On Privilege

May 15, 2014

Someone on my facebook posted the following article and it made me mad. Not in the usual way in which I compeletly disagree with the author. I just think the author has missed the point entirely and in doing so is encouraging ignorance.

Authority, Google, and Privilege

The author starts by making a grand statement about how, white people (Especially allies and anti-racists) believe they have the right to his time because he has furthered anti-racist discourse. He goes on to say that depending on his mood he’ll either respond thoughtfully or link them to something. And then sometimes he’ll tell them that he’s “not there to serve as a resource to them”.

You’re probably thinking that he’s being pretty reasonable if not the nicest guy in the world right? And on the surface that’s what it looks like but let me tell you that the author is showing his own privilege and his own arrogance.

I don’t believe that people have the right to insist that he answer their questions. I don’t believe that he must answer the questions. What I truly believe is in the right of those people to ask the question.

If you actively champion a cause, in a public venue, you are positioning yourself as an authority. If you are willing to do that you must accept the consequence that people will want to both learn from you and challenge you.

Someone said in reply, that the man isn’t an “Answer Monkey” and to just use google. I suppose that’s fair, except that google will give you millions of replies, not all of them trustworthy. Asking someone you respect is simpler and safer in most cases. Is it lazy, a little, but we’re human, and sifting through endless research for every question isn’t possible on a day to day basis.

Public discourse is part of how the world learns and grows. To try and stifle it is wrong. If he was talking about botany, instead of race, he would just sound like he hated that people talked to him.

Is it Privilege to ask a person questions about something he’s positioned himself as an authority on? Yes but it’s a justifiable privilege that is a human right not “White Privilege.”

Trolls and definitions

The author goes on to explain that, while he was working on a paper, he decided to check out an interracial dating hashtag on twitter. He wasn’t happy with what he saw so he decided to put out a snarky Tweet.

Checks out #insightsbs. Sees white people describing their racial fetisheses as ‘not racist.’ Gives up forever.

The author than was then surprised and annoyed when someone responded by asking him to define Fetish. The person also made it clear that he was challenging the author and that he disagreed and probably would even after the author explained himself.

This folks is a form of Troll. They’re not living under bridges but they are damn ugly. What these kinds of people like to do is “fish” for an argument. Cast a line out and reel it in. Effectively trolling.

This form of Troll is the kind that says, “I’m not [add IST Here] but…” You can argue with them all you want but they’ll just keep poking you until you devolve into a swearing pile of poo. Then they’ll tell everyone how mean and wrong you are.

However, the question is ok. If I had seen the Tweet, I might have asked the same thing. Fetish is a loaded word with multiple definitions. Not to mention that Fetishism is the name of a serious Psychological condition, in which a person is obsessively aroused by a type of object. I understand that the word is used, in slang terms, as meaning a sexual deviance, or naughty like. (He certainly isn’t talking about the definition where people think that the bone of a saint has magical properties.)

I didn’t read the hashtag, and I’m sure there are a lot of nasty/racist things on it but I would want to know why he is equating preference with sexual deviance and saying it’s racist. Don’t get me wrong there are people out there that are racist and sexual deviants, it’s called Ethnic Pornography, and it’s people of different races in subservient positions and cultural stereotypes.

I’m not saying what he said was wrong but that the person had the right or Privilege to ask for clarification.

How it ends

They devolve into an argument. The author says that he doesn’t need to answer the question because it’s not his responsibility to educate people. The Troll tells him that his opinions can’t matter if he’s not willing to argue them.

My Opinion

As a blogger, and public figure, you have given people the right to interact with you. It’s the way public discourse has been done for millennia, and it’s the reason that Bill Nye still debates with creationists. Without questioning there is no growth.

Learning from an authority is more likely to stick in your head and make a positive impact then learning from google or Wikipedia.

Refusing to answer a question because you think it’s a waste of your time is your right, however for every 100 trolls who ask the question, there will be 1 person who is genuinely curious and can grow from your influence.

As much as there is “White Privilege” there is also a form of “Intelectual/Class Privilege” just because you’ve answered the question before, and think it’s a stupid question, doesn’t mean that the person asking is a troll or not worth your time. There are people out there who are ignorant (I mean that in the traditional, “Don’t know anything” and not the hateful people) and the best way to fight ignorance is with knowledge.

I can’t say it enough I truly believe that asking questions is a fundamental human right.


Did I misread the whole thing? Do you disagree with me? Let me know in the comments.