justice system, better jobs, and a whole lot of freebies. But they have no more ability to change society than a poor black person. Okay. Slightly more. Like how a canoe has a better chance of getting across the ocean than a dinghy does, because the people shooting at them can't sink the canoe like they can sink the dinghy.
You're rambling again. I said I wanted the TL;DR version, dammit!
Take D&D. If you have a strength of 18 and dex of 17, that'll get you a long way in fights. But if your charisma is 2, good luck getting a deal on the sword you want.
It's not linear. Class privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than white privilege does. White privilege gets you farther in some parts of society than class privilege does. And that's just if you're a straight cis male. If not? Good luck, sister!
edited for clarity