Privilege: An Editorial

Published 11:04 pm Thursday, June 27, 2024

I once read that France created an elaborate system of etiquette as a way to distinguish between classes. The upper class were those who understood the complex nuances to the code of etiquette, which distinguished them from the lower classes. A similar trend can be seen today in modern education.

It is quite common for people to talk about the need to become educated or educate others on the social nuances negatively affecting a portion of the population. Often people will say how a certain marginalized group should be referred to in a certain way, and discourage others from using forms of address that would be insulting. But why is the primary focus on speech, and choosing to use the polite term to refer to the effected group, as opposed to other means of positive change, like action?

Why be more concerned about how a marginalized group is refired to than say, volunteering to serve them in some way?

One could argue that this might be due to fears of becoming patronizing. Perhaps this could be true. But it seems like there are ways to be helpful that aren’t patronizing. Perhaps some charitable organization working for the disaffected needs someone to scrub their toilets. It wouldn’t have to be posted to Instagram.

The reality is that talking about privilege from an academic standpoint can reveal the ownership of a privilege, that of education. The more complex the education needed to understand the proper way to refer to the marginalized, the more privilege can be displayed while using it to deny one’s own unearned privilege. This is why people must “educate” themselves on privilege, instead of humble themselves, or serve others to somehow mitigate its disastrous effects. Action, or even contrition, does nothing to display education- at least, not modern education.