Unpacking privilege: straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game of life

Discuss

183 Responses to “Unpacking privilege: straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game of life”

  1. RyonRyon says:

    can someone get this post to Dave The Game?

  2. AngryChad says:

    “Incredibly stupid and offensive” (as a friend put it) statement thrown out there with nothing but a weak analogy to back it up. Where’s the evidence?

    • millie fink says:

      Wow, that didn’t take long.

      If you and your presumably white (and probably straight and male) friend don’t know what the evidence is, you’re running around with your eyes and ears closed.

    • dejadee says:

      How is it offensive? I am genuinuely interested in your answer.

      I mean, I understand why someone might think it is incorrect to assert that straight white male is the lowest difficulty setting, and maybe even stupid. But I don’t understand why anyone would take offense.

      • Teller says:

        It’s probably offensive because the premise is a canard. Quite opposite to the name of the game, the real world is neither overwhelmingly populated with nor dominated by straight white males.

        • dejadee says:

          The article does say the game is limited to the US & the Western world…

          • Teller says:

            The author also says:

            “So that’s “Straight White Male” for you in The Real World (and also, in the real world)”

            The Chinese alone would have something to say about that. But I get your point and his asterisk.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

           The Western world absolutely is. 

        • Brainspore says:

          …the real world is neither overwhelmingly populated with nor dominated by straight white males.

          It’s not about who is the biggest chunk of the population, it’s about whose interests are disproportionately represented. Take a look at the list of CEOs of fortune 500 companies or elected leaders across the western world. Do they reflect the general demographics of the overall population, or do they skew toward one group in particular? (Hint: the second one.)

          I’m a straight white male too. I’m not especially rich or powerful, but I’m certainly not so blind as to pretend my race, sex and orientation don’t provide me with significant societal advantages.

    • Cary Allen says:

       In my experience, being born a straight, white male in America in the last half of the twentieth century is an incredibly easy setting.

  3. cjs1234 says:

    Of course, the reason why Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty setting is because of the prior successful game play of previous generations of Straight White Males.  If another class of player had successfully colonized the World and written the rules of the game to favor them, then the game would be easier for them too.

    • Mordicai says:

       Yeah, actually other classes did but then the White Straight Male player fragged his teammates.  He’s the guy sniping spawn points of his own crew.  He’s playing on capture the flag mode but only using it as a way to…commit acts of genocide & force zillions of people into slavery?  I don’t know that you want to be bragging on those accomplishments.  “Hey, we’ve successfully oppressed everyone!  Hooray!”

      • EvilTerran says:

         “bragging”? I very much doubt @boingboing-37ab06b716344177e972993a3825b1ea:disqus intended to come across as bragging, or even thought there was a remote possibility of being misinterpreted that way.

    •  If by prior successful gameplay you mean, Manifest Destiny and Native American genocide powerups, African slavery Extra Lives, Wage slavery Reloads, Institutionalized Misogyny Double Fire Mode and Industrial Ecocide Secret Maps then yes I guess you have a point there. The only argument I would have is that it would not be “too” it would be “instead of”. Maybe those other class of players were just better at a different game strategy that was hard to recognize when playing in psychopath mode.

    • donovan acree says:

       Your comment made me wonder, what is the default easy setting in Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tanzania, India, Tunisia?
      I think the common denominator for easy mode in all of these places would be Straight Male. The white part seems to be a bit of a red herring. The race portion of this discussion is highly dependent on your location yet it plays heavily in the majority of the comments.
      Ethnic majority might be better. So, EM/S/M ? Or is this just the bash whitey game?

      • wysinwyg says:

         If it’s a discussion about the USA then it might be hard to distinguish “ethnic majority” from “bash whitey” don’t you think?

        My fellow white folks crack me up.  People point out that outcomes for white people are statistically better than outcomes for black people even after adjusting for income.  The white folks’ response?  “That’s racist!”  Or even better, reverse racist — ’cause only whites know how to be racist the right way around.

  4. Sebastian Wiers says:

    “In The Real World, you don’t unlock any rewards or receive any benefit for playing on higher difficulty settings.” 
    So, being a member of a minority community offers no special rewards?  Interesting opinion, not sure it would go over well with immigrants at the local Catholic church.

    Of course, I also never realized sexual orientation, gender, and race were choices.  So very informative!

  5. Peter Hollo says:

    Insofar as Scalzi’s come up with this metaphor as an attempt to get through to the tiny minds of the privileged straight white males, this is a sad failure isn’t it? His own comments thread, depressingly, did somewhat better than BoingBoing, where we immediately get a couple of dicks who are offended by being told they’ve got privilege (poor things), some dude who thinks a single successful African American disproves privilege, and some dude who made a spectacular effort to not understand the metaphor at all.

    *sigh* indeed.

    Edit for the privileged straight white males like Roose_Bolton who need it to be clarified that “the tiny minds of the privileged straight white males” refers to those privileged straight white males who don’t like being told they’re privileged.

    • Roose_Bolton says:

      I’m not offended by being told I have privilege by being a straight, white male. I’m offended by being told I have a tiny mind because I’m a privileged, straight, white male.

      • Peter Hollo says:

        Aha. The deliberate misinterpretation by centering on a particular form of words response. Love it.
        It’s particularly nice that you’re doing that to my comment given that the point of Scalzi’s metaphor was to try to route around the people who attack “privilege” arguments by, well as he says in the first paragraph of the article:

        When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies.

        Of course, if you’d read the article at all you’d know this, and if you’d bothered to interrogate your privilege at all you wouldn’t have commented. Oh well, hey!

        • Roose_Bolton says:

          It was an honest misinterpretation; I deliberated whether or not you meant it the way I originally read your statement, or otherwise. I apologize for choosing incorrectly.

          • Peter Hollo says:

            Thanks for the response, and no need to apologise. Intemperateness is par for the course in these discussions, more’s the pity, so I guess it was an understandable assumption…

  6. Couple of mediocre flaws in the article. Being a Straight White Male is immutable, but apparently wealth, strength, intelligence, charisma, etc. can all be improve just by “leveling up”. My mother-in-law that worked hard all her life and died broke must have been grinding in an XP-less area or something.

    Also, the article leaves the biggest question out…
    “And so what do you want me to do about it?”
    Typically, one plays games to win, but this metaphor starts to wear a bit thin at that point.

    • millie fink says:

      Also, the article leaves the biggest question out…

      “And so what do you want me to do about it?”

      How about for starters, admitting it, instead of quibbling about it?

      • dogwillhunt says:

        Millie, be civil, or you undermine your own legitimacy. You obviously have strong feelings about this.  Instead of going around telling people ‘they aren’t looking up evidence’ do what the other guy suggested and make it easy.  Provide links and information to support your argument.

        • tré says:

           “be civil, or you undermine your own legitimacy.”

          Without knowing your background, my immediate response to that is: wow, what a privileged thing to say.

          Oh, and here’s your fucking link:

          http://serbianballerinasdancewithmachineguns.com/post/724635724/negative-feminism-anti-social-queer-theory-and-the

          “It’s about thinking through how emotion informs how we approach politics and how privileging an approach that only values positive feelings erases and denies the position of people who refuse to or simple just can’t feel happy about participating in such a shitty context is. People who are angry or depressed as fuck and seek self-annihilation because the world demands our unity.”

          • Mordicai says:

             Gosh, why do people have to be so outraged about institutionalized inequality?

          • millie fink says:

            Because it’s so destructive (duh). And especially because so many privileged people deny that. 

            Nevermind if you were actually being sarcastic, in which case, “yay.”

  7. fakechunli says:

    Very parochial… It’s true as long as the game takes place in the USA or Europe. Where I’m from the easiest setting is “Japanese male with no recent foreign ancestry”. Hardest setting is probably “Chinese”.

    • Amphigorey says:

      You didn’t read the article. He said this is true for games in the US or the West.

      • fakechunli says:

        You’re right, I was lazy and skimmed it, and jumped the gun. Although, depending on how you define it, Japan is sometimes included in “the west” (G8 nation), but obviously for political and economic rather than geographical reasons.

  8. Terry Border says:

    This game isn’t going to be an international phenomena.   

  9. I read the article and thought it was well written and such.

    My biggest question coming away from it was like Michael Curran said. “And so what do you want me to do about it?”

    As a SWM, what am I supposed to take away from an article like that, other than a feeling of guilt? 

    I suppose the best thing to come away from it is empathy and understanding.

    • Sekino says:

      I suppose the best thing to come away from it is empathy and understanding.

      ^^^^^^ THIS ^^^^^^

      It’s mind boggling how many people, whenever the issue of privilege comes up, are unable to move beyond their initial knee-jerk, defensive reaction and take the opportunity to envision exactly how other people truly experience the same world.

      Raising levels of empathy and understanding is precisely why people bring up these issues and desperately try- as in the article above- to make it as easy to grasp as possible.  It isn’t an ATTACK on anyone, it is an APPEAL to try to have a better understanding of various people’s circumstances in life and- hopefully- using the ensuing insights to bridge the gaps.

      Feeling guilty isn’t the point. Taking the time to see the world through other people’s eyes once in a while, reaching out to others, moving past stereotypes and prejudice and simply being aware of the work that has yet to be done are all positive and adequate responses.

  10. I think perhaps that *rich* straight white male is probably an easier setting yet.

    Indeed, I wonder if “rich” doesn’t have considerably more power of privilege than “straight”, “white” and “male” put together.  (Perhaps not “male”.)

  11. Matthew Elmslie says:

    You know, Scalzi’s article actually admits and addresses the nuances being brought up here. But you have to actually read the thing, without deciding ahead of time what it’s going to say, to get that.

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      If you’ve read through over 300 words of the article in the post and none of these nuances has come up, it’s reasonable to mention them in the comments. Whether or not the article is balanced, this post is not.

  12. roytruax says:

    Well… If this is so, I’m glad the cosmic dice made me a straight white male!

  13. John Young says:

    I’m a 41-year-old, upper middle class, straight white male with an excellent liberal arts education, and I agree with the essential usefulness of this metaphor.  

    * I’m not saying that I should feel guilty about it. 
    * I’m not saying that there’s some kind of burden or responsibility that _automatically_ comes with privilege
    * I’m not saying that my own accomplishments are less important, real, or valuable.

    What I _am_ saying is that for me, and for others in my situation, there’s NO doubt that I get twice as many power-ups. That I get more save points. That I can pick off level bosses with five shots instead of nineteen (I know, I’m belaboring things.)

    What should I do about it? Well, I should continue to live my life, and I should try to be awesome, and I should try to love the people that are important to me the best I can, just like everybody else. And I should understand that everyone’s situation is different.

    • John Young says:

      To continue talking to myself:

      I’ve taught test-prep classes to smart rich kids, which is pretty much the same thing as going to a school for elite ninjas and teaching them all how to build lightsabers. The kids there are working hard, and the end result of their work is that they will be economically fucking unstoppable.

      I’ve helped build emergency shelter housing in border shantytowns. The people there are working hard, and the end result of _their_ hard work is that their babies will survive their first year.

      I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make here, except that as one of those “privileged” white males it’s INCREDIBLY obvious that life difficulty settings are different for different folks, and those settings gather in clusters. “straight white male” is definitely one of those clusters.

    • millie fink says:

      I think people in empowered categories should also listen better when those in disempowered ones describe how their lives are different. People in empowered categories are usually TERRIBLE listeners.

      • bob ross says:

        I think that point is that you saying that empowered people are horrible listeners is a stereotype because (as far as I know) there is no actual research on the subject to prove that it is a “actual general tendency”.

        • millie fink says:

          There probably is actual research on that. At any rate, I don’t need it, just as I don’t need actual research to tell me that when most people are asked what color the sky is, they say “blue.”

      • Happler says:

         Does not stereotyping encourage more stereotyping rather then listening and opening up?  Viewing whole categories of people  as having negative traits precludes you from being able to listen to them and view the world through their eyes.  I would rather view the world as an optimist and give each person a chance, rather then a pessimist and shoot someone down just due to race/class/etc..   This way I feel that I am making my corner of the world a happier place.

        • millie fink says:

          “Viewing whole categories of people  as having negative traits precludes you from being able to listen to them and view the world through their eyes.”

          Recognizing that they’ve been raised in a social order that encourages common tendencies among them is not the same thing as simply (and yes, wrongly) stereotyping.

          There is, for instance, a researched and demonstrable tendency among non-white students called stereotype threat. 

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereotype_threat 

          Ignoring that common tendency would be like shutting our eyes to a problem instead of trying to fix it.

          So why ignore the fact of problematic common tendencies among the empowered?

    • Roose_Bolton says:

      Somewhere in there, understanding that everyone’s situation is different (and not always in a good way) should maybe also lead to doing something to help level the playing field…but maybe this is what you mean by “being awesome”. Absolutely no snark intended, by the way.

      • John Young says:

        I think we’re in violent agreement. 

        Saying “well, I’m privileged, THEREFORE it’s incumbent on me to help out those po-o-o-oor, needy souls”… well’ that’s the good old White Man’s Burden, and that’s a giant clusterfuck.

        Actually being sensitive and empathetic to actual people, and then acting in the way that that kind of person normally does when they see what’s going on around them — I think that’s just regular being-a-good-person, without lots of baggage.

        • ZikZak says:

          It’s not a question of the “White Man’s Burden”, it’s a question of building the kind of society you want to live in.  There is a very strong and self-interested reason for white people to work hard to destroy white privilege.

          Just because you’re a beneficiary of white privilege doesn’t mean that it’s making your life better.  A society which oppresses people on the basis of stupid shit like race is a sick, dysfunctional society, and everyone feels consequences from that, even white people.

          White people fear race riots and crime, we feel guilty sometimes, we feel unwelcome in non-white communities, we miss out on cultural connections and friendships because of race.  We live in communities ravaged by poverty, drugs, abuse – much of which is linked to racial oppression.  We know deep down that the pleasures we enjoy often come at someone else’s expense, and that cheapens them.  We may get to be king of the hill, but it’s not really much of a hill.

          Imagine your life in a society without all those things.  Sure, it might mean that you don’t get the perks you get now, but the trade would be worth it, wouldn’t it?

          Problem is, it’s not a simple trade.  It’s hard work to dismantle systemic racism, and white people are especially important in that fight, because we’re the supposed beneficiaries.  This whole system of injustice is set up to make people like us happy!  Well it’s not making me happy, and I’m guessing not you either.  We need to speak out and take action, because our voices mean a lot in that discussion.

  14. CaptainPedge says:

    I tried playing, but the log on servers were full

  15. Mantissa128 says:

    Maybe I’m just feeling curmudgeony today, but I do wonder about the point of these kinds of observations. It seems like guilt is the goal. But the people who are permeable to this kind of information already realize they are privileged. Those who are not, won’t understand.

    The finger-wagging quality of this bugs me, because it fails to take perspective into account. Every single person replying to this thread is unbelieveably privileged, and belong to societies sucking up most of the worlds resources while the vast majority of people around the globe subsist on less than a dollar a day. Rich people complaining they can’t afford a car like their richer neighbours hardly seems like real inequality.

    And finally, even if no particular ‘race’ or ‘sex’ or ‘orientation’ were in the majority (wouldn’t some demographic be, at any given time?), the inborn and cultural biases we all have would remain. We see people with glasses as being more intelligent. We see fat people as having less restraint, ugly people have higher conviction rates in court.

    I believe keenly in social justice, and think we should be doing more to level out the playing field of life. I don’t know what the answer is, I just know that finger-wagging ain’t it.

    • John Young says:

      I totally agree with you that finger-wagging is counter-productive and annoying as hell.  

      That’s actually why I kind of liked Scalzi’s take; it comes from the opposite direction; instead of saying “this is the top of the having-stuff pyramid”, it comes from the other direction “this is the bottom of the difficulty pyramid.” 

      Plus, it’s fun to think about extending the metaphor to the point of ridiculousness! What would nerfing mean in this context? What would it mean to go through the game with nothing but a crowbar? :)

    • GTMoogle says:

      I’m thinking that if you think it’s finger-waggy, then you’re simply not the one the message is aimed at.  Don’t forget that the majority are still refusing to be aware of the things that you realize are problems.  What we need is wider recognition of the issue in order to start progressing towards a resolution.

      Instead of taking it as a message aimed at convincing you, perhaps you could use it as a weapon in your arsenal to work on others?

      Heh.  Meme-armory.  :)

  16. wobinidan says:

    The entire basis of prejudice relies on grouping people together regardless of individual circumstances.     Being white, being straight and being male are attributes that can be applied to me, but they are not me.   You can say that people that have these attributes are on average better off than other people that have different attributes, but that completely negates the individual and creates more prejudice.

    There will be no end to isms until we all recognise that there is no ‘us and them’, there is only you and me.

    • ZikZak says:

      That’s a nice platitude, but it serenely overlooks the obvious social reality.

      In practice, it is not case that “there is no ‘us and them’, there is only you and me.”

      There will be “us and them” until we live in a society that does not systematically discriminate and oppress people based on “us and them”.  It is up to us to transform our society, and we can’t do that without talking about the categories which have already been created.

  17. WillieNelsonMandela says:

    Oddly enough, it seems that most panhandlers I see are white males.

    • GTMoogle says:

      Because the non-white-male panhandlers don’t get sympathy due to their non-white-male-ness.  It’s the same problem on an even harder level of the game.

      • wobinidan says:

        Try being a white female panhandler.   Especially a young, pretty one.  

        Come to think of it, how come ‘attractiveness’ isn’t one of the attributes of this game?   That seems to be one of the most important factors in life, especially for females.   

        • TaymonBeal says:

          It is. The list in the article wasn’t exhaustive.

        • Brainspore says:

          Try being a white female panhandler. Especially a young, pretty one.

          Sounds like a dream-come-true, so long as you enjoy being horribly raped on a regular basis.

    • millie fink says:

      Having privilege doesn’t automatically mean you’ll do something with it, nor that something else won’t come along to sweep it away.

  18. Chris Hogan says:

    And writing pastiches is the lowest difficulty setting in the game of scifi author.
    Your point Mr Scalzi?

    • GTMoogle says:

      That as an author, coming up with concepts and ideas is his forte, and widely distributing concepts that help people come to terms with the problem is actually one of the best ways that he can make headway towards fixing things?

      • jdk998 says:

        This concept and subsequent discussion has been around for years on 4chan. 

        • millie fink says:

          Er, yeah. And it’s been around in academia and education more generally for decades. Sad how for so many, it still hasn’t sunk in.

    • Avram Grumer says:

      What work or style was Scalzi pastiching? 

  19. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to recovery. Clearly, we as a society still have a long way to go when the knee jerk reaction is still “NU UH” and “YEAH, BUT”.

  20. MrHarley says:

    Having the game set to easy can be a disadvantage in its self. 

    Only a person who has truly worked for something can really appreciate anything.

    Often an initially perceived disadvantage can turn into a persons greatest strength.

    We all struggle to be the best we can be with what we are given.

    Lets try and steer away from the us vs. them mindset.

    • GTMoogle says:

      Us vs. them was already there, the issue is how people justify it.  Recognizing the problem is the first step towards us _and_ them.

  21. Happler says:

    My only problem with this line of thought is that what I consider should be normal for all, some consider a privilege. This is the same issue I have with the anti-gay rights people. Who are using the word “privilege” to describe what most anyone else describes as “equal” .

    Privilege is a loaded word, it implies that you get something that is normally forbidden. So, by calling what SWM’s get as “privileged” you are implying that what everyone else gets is “normal” instead of stating that everyone else is screwed out of what is “normal”.

    By stating that SWM’s have the game in “Easy Mode” you are stating  that what we get is not “normal” but is instead “easy”.  I would rather say that we have it in “normal” difficulty and that everyone has it 0n harder settings.  Most gamers get offeneded when you tell them that they are just beating the game on easy, since it implies that they are unable to beat it any other way.   This will force some of the intended audience away, since you just unintentionally  called them “cheaters”, even if they have had to work their butts off to get where they are. 

    This kind of thought only encourages the gap rather then trying to banish it.   If you do not start by saying that what SWM have is “normal” you are asking them to give stuff up (intentionally or unintentionally) , rather than make you equal.

    • blueelm says:

      Except equal is a very loaded word too. 

      • Happler says:

         Agreed.  which is why I tried not to use it much, instead aiming for “normal”.   I am sure that somewhere in the languages there is a word that will convey the thoughts better, but, for the most part, “normal” works.

    • John Young says:

      I agree with you. However, I think that’s just a limitation of this metaphor, that “achievements” as defined in the imaginary game are not the actual, capital-A “Achievements” of being a human.

      Metaphorical game achievement: successfully paying the mortgage. Straight white male setting: easy. Achievement: lessened.

      Actual life achievement: being a humane, ethical, empathetic and loving person. Straight white male setting: same as everyone else.  Achievement: same.

      (Minor quibble with my own point above: anyone who can’t put a roof over their head despite their best efforts is not going to have much time to devote to being an awesome person.)

    • scav says:

      Strongly agree. The word “privilege” means “private law” as in “one law for us, another for them”.  Strictly speaking, it isn’t synonymous with “advantage”. You can have advantages of healthy diet, a loving and supportive upbringing, good education, good genes for health and intelligence etc.  None of those advantages are “privilege”. A lot of it falls into the category of what *should* be normal, but some people are screwed out of it.

      Real privilege is injustice, but even if injustice smooths your path because you are white, straight, male, etc. the proper response isn’t guilt.  The proper response IMO is to see the injustice and decline to perpetuate it in your own choices. Also, to see the underlying irrationality of privilege itself. Of two complete strangers, it would make absolutely no sense for me to favour the white hetero male just because I *imagine* a similarity in their outward appearance means they are actually more like me in any meaningful way or will necessarily reciprocate.

    • The thing is that globally (and even in the west) “straight, white, male” is less than half the population so how should we judge normal?

      • Happler says:

        What is “normal” is an idea that has to grow as you meet and learn about more people/cultures.  First you have to decouple the idea of “normal” with being of any race/class/etc.   

        If I had the whole answer (other then trying to live by the “Don’t be a Dick!” principle) I think that I would have won at the game. Instead I am still searching for that answer myself.

  22. Not that I disagree with the factual basis of the post, but let’s not pretend that it doesn’t actually diminish the achievements of straight white males. It does. It’s an unfortunate implication that may make the medicine harder to take, but it’s there and we don’t do any good by pretending it isn’t there for the sake of not hurting anybody’s feelings.

    If two people play the same game, one on the easiest setting and the other on the hardest, the person playing on the easy setting is, necessarily and by definition, less of a player than the person playing the hard version. 

  23. Mike The Bard says:

    I would argue that the easiest setting also includes “Able-bodied”, “Christian” and “Upper middle class or wealthier”.

    An open mind will only take you so far.  Being a minority- racial, religious, sexual, or whatever category- is the only thing that will truly give you a proper perspective of which privileges or handicaps you do or do not possess in the other categories. 

    • Chad Lake says:

      How about you throw in “not sexually abused as a child”, or “abandoned by your father at a young age”, or any of the other million things that could dramatically affect someone’s life that aren’t apparent from visual inspection or willingly and readily offered up as personal traits to the society around us (as opposed to most religious affiliations, etc). 

      If you want to talk about privilege, you have to admit that you do not know what it is like to walk in one person’s shoes, ever. At best you can at best just generalize, sympathize, and recognize people for who they are not who they appear to be.  Even if that person is a while male.  

  24. blueelm says:

    Here’s the way I see it. Just be mindful. When you are asking “what should I do about it?” really you don’t need to feel guilty, but question your own presumptions about others. Ask yourself why a person who is in a different category might act in a way that seems confusing to you. Check your friends when they put people down a little. Try not to get too defensive, or at least ask yourself why you feel defensive and be honest about the fact you feel defensive.

    Try to remember that you may have some negative views of people that are less fair than you think you are or that you may have some times to show more support for people who are different than you because really, honestly, they may get less than you for doing more.In general, just try to be nice and understand why people who are trying to survive in a world that likes them less may show signs of stress.

  25. bladerunner99 says:

    I’m sure this will be less than well-received, but as time goes by, I get more and more bothered by these supposed “awareness”-type posts. At this point, S/W/M privilege is like breast cancer; awarness isn’t the issue. Actual solutions are the issue. That being said, the privilege of “minorities” (I put that in quotes for women, who really aren’t a minority, but who are generally included) is something that people are NOT aware of. The privilege like these common stereotypes:

    Men can’t be sexually harassed or raped (except in prison, where it’s expected, joked about, and treated like some force of nature rather than a problem to be dealt with). 

    White people can’t be  discriminated against (and if they are, it’s “reverse racism”, not just racism).

    Broad sweeping generalizations about white people are okay (ahem, Scalzi, “It’s not that the word “privilege” is incorrect, it’s that it’s not their word. When confronted with “privilege,” they fiddle with the word itself, and haul out the dictionaries and find every possible way to talk about the word but not any of the things the word signifies”). Making these same generalizations about a minority will get you tagged as racist.

    I’m of course not arguing that the “difficulty setting” is any more difficult for SWM; that’s ridiculous, and it’s the kind of unproductive pissing match that serves to benefit no one (and while I will simply concede the point that minorities “have it worse”, I have literally no idea how you’d go about proving that objectively considering all the variables). However, I think that the constant refrain pointing out only one facet of the issue of race/sex/sexuality is part of what causes the backlash, not “because privilege isn’t their word”. 

    There is no formal, institutionalized racism (though there is undoubdetly informal institutionalized racism) that benefits white people or men; for example, there are no scholarships specifically for SWM, while there were for women and for other races. There are no white Chambers of Commerce as there are black, hispanic, and women Chambers of Commerce. One could say “Well, of course not, SWM already get all these privileges!!” but, to the average, lower-to-lower-middle-class SWM, these privileges don’t stand out. They aren’t more likely to be hired at their entry-level jobs than their minority counterparts (in some cases less likely, as companies love to spout out about their diversity, and as they get benefits from the government for being sufficiently diverse), they aren’t paid more than these minority counterparts, and there are no formal benefits for them. Instead, they’re expected to be okay with that institutionalized -ism because they get so much “privilege”, which is of course nebulous and unspecific, though it undoubtedly exists. To continue the video game analogy, it’s like being told you have extra dialogue options in places to unlock some cool abilities, but never noticing them, while knowing there’s a chance your fellow player may get the “racist” dialogue options, but not seeing that either. What you do see instead is the occasional warp pipe thrown out for your fellow-player. 

    Are there still problems with race and gender? Criminy, yes. But these kind of guilt-producers serve no useful purpose; if you don’t think SWM have been told time and again about how much privilege they have, well, you’re not very perceptive.

    It should be noted, that I haven’t mentioned the “straight” aspect. That’s because, as regards to the S in SWM, straight people do have it better than gay people. There ARE formal institutionalized benefits that straights get that gays don’t, in addition to the nebulous privilege the straights get for being “normal”. The S part of the SWM is definitely true. 

    And of course, all the benefits of being white and male evaporate if you’re not of a “normal” religion; atheists are less trusted than rapists http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2011/11/16/new-research-says-anti-atheist-prejudice-stems-from-distrust/

    On a final point, millie fink, I can’t read the “comment removed” post, so I can’t know if Guest was abusive or not, but I’ve noticed the same tendency in radical feminist circles, for a point to be made and not backed up, and when a request to back that point up is made, the response is that it’s “derailing” or “not their job to educate you”. In a debate, it IS your job to establish your point. There are things we can all agree on (to the common observer, the sky appears blue), but if you expand on that (but to 20% of the population, it appears pink!), you have to back yourself up (color-blindness statistics, medical evidence that 20% is colorblind and that form of color-blindness sees blue as pink). Not doing so is disingenuous. It attempts to win an argument not through the strength of debate, but through vehemence. Like, I said, maybe Guest was being an asshat, but seeing “I’m not your google servant” after making a point makes me twitch. Is it frustrating to make the same points over and over in multiple forums? Of course it is. But that’s what you sign up for when you engage in debate, just as I’m ready to be called SWM despite never saying I am and to have my position dismissed because of that assumption. I’ve dealt with it before, and it’s frustrating, but I’ll deal with it again, because that’s what I signed up for. I’m dumb enough to engage in debate on the internet. 

    • John Young says:

      This, right here, is why I love BoingBoing commenters.  

      So far, in this thread, I have seen two people get into a verbal scrap, then one person says “You know what? You were right, I misread you”, and the two folks focused on what was useful.  I’ve seen folks saying constructively “hey, this is where we agree and this is where we disagree.” I’ve seen long, careful posts like the ones above, where folks are taking the risk to say “okay, I know I will be yelled at by asshats, but I’m going to say this anyway”, and constructive criticism is actually constructive, not just a figleaf for passive-aggressive snark.

      I LOVE ALL OF YOU PEOPLE.

    • millie fink says:

      On a final point, millie fink, I can’t read the “comment removed” post, so I can’t know if Guest was abusive or not, but I’ve noticed the same tendency in radical feminist circles, for a point to be made and not backed up, and when a request to back that point up is made, the response is that it’s “derailing” or “not their job to educate you”. In a debate, it IS your job to establish your point.”

      Hmmm. How about this?

      “Disproprotionate sentencing rates and term lengths, Trayvon Martin, rape, hiring disparities, Hollywood and TV casting disparities, stop-and-frisk, blow-up mortgage disparities, bullying, presumptions about IQ and ability, treatment by teachers of different kinds of students, fear of black people, heteronormativity, white-center-staging in advertising, fear of brown people, self-serving praise of Asian people, monochromatic and mono-gendered Fortune 5oo faces, ongoing residential and educational segregation, and on and on and on.”

      Or how about this?

      “Google ‘white male privilege’ yourself and do some reading around, please. Explaining the basics and providing evidence for them takes time, time that YOU should take instead of me, because you’re more than capable, and it’s not my responsibility to teach you when you can easily do that yourself. It also takes space, quite a bit more space than is available or manageable in a blog’s comment section.”

      • bladerunner99 says:

        Like I said, I don’t know what the original post was. However, I feel responses like “Google ‘white male privilege’ yourself” don’t further the discussion (unless someone’s say, asking for basic definitions, which might be what Guest was asking for). Google has a million opinions and statements on the subject, and not all of them are true. 

        If you say “white privilege exists”, and someone disagrees (not saying I do, saying someone is questioning the premise you’re using), then you should give at least 1 good example. It’s not inappropriate to say “I’m not going to post 1,000,000 examples”, but one example establishes that there is at least a certain degree of white privilege. If you’re going to posit “white privilege exists, therefore X”, and someone questions the premise, it seems unfair to me to refuse to establish it at all.An example might be a link http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/NYCLU_2011_Stop-and-Frisk_Report.pdf showing how stop-and-frisks have been performed more to black youths in NYC than there are black youths in NYC. That’s simple correlation, but it’s pretty strong correlation. 

    • millie fink says:

      On a final point, millie fink, I can’t read the “comment removed” post, so I can’t know if Guest was abusive or not, but I’ve noticed the same tendency in radical feminist circles, for a point to be made and not backed up, and when a request to back that point up is made, the response is that it’s “derailing” or “not their job to educate you”. In a debate, it IS your job to establish your point.”

      Hmmm. How about this?

      “Disproprotionate sentencing rates and term lengths, Trayvon Martin, rape, hiring disparities, Hollywood and TV casting disparities, stop-and-frisk, blow-up mortgage disparities, bullying, presumptions about IQ and ability, treatment by teachers of different kinds of students, fear of black people, heteronormativity, white-center-staging in advertising, fear of brown people, self-serving praise of Asian people, monochromatic and mono-gendered Fortune 5oo faces, ongoing residential and educational segregation, and on and on and on.”

      Or how about this?

      “Google ‘white male privilege’ yourself and do some reading around, please. Explaining the basics and providing evidence for them takes time, time that YOU should take instead of me, because you’re more than capable, and it’s not my responsibility to teach you when you can easily do that yourself. It also takes space, quite a bit more space than is available or manageable in a blog’s comment section.”

    • dejadee says:

      I think the problem is that privilege generally refers to things that people DON’T see or maybe can’t see. That is why it’s so dfficiult to talk about. It’s easy to see the interventions designed to “correct” the privilege, such as affirmative action or black Chambers of Commerce. The video game analogy is useful in discussing the issue. You only get one playthrough, so you don’t know why you are doing well at the game. Is it because the difficulty setting is lower? Is it because you had more stat points to start out with? Is it because your playing strategy is better than other people’s strategies? I do agree that just focusing on the difficulty setting is turning the discussion into a pissing contest.  

      I wish there was a way to unlink discussions about privilege from white male guilt. Look, I don’t pat myself on the back for having been born female, so why should anyone feel guilty for being male? John Scalzi points out that straight white men don’t have any choice in how they are born either. I don’t see this as a “you should feel guity” piece. I see it as more of a thought experiment, like Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance. Suppose no one can choose their character’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or beginning stat point distribution. If you had a hand in designing the game before you had to play it, would you try to level the playing field? If so, then how might you do that?

      (Edited for horrendous spelling errors…)

    • SamSam says:

      there are no scholarships specifically for SWM, while there were for women and for other races. There are no white Chambers of Commerce as there are black, hispanic, and women Chambers of Commerce. One could say “Well, of course not, SWM already get all these privileges!!” but, to the average, lower-to-lower-middle-class SWM, these privileges don’t stand out. They aren’t more likely to be hired at their entry-level jobs than their minority counterparts (in some cases less likely, as companies love to spout out about their diversity, and as they get benefits from the government for being sufficiently diverse), they aren’t paid more than these minority counterparts

      I’ll focus just on a couple of the glaring inaccuracies.

      They aren’t more likely to be hired than their minority counterparts“: In fact, the oposite is true. Even white applicants with criminal records are more likely to be hired than equally qualified black candidates.

      they aren’t paid more than these minority counterparts“: In fact, the oposite is true. On average white workers with the same training and position are still paid more than their equivalent black co-workers, and even if they start out at the same wage level, employers are more likely to give performance-based raises to their white subordinates.

      So yes, these privileges even work towards lower-class, undereducated, even criminal white men, even when they don’t notice them. Not noticing the privilege is itself a privilege, of course.

      • bladerunner99 says:

        Be careful of the studies you choose. The first one says things like: “In this approach, the difference in wages is estimated”, and “Where race differences in human capital are incompletely observed, the effect of discrimination may be over-estimated. Analyses of the effects of test scores thus argue that differences in cognitive ability accruing before the completion of schooling explains nearly all the black-white difference in wages (Neal and Johnson 1996; Farkas and
        Vicknair 1996). From the perspective of this research, standard studies over-estimate racial discrimination because cognitive differences between black and whites are inadequately controlled.” – that seems to imply that the problem goes back to crappy public school, which is directly related to class and race only tangentally. Won’t lie, though, I didn’t read the entire article yet.

        Also, studies from the mid-nineties, it should be remembered, are almost 20 years old (http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=cri  is from 1995), so using them is shaky at best. I can bring up studies from the early 1900′s that show the Irish as being discriminated against (actually, I doubt I can, I don’t think there’s a lot of studies on that, but that’s not the point). 

        Unfortunately, race is such a hot-button topic that a lot of studies are, frankly, junk. Doesn’t mean their conclusions are wrong or right, just means that they don’t back up their conclusions as well as they think they do. Correlation cannot necessariliy be causally linked to racism without more work; by the same token, you can’t just ignore the correlation either. 

        • SamSam says:

          The “more likely to hire a white felon than a qualified black man” study was from 2006.

          Here’s another experiment from 2006 on mailing employers identical resumes with “white” names or “black” names of the applicants. Minorities were only 66% as likely as whites to receive a job offer.

          Here’s a study (Times article)  from 2009 about racial discrimination in the hiring of waiters. Again, identical resumes, different names, minorities were only 56% as likely to be hired.

          Jumping categories, this 2002 study shows identically-qualified black applicants are less likely to be given a mortgage, and when they are they are charged a higher interest rate, then their white equivalents. Again, the study used fictitious people who were assigned identical incomes and credit histories.

          You keep saying correlation doesn’t imply causation. Explain these experiments — maybe the job rejections somehow reversed time and caused the fictitious people to have “black” names?

          Now can you please stop pretending that there don’t exist any advantages for a lower-class white man compared with a lower-class black man? If you’re out of work and you send a potential employer a resume, you’re more likely to be hired with the name “Greg” on it instead of “Jamal.” So stop complaining that there isn’t a “White Bureau of Commerce.”

  26. Paul says:

    Even on hard mode, the current patch has been nerfed. You should have been playing back in version 700. Some think the Global Climate Change expansion is going to ramp the difficulty back up. But possibly things will only be easier once we level up technology a couple more times.

    Also, the author must be a n00b in this game if he thinks the goal is accumulation of levels, stats and loot. A lot of players on easy mode get stuck in that trap. The best parts of the game are unlocked by keeping your good emotion stats high, your bad emotion stats low, and helping others have fun at the game too. Sometimes the rich white guy in the mansion ‘gets’ the game, sometimes its the poor black farmer. Don’t try to compare yourself to other players, it doesn’t matter who got farther on what difficulty. All that matters is that you enjoy the game you’ve started.

    • John Young says:

      “Also, the author must be a n00b in this game if he thinks the goal is accumulation of levels, stats and loot. A lot of players on easy mode get stuck in that trap.”
      Holy shit, thread win :)

    • tré says:

      Do I really get to use this link twice in this thread?

      http://serbianballerinasdancewithmachineguns.com/post/724635724/negative-feminism-anti-social-queer-theory-and-the

      If these folks are right, and I think they are to a degree, then the statement that “[t]he best parts of the game are unlocked by keeping your good emotion stats high, your bad emotion stats low, and helping others have fun at the game too” is one made of privilege.

      • Paul says:

        Embracing negativity as a political statement against a system that marginalizes you strikes me as a paradoxical example of ‘helping other have fun at the game’ : It’s self-abnegation and infliction of discomfort towards a higher goal of reform such that later players like you can have fun. And naturally, by talking about the philosophy of life, we have quickly hit a zen regression: the rejection of positivity is a purpose, purpose drives contentment in life. By inverting the traditional rules of the game, are the negative winning in the only way available to them? How much more pleasant it is to be at peace with oneself, to accept one’s emotions, even if those emotions are self-loathing. Never let it be said that this is a shallow game.

        • Paul says:

           Also, my head hurts from going from ‘nerfing’ and ‘noob’ to ‘self-abnegation’ and ‘zen regression’ too quickly…

  27. For those of us who suspect that wealth itself, rather than gender, race, or sexual preference, is the primary driver of social inequality and injustice, this article achieves very little; rather than arguing from concrete particulars, it simply provides a metaphor, which is itself based on a gender stereotype: that as a straight white male I must be into gaming (which I’m not.)  It is a little like writing an article in which you want to convey something to a female audience, and you decide that a metaphor culled from the world of fashion and make-up is the best way that they’ll “get it.”

  28. jdk998 says:

    Louis C.K. nailed this topic in one of his specials. 

  29. Amphigorey says:

    A couple of links for the people who want evidence that racism, sexism, ableism, et cetera are still problems:

    First, Peggy McIntosh’s seminal essay, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. You can pick all the nits you want with it, but seriously, before you balk at the first paragraph, read the whole thing and think about your experiences. Have you been followed in a store by a security guard? Pulled over by a cop for no reason? Been expected to speak on behalf of your entire race, sex, or nationality? I’m sure many of you have had these experiences and you’ll be quick to tell me about them, but the point isn’t that one time you got followed in the store. The point is that people who aren’t white have these things happen, to one degree or another, all the time

    Second, the Finally, Feminism 101 blog. There’s a ton of stuff there; if you dig in, you’ll find a lot of answers to your questions about how feminism works and what it does and doesn’t say.

    There is A LOT of stuff on the internet about race, class, gender, intersectionality, and, yes, privilege. The reason people in comments here have responded with “just Google it” to basic questions about these issues is that it’s a bit like walking into a conversation about Cabin in the Woods and saying hey, when’s the next showing at my local theater?

    I see a lot of you complaining that discussions like this only exist to make you feel guilty, so what’s the point anyway? No. No, the point is not to make you feel guilty. I don’t care if you feel guilty or not, although if you do it’s kind of silly. I care about your behavior. Do you listen to people who aren’t like you? Do you pay attention when they tell you their experiences don’t match yours, or do you tell them they’re wrong and they must have misinterpreted things?

    A lot of you are also asking what you can do. Well, the first thing is listen – really listen, not wait for the other person to stop talking. Then try to understand. Then take opportunities to speak up when your friend makes a rape joke, or when you notice that your female coworker keeps getting talked over in meetings, or say hey, that last joke was kinda racist. Once you start listening to people, you’ll see these opportunities.

    OH RIGHT one other thing. Several people both here and at Scalzi’s blog have claimed that pointing out that straight white men, all other things being equal (key point here, guys: yes, being rich makes a big difference. We aren’t talking about that right now), have it easier somehow means that the accomplishments of straight white men are lesser. No, that’s not the point at all. The MMORPG we’re all in is still really fucking hard and there are a lot of variables. You, as a straight white male, still have to do a lot of work to make progress in the game. We recognize that, and when you do awesome things, you get applauded. What we want you to recognize is that, as hard as the game is for you, you have some automatic buffs. Now, maybe those buffs haven’t been much help in your particular quest zone – maybe you got a sucky starting zone and you’re fighting bigger mobs than you should – but you have those buffs, and other people do not.

    How about instead of Easy, Medium, and Hard mode, we call it Hard, Difficult, and Insane?

    • Happler says:

      ” How about instead of Easy, Medium, and Hard mode, we call it Hard, Difficult, and Insane?”

      Thank you.  It is also good to not go into a situation assuming that someone will  have a certain trait due to age/color/class/etc.  Sure, know that they exist, and react when they show up, but to pre-assume is a form of prejudice too.

    • Shay Guy says:

      Or better yet, “Not So Easy,” “Oh So Hard,” “Very Hard,” and “Very Very Hard.” (One imaginary cookie if you get the reference.)

  30. lorq says:

    As someone sharing a similar social position as tikaro, I want to enthusiastically second his earlier comments about simply recognizing the sheer obviousness of the relative privilege of one’s situation.  That kind of cool assessment of the circumstances can only come from a basically grown-up and generous place.

    The numerous defensive maneuvers I’m seeing on this thread and Scalzi’s — hauling in irrelevant social variables, complaining about one’s own individual situation, asking plaintively “But what do I *do*?” without pro-actively trying to figure that out for oneself, making lame rhetorical reversals, semantic hairsplitting — all are ways of basically avoiding arriving at that place.

    It seems like misdirected energy.  But then, to continue the game analogy, at the “easy” game setting energy can be misdirected for a lot longer, with fewer detrimental effects.

    • millie fink says:

      Check. 

      Or as Louis CK says, “If you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole!”

  31. Well there are a lot of depressing comments in here. Why is it when the mere concept of privilege gets discussed, so many defenders of the straight white male demographic come flying out of the woodwork? Is the concept really that hard?

    • It isn’t so much the opening act of discussing whether or not privilege exists that’s the problem, it’s the fear of the 2nd act.

    • Roose_Bolton says:

      it isn’t a hard concept, but then again neither is the concept that it’s a hard pill to swallow for some people. it’s only natural to expect a bit of resistance.

  32. “The numerous defensive maneuvers I’m seeing on this thread and Scalzi’s — hauling in irrelevant social variables, complaining about one’s own individual situation, asking plaintively “But what do I *do*?” without pro-actively trying to figure that out for  oneself, making lame rhetorical reversals, semantic hairsplitting — all are ways of basically avoiding arriving at that place.”

    How dare you introduce variables?  How dare you complain about your “individual situation”, and try and bring your own lived experience to the table?  We have a nice, simplified, one size fits every situation metaphor to uphold here.    To continue the game metaphor, that would be like when you finish playing, and realize that the real world is vastly more complex than games, and neat metaphors, and stereotypes.

    • Amphigorey says:

      You’re railing against an argument Scalzi didn’t make. He didn’t say being a straight white male gives you an automatic win. He explicitly pointed out that there are many other factors that can make the game much harder for any given person. Nowhere did he say that being straight, white, and male is a trump card. Stop pretending that that was the argument.

  33. simonbarsinister says:

    Damn it, I always jump right into playing without reading cheats and hints. Serves me damn right for choosing the ‘Art History’ tech tree.

  34. cymk says:

    This metaphor would work better if it was class based and not race/gender based. I may be a white male but I have had to bust my ass for my meager position in life thus far.

    No one has just handed me things for being white and male.

    • Brainspore says:

      I think you’re missing the point. An impoverished straight white male still has it a helluva lot easier than an impoverished transgendered black person.

      • cymk says:

        A rich gay/transgendered minority is going to have a easier “difficulty” setting that a poor straight white guy. The one thing in this world that trumps all is money. Doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or what you like on your pizza; money talks the color of your skin does not.

        • Brainspore says:

          Again, nobody said being a straight white male guarantees you’ll have an easier life than every non-straight, non-white non-male. What is being claimed is that all other factors being equal, being a straight white male gives you a tremendous advantage over your peers. What the hell is so difficult to understand about that?

          • cymk says:

            I understand it just fine if; the people of similar backgrounds–one being a straight white male (SWM), and the other being a gay/transgendered minority woman (G/TMW)–the SWM will win out every time. But to do that we need to measure in the same class; we cannot measure across class lines with Scalzi’s metaphor.

            As soon as money is thrown into the mix, everything else goes out the window.

          • Brainspore says:

            @Ihavenofuckingname:

            Why do you disregard the plight of the mentally handicapped, disabled, or deformed by not listing ‘with no birth defects?’

            For one thing, I can’t recall meeting any able-bodied people who refuse to acknowledge that they have at least some inherent advantage over the disabled.

          • Brainspore says:

            @cmyk:disqus :

            I understand it just fine if; the people of similar backgrounds — one being a straight white male (SWM), and the other being a gay/transgendered minority woman (G/TMW)–the SWM will win out every time.

            Yes! That’s all we’re saying!! So why the hell do you keep arguing the point?? It’s called an “advantage,” not a “guarantee to win in every conceivable situation.”

    • Rich Keller says:

      I was a white male like you until I took an arrow to the knee. ; )

      It isn’t that class isn’t an issue, it’s that straight white guys in the USA don’t get nearly as much crap to contend with as other people.

      I don’t have to worry about people patronizing me at work or stare at parts of my body.

      I don’t have to worry about people assuming that I don’t speak English because of the color of my skin combined with my last name.

      I don’t have to worry that the cop in the car behind me is going to pull me over or if I do get  pulled over, I won’t get cuffed, possibly beaten, tazed and  incarcerated.

      I don’t have to worry about getting killed by a mob because of whom I love.

      My life ain’t perfect. No one’s is. But I am aware that there are so many people around me that that have to put up with obstacles both subtle and overt that just don’t come up in my experience. I try to be aware of that and try to be empathetic.

    •  Think it was Cecil Rhodes who said something like ‘A white, English, public schoolboy has a first-class ticket to Life’

  35. Hmm. I should’ve put more points toward Maths and Investment banking… Oh well. Next time.

  36. Navin_Johnson says:

    “Two persons – one white and the other black – are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for some 300 years. One player – the white one – has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: ‘from this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.’ Hopeful but suspicious, the black player responds, ‘that’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for 300 years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on your side of the table all these years?’ ‘Well,’ said the white player, somewhat bewildered by the question, ‘they are going to stay right here, of course.’ ‘That’s unfair,’ snaps the black player. ‘The new white player will benefit from your past cheating. Where’s the equality in that?’ ‘But you can’t realistically expect me to redistribute the poker chips along racial lines when we are trying to move away from considerations of race and when the future offers no guarantees to anyone,’ insists the white player. ‘And surely,’ he continues, ‘redistributing the poker chips would punish individuals for something they did not do. Punish me, not the innocents!’ Emotionally exhausted, the black player answers, ‘but the innocents will reap a racial windfall.’”

  37. atimoshenko says:

    I’m not sure that this is exactly right, even under “all else being equal”. The difficulties experienced by people who are not straight white males are not pure supersets. In other words, being a straight white male gives you access to some areas of the map, but closes access to others. Would you still come out net on top? Probably, but at that point is there away to judge this objectively? Would it not, to some extent depend on abilities and preferences?

    And, of course, there are plenty of other considerations (e.g. mental health or physical disabilities, or class, or sexual abuse) that can change the difficulty setting (at least today) no less than gender or sexual orientation do.

    But in general a good and interesting way to look at society.

    • Brainspore says:

      …there are plenty of other considerations (e.g. mental health or physical disabilities, or class, or sexual abuse)…

      Of course, but herein lies the difference: if someone said “being a rich able-bodied person gives you an inherent advantage over impoverished schizophrenic paraplegics” then few people would argue the point.

  38. OrchestraSpy says:

     Interesting discussion. Lots of racial tension too. Now someone please define white for me. Are we talking skin colour or historical culture? I get the privelaged part, that pretty much means money, and there’s plenty of folks from all over with more money than me. This metaphoric games’ developers are white right? Maybe a Chinese or Mexican artist contributed some concept art and provided some animation, and the level design is peppered but the game is Aryan, right? Is Aryan a bad word? No. It’s a great word, go on say it.

    How long has this stupid game been out? If this is a new game, then the metaphor is outdated and 16-bit.  How many hundreds of years have people of all races been playing this white developed game? Are non whites mistaking their identities for those of whites now? What with coconuts, bananas and the ‘white on the inside’ group of people out there. A molatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido… Personally I love women of all colors.

    Transference of culture is an interesting question. It’s the basis of our next generation game system. Console. The one we can all play together, on hard mode. No cheating, no short cuts with a game genie. Feeling left out? What is ethnic in this day and age? Yes, I’m a white guy and I had a jerk pork roti for lunch, a fantastic black food. Does food define what is ethnic or skin color? I was wondering about that.

    Is this game about capital gains or territory? Who is the president of the company publishing this game? How did he get to be President?

  39. millie fink says:

    Sigh.

  40. Crashproof says:

    The point, you have missed it.

  41. millie fink says:

    I’m not your Google Servant.

  42. millie fink says:

    The fact that class privilege exists does not negate the fact that white male privilege exists.

  43. Rob May says:

    The point made is that if you were the president, you kids would have it easier than his kids, and that if Obama had lived your life, his kids would have it harder than your sons do.

    He isn’t saying all white kids have it easier than all non-white kids, merely that at all levels in the western world, it tends to be easier to be white.

  44. millie fink says:

    The fact that class privilege exists does not negate the fact that white male privilege exists.

  45. millie fink says:

    Rare (and highly unlikely) exceptions do not disprove a general rule.

  46. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @millie fink It’s not that rare for straight white males to be less than privileged – there’s a general trend, but it’s hardly automatic, just as ‘straight white male’ isn’t really a very descriptive (or even useful) term. If you’re an unmarried white woman below 30, you’re more likely to go to university and have a a better paid job than your male classmate. You are also often less likely to be hurt by financial downturns that affect more male-based jobs. Once women get married the story changes, but there the income differences have to be weighed in light of life choices for the family. I’m not saying that life is all that easy for women either, but young women acting like they have an uphill battle because their parents’ generation had/has a large amount of income disparity and blaming it all on men is not very credible.

  47. wysinwyg says:

    If you’re an unmarried white woman below 30, you’re more likely to go to university and have a a better paid job than your male classmate. You are also often less likely to be hurt by financial downturns that affect more male-based jobs.

    And if you’re a white male left-handed electrician susceptible to gout named “Stan” then you have a nearly 100% chance of having an inoperable brain tumor.  So you see Millie, sometimes it IS hard to be a white male.

    I’m not saying that life is all that easy for women either, but young women acting like they have an uphill battle because their parents’ generation had/has a large amount of income disparity and blaming it all on men is not very credible.

    Seriously dude.  Just look up the statistics on M/F pay disparity on the states.  More salient to male privilege, look up the statistics on rape and sexual assault.  And remember that both those crimes are horrendously under reported.

  48. Mordicai says:

    In fact, the fact that “class” & “race” overlap so neatly is sort of…an obvious answer of yes to the question of systemic institutionalized racism.  Which is why I never get why people are so happy to bring up class & then wash their hands…hey!  That is sort of the point!

  49.  The fact that white male privilege exist does not negate the fact that white female privilege exists..and so on and so on.. yawn.. The fact is Racial Divides will not matter. When everyone is hungry the easy setting goes to who has the food vs the hard setting for those who do not. The worse the class divides get the better the racial unity becomes. Its not that racial and cultural differences disappear, it is simply that they slowly transform into a mutually agreed focus on the third entity, the HAVES. While the HAVES will be likely WHITES on EASY mode, there will be so many Whites in poverty that the notion of them having it “easier” because of the Whiteness will seem absurd to impoverished class of other races due to the relative notion of “easy” For Example: -Those whites have it on Easy Mode cause when they go out and stand on the corner in salvation army clothes with their dirty kids and beg for change people feel more sorry for them because Whites on TV are given nicer roles so more people give to them. Their Easy mode got them more spare change.-

  50. Mordicai says:

     Hey, I’m getting ready for planting crops & I figure you might be able to hook me up on a bulk deal for scarecrows?  I mean, on account of all those straw men I see you’ve got.

  51. millie fink says:

     !

  52. millie fink says:

    You left out “usually.”

    You also left out the fact that “stereotypes” and “actual general tendencies” are different things.

  53. millie fink says:

    You left out “usually.”

    You also left out the fact that “stereotypes” and “actual general tendencies” are different things.

  54. millie fink says:

    Actually it does, but that wasn’t my point. Admitting it is the first step to seeing how your life chances differ significantly from those of others. Going on to act and treat others differently as a result becomes more likely.

  55. DrunkenOrangetree says:

     I assume you’re white. How has your whiteness held you back? I’m asking this seriously.

  56. I’ve never claimed otherwise, and, sure, I can see how my skin color and gender could have contributed to where I am today. However, I’d be a fool to turn down an opportunity to provide for myself and family because I might have had an advantage and I’d be a fool to turn down the best candidate for a job because of their race or gender.

    To reiterate,
    “Yes, my skin color and gender give me an unfair advantage in a larger subset of interactions than a person with a different skin color and gender. So, what I am I supposed to do about it?”

    It’s not like their is some “White Hetero Male” conference held yearly where we all get together and discuss how best to keep everyone else down that I could boycott or something.

  57. Tynam says:

    Dan Hibiki:  (Sorry, out of sequence as we’ve hit the reply limit)

    “I doubt there are many BoingBoingers here that aren’t already socially conscious…”

    I’d love to think so, but the comments on this thread alone are enough to prove otherwise.  Which pretty much underlies millie’s point.

    Because, @Michael: Admitting that there’s a problem is the most important thing people want you to do about it.  The most frustrating thing about not being in a privileged position is that your concerns get ignored.  Admitting that I have privilege is the most important first step in not perpetuating it.  (The second is teaching others who haven’t admitted there’s a problem.)

  58. chgoliz says:

    “Can someone summarize the purpose of this article if not to chastise or apologize?”

    Education.

    But you have to work hard to be educated.  Sounds like it’s not your thing.

  59. John Young says:

    Sure, I’ll bite: “The purpose of the article is a fun way to think of privilege, which is such a loaded word as to be practically bankrupt. The article posits privileged folks not as a group of people at the top of a stuff-pyramid, but as a group of people at the bottom of a video-game difficulty-pyramid.”

    How you react to it will probably depend on how sensitive you are to plenty of white-guilt manifestos out there, but my own reaction was “ha!” and “Hmm, I wonder what playing through with the crowbar would represent in this situation.”

  60. ZikZak says:

    We need you to work hard both politically and socially towards the abolition of white privilege.  That is, to end (or virtually end) the social phenomenon of people being oppressed because they’re not white.  Maybe you didn’t cause it, and maybe it’s not your individual problem, but it’s a huge freaking problem. It needs to be fixed, and it needs to be done yesterday.  You need to get your ass in gear.

    Perhaps you disagree.  Perhaps you think you should work hard at leveling up your WoW char instead.  Well, the purpose of this article is to explain why that’s not so.

  61. Bob Kennedy says:

    I’m white, and being white has never held me back (as far as I know) other than feeling comfortable in inner-city settings, but for no reason does that mean I’ve lived a difficulty-free life. Nor does it mean I’ll apologize. Nor does it mean that I’ll use the “privilege” I’ve stumble into as a way to hold others back.

  62. Mordicai says:

    I am a sarcastic, sarcastic farmer, I guess?

  63. tré says:

    Who’s to say “us” is acquired at birth? The “us” I feel with other Latinos, for example, might have something to do with birth, or it might be common (generally shitty) experiences in a white world.

    But, then again, I was never impressed by individualist rhetoric.

  64. millie fink says:

    I edited in “usually” about 10 seconds after posting the comment. You must’ve read it within that span. 

    At any rate, about the main point,  “stereotypes” and “actual general tendencies”?

  65. finette says:

     Millie, you’re awesome. :)

  66. dejadee says:

    Hi Bob Ross,

    I think it counts! I also think that you were probably working hard and going to college because it will create better outcomes for your life, not because you want other people to think that your achievements “count.” I don’t think that any potential employer would look at you and think “oh, this guy is a white male, that must mean he never had to try very hard at anything in his life.”

    I see this argument sometimes from the perspective that minorities don’t have to try hard because they have affirmative action. Neither affirmative action nor being born white will guarantee you “win” the game. Everyone has to try hard, unless they were born with incredibly weathly parents.

  67. kringlebertfistyebuns says:

    >No matter what I achieve in my life, it doesn’t really count because of my privilege.
    Strike the word “privilege” and substitute “skin color,” and you’ll start to get the picture.

  68. ZikZak says:

    “Enough about how other people are treated unfairly, why aren’t we talking about my problems?”

  69. Avram Grumer says:

    So if you’d been a black kid, or a gay kid, still raised by that single low-income mother in s small rural community, would your life have been more or less difficult? 

  70. ZikZak says:

    B, by “racist”, presumably you mean that it points out that there are differences between races.

    When describing a society which systematically treats people of different races differently, it’s pretty hard to avoid saying things that you would call “racist”.

    But then, I get the feeling that when you say “racism”, I don’t think you’re saying “I’m concerned about injustice and the oppression of minorities”.  I think it’s more “stop having this conversation”.

  71. B: Sure. And anti-racist is code for anti-white, amirite?

  72. bob ross says:

    Being white is what bestows the privilege (along with strait and male). Which is what I thought the whole point of the “difficulty” metaphor was trying to point out. 

    Also I already got the picture, I understand that there are certain social benefits due to my race. But just like minorities, I had no part in deciding the color of my skin. 

  73. Brainspore says:

    I refuse to be told that my experiences and struggle are worth less because I’m white.

    It’s not that your accomplishments are worth less, it’s that a non-straight, non-white, non-male who worked every bit as hard as you did is statistically less likely to achieve as much.

  74. Avram Grumer says:

    Y’know those guys who started out ten steps ahead of everyone else by being born into rich families? The George Bushes and Mitt Romneys of the world? The ones who’ll talk your ear off about how hard they worked to get where they are today? They don’t think their experiences and struggles are worth less either. 

  75. Brainspore says:

    I assume you prefer the “let’s all ignore racism and hope it goes away” approach.

  76. Rich Keller says:

    IDGI. What are you trying to accomplish with your post? I don’t know what your background is, so I can’t tell where your apparent sarcasm is pointed.

    Racism exists, it isn’t fair that it does. But  it’s one of those human behaviour problems that can  be diminished by education and awareness. Also, the article isn’t about racism so much as it is about members of a specific race being unaware of the challenges that they don’t face.

  77. Amphigorey says:

    Let’s pretend racism doesn’t exist! That’ll be smashing.

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