The privilege hierarchy

privilegeI spend more time than I should online, and lately I’ve come across various videos and blog posts based around privilege, that I’m sorry to say leave me with more questions than I’m comfortable with, so I hope I can get some answers.

From what I gathered, privilege is defined as:

a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most [1] 

From what I can gather, the person with the most privilege fits into the following categories:

[Male] [Straight] [White] [Cisgender]

The logic seems to be that the further you are from the “defaults” the more oppressed you are. I’m not sure how they rank towards each other. If we assign numbers to them, where the total sum of 4 is maximum privilege, +1 for each. Then subtract 1 for each so 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 would be full fledged oppressed.

So, [Female] [Gay] [Of Color] [Transgender] would be the point of max oppression.

I suppose my first question from above would have to be repeated, are these categories all equal, or do they add different levels of oppression.

Also, how does ethnic background rank.

For instance, Jewish is fairly close to white, but there is a lot of historical oppression with the Holocaust, Pogroms, and generally being treated as second class citizens for hundreds of years. Even being denied entry to many European countries historically.

The Atlantic Slave trade didn’t really get started until the 15th Century, and though gruesome, Jews had been oppressed since the fall of the second temple in 70 BCE. Which means they have been oppressed for longer.

So is it better to be oppressed more severely for a shorter period, or less severely for a longer period with occasional very extreme oppression periods?

Also, for the people of Asian Ancestry, is there is ladder of privilege? If you look at history, the first Chinese migrants to the U.S were treated quite poorly, but their fellow Chinese, were treated quite poorly during WW2 and the following Maoist regime.

How about “white people” Russian would qualify as Caucasian, but there is a long history of serfdom, oppression by the Tsar, followed by the Soviet period, which was perhaps one of the most oppressive regimes of all time.

On the other hand, white people from the UK were oppressed by the Romans and the French at varying times in history, Iceland was ruled by Norway, Norway was ruled by Sweden and then Denmark. Sweden was ruled by Denmark, the 3 countries together were the “Viking countries” and Vikings took over part of France and part of Britain. Britain and France had colonial empires stretching the world, as did Portugal and Spain, but Spain also had a fascist rule under Franco, Ukraine has been ruled by just about anyone in Europe at a given time, and ending up under the Soviet umbrella, which also happened with Yugoslavia, that was ruled first by Tito with an Iron fist, and then descended into one of the bloodiest wars on European soil in modern times.

The Zulu Empire ruled much of Southern Africa until they were defeated by the British Empire, before that an Islamic Caliphate, before that again the Romans controlled the North African Mediterranean coastline, before that the Egyptian pharaohs controlled much of North Africa, including large parts of Libya and Nubia. The Bantu ruled large parts of middle Africa, until the Colonial powers rolled in and took over.

I can keep going on with history lessons, but I’m just very curious about how a privilege hierarchy is constructed. Is it just constrained to “Modern American history”, which is from roughly 1776. Then there is the dodgy treatment of slaves, there is dodgy treatment of Irish and Italian immigrants, the poor treatment of early Chinese immigrants, the internment of people of Japanese ancestry during the second World War, the treatment of German-Americans in the same period.

How does religion factor into it? The protestants and Catholics in Ireland were both white, but one was oppressed. The same is true for Sunni and Shiite tribes in the middle east. How about heretics and true believers?

Which brings me to another question; is all this relative? Does white privilege exist in China, or Japan, is it just a question of whether you are part of the minority or majority population, or it is a cross cultural thing? For instance, if a white person was to travel to Zimbabwe where they actively chased off white farmers through a campaign of murder, would they still have white privilege?

How about wealth? Does that factor in, for instance a rich black woman vs a broke black man both straight and Cisgender. Who is the most oppressed? How about 2 black men, of equal financial status, sex and gender, but one is an Australian Aborigine, and one is an African American?

I just want some answers so I can accurately see who I need to defer to in order to have adequately checked my privilege, and who I can just dismiss on the basis of the skin color, sex, gender and sexual orientation. In other words, who I am permitted to discriminate against and who are permitted to discriminate against me.

 

 

[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/privilege

8 comments on “The privilege hierarchy

  1. […] check-boxes differently than people who fill different check-boxes. It is how we end up with the privilege hierarchy that I wrote a sarcastic post on a while back, where every action and word, has a consequence based […]

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  2. […] universality, as each person has their value not in themselves but in the various boxes within the privilege hierarchy they […]

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  3. […] around bitterness over an overly simplified view of history that I mentioned in my post on the privilege hierarchy. However, there are not set limitations on how much nuance you apply to a group. For instance […]

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  4. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
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    Excellent post on the taxonomy of privilege.

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  5. marblenecltr says:

    To complicate matters further, how about Islamic slavery, established under sharia and continuing to the present day in Africa and throughout the world? There is total brutality in those conditions of slavery, including sex trafficking, from the seventh century until today, and there is also “slavery light,” dhimmitude. The ultimate in Islamic privilege excesses would be the time prophesied in Islam when only Muslims are allowed to live.

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  6. marblenecltr says:

    Reblogged this on necltr and commented:
    We have the choices of freedom through Christianity or total slavery under a very few masters who have plans to kill most people while reducing the rest to creatures with the lowest mental capacity possible while being able to perform assigned tasks.

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  7. Rolf says:

    Guess who started the Atlantic slave trade? Oppressors pretending to be victims.

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