I’m done with privilege politics
Personally, I have more or less just stopped using the language of privilege when challenging oppressive behavior. I feel like privilege politics have been so corrupted by liberalism that I just stay away from using it. If something is oppressive, I just call it out for being oppressive, and explain why if needed.
Calling out oppressive behavior doesn’t need any justification. If someone isn’t seeing some reality of oppression, I don’t use the language of privilege politics— I just point out that they are completely ignoring reality. I feel like those things can be done perfectly well without using the contentious language of privilege, which I find is often used to silence the rage of the oppressed.
I’m not saying that privilege doesn’t exist, or educating people on the privileges they have isn’t useful. But it’s a fucking mess when using privilege politics language to confront oppression, and I’ve seen the language of safe space politics used in some fucked up ways.
For example: liberals saying that queer people shouldn’t riot because “it’s oppressive behavior and only privileged straight white men engage in insurrection, rioting is masculinist and patriarchal.” I have heard arguments like this too many times. A queer friend of mine was recently “called out” in just such a way, by somebody trying to make the argument that because my friend was a white person, they were engaging in oppressive behavior by confronting police, because people of color apparently don’t/can’t confront police, and therefore white people shouldn’t do it either.
That is just ridiculous. As a person of color, that type of submissive behavior is just disempowering our people and writing us into a position of the forever victim.
That type of argument is ridiculously racist, sexist, and disempowering against non-white, non-male, non-straight/cis people. It says that we oppressed people can’t resist, and completely wipes out the experiences of those of us who have and do resist. It silences the justified rage of the oppressed. Malcolm X called out just such behavior and arguments many times, as did Fred Hampton, Huey Newton, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis…
If somebody wants to criticize something on the basis of strategy, tactics, and its oppressive nature, then do that. Say why something is a bad idea, or why it might be oppressive. Don’t engage in further oppressive essentializing to try to make your point. If you are right about the oppressive or misguided nature of something, then trust that truth is on your side and keep on. If, when put under analysis, you’re not right, then you should probably reconsider your position on something.
If something is oppressive, it’s oppressive. End of story. If somebody doesn’t want to listen to why something is oppressive, it’s usually a waste of time to try to explain their privilege to them anyway.
This is not in any way a license for people to engage in oppressive behavior or ignore the privileges they have. This is a call to address the institutions of oppression in a more thorough, radical, empowering way.
For more on this issue, read this article: http://escalatingidentity.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/who-is-oakland-anti-oppression-politics-decolonization-and-the-state/