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If a lot of people see something you don't, they could all be deluded. Or you could just be missing something. Also, people aren't going to take you very seriously if you run around accusing them of being blind. Even when you're right.

Actually, there's a lot of research that shows that the default condition of humankind is not to judge other people based on their individual merits. And that probably includes you. Try some of these on for size: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

That paper proves that just having a name that people perceive as white gives you a substantial advantage in job searches. That is one small aspect of white privilege. There are a raft of studies like this. That's just one that stuck in my head.




I have no doubt that systemic racism still exists, particularly in the United States.

Certainly, that paper provides evidence that those with African American sounding names are at a disadvantage to people with white sounding names when applying for jobs.

Calling this disparity a 'privilege' and not a 'disadvantage' that needs to be corrected only stands as a reason to vilify one group, rather than lift the other, disadvantaged group up.

It's practically become a social faux pas to comment on anything in regards to social equity if you're a 'cigender white male' because of all the 'privilege' that group of people have. Case in point, this entire controversy with PG.

The word privilege has become so loaded that it's almost a catch all to dismiss or denigrate people's character irregardless of the quality of the content.

It's not that I think anyone is deluded, or blind. The language used has just become so muddled as to be almost worthless.


So your theory is that when I note my privilege, I am vilifying... myself?

I don't think that's what's going on at all. Privilege checklists, for example, are written by and for privileged people: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Privilege_checklist

Maybe the term is muddled for you, but for me it's a pretty specific technical term, and most usages of it I see are pretty accurate.

I think the "disadvantage" term can have some utility, but for me it misses important nuances. One is that disadvantage sounds pretty abstract, pretty diffuse. E.g., disadvantaged youth are ones that happen to be born into poverty. But differential hiring based on names is active and specific.

Another is that thing many of the actions that make up privilege are positive ones. People helped me out in ways that other people just weren't helped. For example, when you look at the makeup of company boards or executive rosters, it's not like anybody said, "Hey, let's keep the women out." It's just that they happened to promote a lot more guys.

But the biggest thing for me is it puts the focus for action in the right place: on the people who are privileged. With power comes responsibility. White privilege is mainly white people helping other white people. That will only change if enough individual white people notice their privilege and act.


No, that is not what I said. I said calling it privilege only stands as a reason to vilify a group. Whether or not you choose to do that is up to you. You and many others seem to have taken the tact of creating a sense of responsibility to those who you deem to be privileged based on something they have had zero control over - their name, gender or ethnic backgrounds.

The focus of anyone interested in social equality should be to raise those with disadvantages up, not to impart a sense of blame and responsibility on those who fall into Peggy McIntosh's definition of privileged.

Recognising and providing support for those who are disadvantaged achieves that. Blaming those who do not have these disadvantages as if there's a concerted effort to screw the disadvantaged is great if you want to encourage victimhood and a lack of self determination for those you're attempting to help.


You seem to have a lot of opinions on the right way to do this. What experience do you have that would encourage others to give weight to your opinions? Perhaps you can share a couple of your notable successes and a couple of instructive failures.

Having talked with a lot of people you consider "disadvantaged" about this, they mostly disagree with you. As do plenty of other people.

I personally find the framing of privilege useful in evaluating and improving my own actions, as well as evaluating the actions of others. Having never heard of Peggy McIntosh before this moment, I can confidently say that I'm not really interested in her definitions of who's privileged and who's not.

Having been born white, I do of course recognize that I didn't pick that. I don't think people are responsible for things they have zero control over. But when those things give them power, I do think they are responsible for how they use it.


My experience is that of a white male. Does that make my opinions or viewpoint any less valid in your eyes?

I've expressed one opinion on 'the right way to do this'. Help the disadvantaged - and don't vilify those with perceived advantages that they have no control over.

I could ask the exact same thing of your background and why you feel that your opinion is more valid than mine, but instead I'd prefer to address the content of what you're saying, rather than what your background is.

I have also talked with a lot of people that I consider "disadvantaged", and they do agree with me. As do plenty of other people.

The Geekfeminism wiki page that you linked lists Peggy McIntosh's article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", which was the first 'Privilege checklist'.

I'm surprised you haven't even bothered to read the original writing that frames the world view you've accepted as fact.


Your opinions are less valid when they make assumptions about the lived experience of other people. This is what the concept of 'privilege' is useful for - removing the unconscious bias that is loaded into your view of how other people experience the world.

When you make statements about how other people should act in a certain situation, it is useful to consider your cultural biases. This is what privilege checklists are useful for.

If you receive a strong 'check your privilege!' response to something you say, it just means that what you are saying doesn't seem to take into consideration what it is like to be the other person.

If you feel that you have taken this into consideration, then you can say so! Or you can ask for help in unfolding your biases. Just be aware that there might be a conversation going on that you are interrupting and that those involved might not have time to help you.

Privilege isn't about vilification, it is about trying to understand the experiences of other people.


Yes. That is one of the ways that the concept of privilege has been most useful to me: in getting me to pay attention to my unconscious biases.

One of the useful analogies for me has been Acquired Situational Narcissism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism_%28psychology%29#Acq...

It's a diagnosable variant of narcissism in which a person, like a young celebrity, becomes convinced that it's all about them because they spend long enough in a context where everybody acts like it's all about them.

I had known about ASN for a few years when I ran across the concept of privilege. Then I took some of the Implicit Association Tests, which made it clear to me that I was, like the rest of humanity, not the perfectly balanced intellect I wanted to think of myself as.

I basically had to admit that I'd spent decades fooling myself. It wasn't, as I thought, that I, e.g., "didn't see color". Instead, it was that I didn't see my seeing of color. What else about my mind and my social interactions did I not see?

Those dominoes are still falling.


Well good news: the reason I talk about privilege is to help the disadvantaged without vilifying anybody. If somebody is doing some vilifying somewhere, maybe you should go talk to them.

I don't think my opinion is more valuable than yours. I do think that the opinions of a non-disadvantaged person (which I'm just going to call advantaged, because that's less clumsy) on how to achieve social justice aren't very persuasive to me unless they've actually tried those opinions out in the field and had some success with them. Similarly, the views of managers on how to code are unpersuasive to me unless they have spent a lot of time coding. Experience matters.

Now that you mention it, I did read "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" years ago. But I'm uninterested in the academic side of this except so far as it has practical utility to me. I use the framework of privilege because it has been very useful to me both in sorting out my own bullshit and in working on these issues. Note that I don't accept the frame as fact; frames can't be factual. What I'm asserting is factual is the substantial advantages that particular groups have, the data of which you apparently don't dispute.

So I think where we've gotten to is that you, a white guy with no apparent experience of either experiencing or fighting disadvantage, has some strong opinions on how social justice should happen. And I say: that's great. Go do that and let me know how that works. But having once held your view and moved on to a different one after years of thought and experience, I'm going to stick with mine for now.


People aren't doing any vilifying? Have you not been witness to the absolute carnage that has ensued for Paul Graham since being misquoted? Are we actually communicating on the same website right now?

My opinions are tantamount to a manager saying 'You want to learn to code? I may not know how to code, but I will provide you a helping hand and resources to help you learn.' I see nothing even remotely contentious about this.

You claim that you are uninterested in the academic side of this topic and yet you debate a random person on the semantics of a word on HN and post links to academic research on the topic. Could you be any more disingenuous?

Speaking of being disingenuous, you completely misconstrued what I said in regards to your world view - here's exactly what I wrote:

"I'm surprised you haven't even bothered to read the original writing that frames the world view you've accepted as fact."

I never made a claim that 'frames can be factual', or anything of the sort. A few comments ago you made the assertion that:

"White privilege by the way, isn't a theory. It's a fact."

I think where we've gotten to is actually you, a white guy with no apparent intelligence have nothing better to do with your life than try (and fail, miserably) at imparting your world view on someone. Congratulations, keep at that.


I did not closely follow the Graham thing. I did not say that nobody was doing any vilifying. I said that if somebody was, you should be talking to them, not me.

I guess we disagree on how I should take your opinions, but that is not a surprise.

You did claim that I had accepted a "world view" as fact. I consider a frame and a world view effectively the same, so that's what I meant. You should also decide whether you think I misconstrued what you said, or whether I'm being disingenuous. Accusing me of both at once isn't really coherent.

I'm sure that last paragraph is meant to be devastating, but you're going to have to try harder than that. Like Scalzi, my opinion is that a lot of young white males are going to have little tantrums when I talk about privilege, because that's easier for them than the discomfort of actually accepting their unearned advantages. That's fine. Eventually you'll get over it. Or you'll grow up into a bitter old white male, increasingly resentful about your diminishing privilege. I'd rather it were the former, but it's up to you.




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