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Nov 09 2010

Religious privilege writ large

When the Pope decried the “marginalization” of Christianity in Westminster Hall in England, I commented that this persecution complex that Christians have is simply based on their perspective; not a reflection of reality at all. Relativity teaches us that if you assume your frame of reference is fixed, it can appear as though you are moving toward something when in fact that thing is moving toward you – more specifically since Christianity sits high atop the heap (and has for a long time), the fact that it is moving toward the middle looks, to Christians, like they are being marginalized. It’s a phenomenon known in statistics as regression to the mean.

However, in sociology circles this phenomenon is known as privilege. This should not be confused with having privileges in the sense of freedoms to do stuff like leave your desk at work or the privilege of addressing an audience when giving an amazing speech. Privilege is what happens when you or your group have an undeserved level of power based not on your actual merits, but for historical reasons. There’s a lot of talk in anti-racist circles about white privilege – white people are at the top of the heap internationally because of the technological dominance of Europe in the colonial era, and since then have enjoyed a false assumed superiority over all other groups. In feminist circles, it is male privilege that is discussed – for reasons that I am not educated enough to speak on, men have dominated (and oppressed) women and have enjoyed a false assumed superiority over women.

One of the manifestations of privilege is the fact that the group in question is completely unaware that they enjoy it. Because these groups have built a system for themselves (through the selective interpretation of history, through in-group legislation, through behind-the-scenes social programs) that empowers its members from the moment of their birth. While you were reading that last sentence, you weren’t aware of the feeling of your pants/skirt against your legs; you weren’t aware of the background hum of fluorescent lights; you weren’t aware of the sound of your own breathing – when it’s there all the time, you don’t notice it’s there. Of course now that I’ve reminded you of these things, you may suddenly be aware of them. The other side of privilege is that those who have it are free to deny that it exists, and instead claim that those in the non-privileged groups are trying to rob the privileged of things that they deserve.

As an anti-racist and feminist, it’s no stretch for the anti-theist in me to see the exact same phenomenon happening in religious groups:

In her affidavit, a 24-year-old woman from the fundamentalist Mormon enclave of Bountiful says attending Cranbrook’s College of the Rockies was “going into what I see as a wild and unstable world. Out there people were behaving in ways that are not in accord with my beliefs — fighting, impatient, yelling, dating and breaking up, drinking, using foul language.”

In another affidavit, a woman identified as Witness No. 2 complains that Revenue Canada has cut back child-tax benefits to some plural wives. It says they are living common-law and must claim the father of the child’s income, regardless of whether others are already claiming it. “This has been a real hardship,” she says.

It has all the hallmarks of privilege: other people’s behaviour is not in accordance with my beliefs, therefore I am persecuted; the tax code doesn’t make exemptions for my religion, therefore I am persecuted; I am not free to live outside the laws of the country I live in, therefore I am persecuted. These are people who don’t understand what persecution looks like. Persecution is what happens when you are not given rights that other people have based on your group affiliation. Persecution is what happens when you are repeatedly told that the way you are born makes you somehow deficient or unworthy. Persecution is what happens when you must work twice as hard to achieve half as much as someone else because of superficial qualities that are completely unrelated to your job.

Privilege is what allows you to ignore all of those things and cry ‘victim’ when you are told that you can no longer behave outside the law based on your entirely-voluntary beliefs.

Before someone starts a mindless rebuttal of this point, saying that I’m describing the “homosexualist agenda” or “Islamification” or something else stupid, re-read the paragraph:

Persecution is what happens when you are not given rights that other people have based on your group affiliation. Persecution is what happens when you are repeatedly told that the way you are born makes you somehow deficient or unworthy. Persecution is what happens when you must work twice as hard to achieve half as much as someone else because of superficial qualities that are completely unrelated to your job.

If you still think you have a point, congratulations – you’ve got privilege!

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32 comments

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  1. 1
    Daniel Schealler

    Hmm…

    What about situations where someone is crying wolf to get their way?

    I know privilege from the inside – that someone can be privileged and ignorant of the fact is something I can personally attest to.

    Sometimes when I’m accused of racism/sexism and take it on board as legitimate criticism. Other times I dismiss it as crying wolf.

    But when I conclude that someone is crying wolf? I tend to agonize over it, even in very clear cases. Am I correct? Are they just crying wolf to get their way or weasel out of an argument they’re losing? Could this be another instance where I’m proving ignorant of my privileges?

    Like the Dunning-Krueger effect, you have to constantly have some doubt no matter what.

    What I’m trying to get around to is this:

    If you have the time and inclination, I’d appreciate your views on the subject of distinguishing between legitimate criticism of privilege and crying wolf.

  2. 2
    grassrute

    First off, I agree this Mormon case is not a case of persecution. Reference to “Religious Privilege” however, is stretching. All groups that want the laws changed to better benefit themselves and their “identifiable groups” claim to be oppressed. Why is it labelled “privilege” when white religious groups participate in this game? If you want to label this group as opportunists, fine. Even suggesting they have a sense of entitlement for something that’s not entitled to them, fine. This has nothing to do with any privilege that may or may not be capitalized on by whites or religious groups. Non-white Muslims attempt to change Canadian law too, think of the hijab. This is just another “crying ‘victim’ when they are told that they can no longer behave outside the law based on their entirely-voluntary beliefs.” Welcome to Canada the land of the free.
    “this persecution complex that Christians have is simply based on their perspective; not a reflection of reality at all.” Are you trying to downplay true Christian persecution or suggest that it doesn’t happen? It’s not limited to homosexual groups in Uganda.

    Persecution in China
    http://www.chinaaid.org/qry/page.taf
    Persecution in Iran
    http://iran.bahai.us
    Persecution in Pakistan
    http://www.persecution.net/pakistan.htm
    Persecution in Saudi Arabia
    http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=940
    Persecution in Germany
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,674312,00.html
    Persecution in Canada
    Scott Brockie http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2004/apr/04041604.html

    You’re incorporating a double standard in the name of “Privilege.” Your suggestion that Christians “have an undeserved level of power based not on their actual merits, but for historical reasons” is a ploy to downplay one level of persecution while elevating another. Many groups are crying ‘victim’ and using whatever means they can to change the laws or seek “justice.” There are many examples of non-Christians opportunists engaging in this bogus cry of persecution or discrimination:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/707806–settlement-upsets-black-postal-worker
    Your article is reminiscent of Nero’s “Blame the Christians” and Hitler’s “Blame the Jews.” The fact that you continually like to blame all the world’s problems on white Christians is nothing short of inciting hatred against them. Don’t worry about a human rights complaint though; the commissions have already ruled that “Christians are not a likely target group.”

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    Daniel, this is an excellent question. Accusations of privilege are somewhat akin to accusations of any type of bias – if you understand and can define the bias, then you can investigate the extent to which it may be playing a role in your decision-making. My academic background is in epidemiology and research methods, and pretty much all we do for the first half of the intro master’s course is to drill down on exactly what errors are common within research, and what steps can be taken to minimize or eliminate their effects. It is similar with privilege – once you know what it is and how it works, it is much easier to spot (in others as well as yourself).

    I don’t know what ‘crying wolf’ looks like from the other side of the equation, but you can just look at the article (or the next comment down) to see an example of ‘crying wolf’ from a privileged perspective. A spurious accusation of racism/sexism will likely have no explanation of why it is racist/sexist. I don’t think there’s a way to be able to identify and dismiss an accusation out-of-hand without looking at it first. If someone says “well you’re just saying that because you’re a man,” or “that’s just because you have white privilege” and there is no follow-up explanation, you’re welcome to ask for elaboration. You should not expect that the person is going to be particularly interested in teaching you, but if she/he doesn’t elaborate and you can’t see her/his point (after honest introspection and trying to see it from another perspective), then you really don’t have a lot of options other than to dismiss it.

    My perspective is that you should err on the side of caution and assume that the accuser means what she/he is saying and isn’t just trying to deflect. If you could find me a specific example of what you mean, it would make it easier for me to answer the question.

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    Part of this is the fact that you’ve misunderstood my point about white privilege. I was not saying that white Christian groups the only ones that have privilege; my point was that religious privilege operates exactly like white privilege or male privilege. It is simply a mathematical fact that white male religious people will enjoy 3 types of privilege, whereas a white religious woman enjoys 2, and so forth. In this particular part of the world, Christianity is the religious group that enjoys the greatest level of privilege, through the same historical process that put white people and men at the top of the heap today. Religious privilege is a parallel but separate process to white privilege; I thought I had made that clear but apparently it wasn’t clear enough.

    The particular case of the hijab is an interesting one, because it is religious privilege – granting particular rights to a group based on their religious beliefs – intersecting with female disenfranchisement. There is no good way to resolve the issue – either we put public safety and order secondary to superstitious beliefs, or we take away the right of women to dress as they please out of a paternalistic attitude of protectionism. There are many good discussions to be had on this issue, but yes religious privilege is still at play.

    As far as your examples go, the fact that you can’t see the difference between false imprisonment, torture, being targeted by police, legislation written specifically to put one group at a disadvantage… between these things and not being allowed to pull your kids out of real school is a textbook illustration of privilege. You absolutely have a right to equal protections under the law, regardless of your religious affiliation. You do not have the right to demand special privileges because of those beliefs. Nobody is allowed to home school in Germany, regardless of religious affiliation. If the law said that Christians aren’t allowed to home-school but other groups are, then maybe you’d have a point. Nobody is allowed to deny service to people based on their sexual orientation (or race, or gender). If the law said that Christians aren’t allowed to discriminate, but other groups are, then maybe you’d have a point. Neither of those things is the case, so what you’ve got is an argument based on privilege.

    If you wish to refute my privilege argument, you’ll have to provide some evidence that the reason that Christians have the level of power and influence that they do in our society is not because Christianity has dominated Western culture for generations, but because Christians are better and more hard-working people than non-Christians. Your persistent refusal to understand what persecution actually looks like does not grant you license to conflate the denial of special exclusive rights to Christians with some sort of anti-Christian agenda.

    The fact that you continually like to blame all the world’s problems on white Christians is nothing short of inciting hatred against them.

    That accusation is a disgusting, baseless lie. I have published nearly 300 articles on this website alone. Find me a single one where I say that Christians should be specifically targeted for violence, that Christians are less deserving of rights than any other group, or that Christianity (but not other religions) makes you deserving of some kind of specific hatred. Once you have failed to do that, I would appreciate an apology. I don’t take accusations of hate speech lightly, and if you’re going to hurl that kind of filthy slander at me, you will find my patience and tolerance for your empty, hollow rhetoric worn completely away.

  5. 5
    grassrute

    I have no difficulty apologizing if I’m wrong. You, however, are confusing the language. I said you were inciting hatred, no where did I say that you were attempting to target Christians for violence. You are taking a much more subtle approach that simulates affirmative action. These efforts to correct past wrongs will only serve to discriminate against the groups that you claim are enjoying “privilege” What I have done is question your motives. I don’t believe that you’re motivated by concern for minority groups, but rather hatred of the ideology that built the west. With some exceptions, I don’t see white privilege in this country. I see a country that is fair, inviting and the envy of peoples from across the world. They’re lining up to immigrate here.

    To further refute your ‘privilege theory’ I would like to tell you about my father. He is a white male in his mid 50’s that follows the ideology you’d like to see the demise of. He immigrated to Canada in the 70’s. He found a job, but was used and forced to work unbearable hours with very little pay. When he got home, he would eat dinner and work another job till bedtime. And so it went for years. Being an immigrant was not easy for him just as it isn’t easy today. I don’t believe he enjoyed any advantage over anyone else. He was taken advantage of and simply had to suck-it-up.

    Religious privilege is the title of your article. I simply am not seeing it. I see the reverse in the rulings of our Human Rights Tribunals today. What else exactly does “Christians are not a likely target group” mean? Feel free to explain; I’m all ears.

  6. 6
    Crommunist

    These efforts to correct past wrongs will only serve to discriminate against the groups that you claim are enjoying “privilege”

    I have tried to be nice and indulgent as you trot out every single fallacious argument under the sun, but my patience is wearing thin. I have explained in the article that you are commenting on why the above statement is incorrect. You are either not reading, or reading but refusing to consider the argument. Then you have the audacity to “question my motives”, which is simply a backhanded accusation that pointing out privilege is the same as inciting hatred against white Christians simply because I’m not one. I warned you in the last comment that if you continued to make personal, slanderous statements that I would not respond kindly. You were warned, and you decided to ignore the warning. Fine. Kids gloves are off, and are staying off.

    Grassrute, you are a walking stereotype. Your complete lack of originality is made all the more ridiculous by the fact that there are literally BINGO CARDS made about every statement you’ve made on this site. Your objections are as ignorant as they are predictable. In fact, I did predict your brainless response in the article, and re-stated the definition of oppression so as to avoid that kind of stupidity. However, there’s clearly no way to ward off stupidity as strong as yours, and I realize that now. I have been told that it is possible to dialogue with people, and if you do so in a respectful way and explain your reasoning, meaningful ideas can be shared. However, if the other side has no meaningful ideas, the entire effort is a waste of consonants (vowels are abundant and freeeeee).

    I said you were inciting hatred, no where did I say that you were attempting to target Christians for violence.

    Okay then, define what you mean by ‘inciting hatred’. You’re clearly using some definition that is outside the law, since ‘hate’ is a very clearly defined legal term. Do you mean that once people are aware of the undeserved position of Christianity that they will stop putting it on a pedestal? Because then yes, I am “inciting hatred” in the same way that it is “inciting hatred” against witch doctors to treat patients with actual medicine instead of shrunken heads. And Christianity built Western civilization in the same way that your brakes move your car. Every major political, social, legal, and scientific advancement that separates the West from its history was opposed by the religious establishment. The fact that some scientists, artists and thinkers were Christian is incidental – most of them had facial hair too but we don’t give mutton chops credit for building society.

    “I don’t see white privilege.” Well lah-dee-friggin’ dah. You want to know what one of the hallmarks of privilege is? NOT SEEING IT. The story of your father is sad, to be sure. However, it’s simply one anecdote. I’m looking out the window. It’s not raining right now. Therefore, rain doesn’t exist? When your father moved here in the 1950s, my father wasn’t allowed to vote or run for office. In some places on this “fair and inviting” hemisphere, it was illegal for him to marry my mother. He certainly would have had a difficult time securing housing outside of a specified area, and it was next to impossible for him to find any job in his current field, regardless of how qualified he was. Luckily, thanks to policies like the one you demonize as “discrimination against white people”, he was able to achieve success. That’s the difference between actual discrimination and made-up “waaah I’m losing privilege” discrimination – one has the force of law saying that certain people cannot do things, the other has the force of law to say that it is illegal to bar people from doing things.

    I am trying to care less about what you “believe”, but am finding it difficult. You cannot derive any meaningful information about the world by looking at your own experience in isolation. Privilege is a phenomenon that operates at the societal level. The fact that you can’t see it, or don’t believe in it, doesn’t make it any less real. One has to look at the evidence. White people represent a disproportionate amount of political, financial and sociopolitical power in this country, and in the rest of the world. There are two potential explanations for this: 1) that white people are indeed a superior master race, or 2) that historical factors have conspired to make being born white a de facto step up from the rest of the world. Since we’ve been able to rule out option 1 through biology, we’re left with option 2.

    You may in fact be “all ears”, but the empty space between those ears makes me think that explaining things in any greater detail than I already have is a waste of time. Maybe a pretty picture will have a greater impact on you than all these big words.

  7. 7
    Crommunist

    And while I didn’t intend for this to devolve into a discussion on race, you (not you, grassrute, I’ve given up on throwing pearls before swine) can see how close the parallels run between white privilege and religious privilege. “I don’t see it from high atop my mountain of privilege, therefore it doesn’t exist” is the essence of an argument from privilege. The next step is to accuse anyone who points it out of being the “real bigot”, and then come the anecdotes and attempts to re-brand the concepts of discrimination and oppression, as we see in the polygamy case above.

    Being aware of privilege is the first step. I remember when I finally understood the concept of male privilege, it completely turned my head around on a number of issues. I enjoy a certain amount of borrowed white privilege as well, being light-skinned and well-educated with a British-sounding name – awareness of this has definitely colored my understanding of race, gender, sex and religious issues.

  8. 8
    grassrute

    “When your father moved here in the 1950s, my father wasn’t allowed to vote or run for office. In some places on this “fair and inviting” hemisphere, it was illegal for him to marry my mother. He certainly would have had a difficult time securing housing outside of a specified area, and it was next to impossible for him to find any job in his current field, regardless of how qualified he was”
    Tell me more. Do so by e-mail if you like. Why wasn’t your father allowed to vote? Why was securing housing difficult and why the difficulty finding work? You may just cure my ignorance! I have been expressing an opinion that everyone can suffer these things in this country, even whites and even Christians. (My father moved here in the mid 70’s, not the 50’s.)
    One more thing, if your motives are pure, than I’m sorry. I find that the terminology you’re using is also used by others to create reverse discrimination, which is not helpful. Surely you will agree with me on that!

  9. 9
    Crommunist

    My father is black. Voting rights, fair housing acts and job protections were not offered to black men until quite recently.

    There is no such thing as “reverse discrimination”. There is only discrimination. “Reverse” makes it sounds as though there is a way that discrimination should work, and that when it happens against another group it is the “reverse” of normal. I am not saying that Christians cannot experience discrimination, but the examples you provided from Canada and Germany are not actual discrimination, rather the consequence of creating a set of rules that all people have to follow, regardless of their religious beliefs. I am certain that Christians are legitimately persecuted in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China. That is real discrimination.

  10. 10
    Daniel Schealler

    I was trying to keep away from particular examples – kinda feels like I’m looking for you to give me justification, you know? Which is nuts – if I give you an account, you only have my word to go on. My memories could be skewed, and there’s a ton of context in any confrontation that can’t really be communicated online. It’s not like you can really form a strong judgement based solely on something I give you.

    That said? Well… Here’s one example I can think of. This is the most ambiguous (to me) example that springs to mind right now.

    I recently had a holiday in Malaysia. It was only a week and a bit, but I came back with a negative view of the culture there. I found it socially oppressive regarding sex, religion, traditional gender roles and traditional family dynamics. The sense of oppression on all of these fronts was ever-present. When I looked into it a bit deeper I found that more than a couple of human rights violations were enshrined in Malaysian law as well.

    One of my friends is Malaysian. When she asked what I thought of Malaysia I tried to dodge the question, but she pressed. I warned her that she might not like it. She pressed again (of course). So I told her, honestly. She disagreed with my view – Malaysia is awesome! – and asked for specific examples in the expectation that I’d be stumped. I provided highly specific examples.

    At the time she dropped the subject rather than continue – fair enough. But a few months later it came back up. She accused me – seriously, strongly, assertively accused – of being a racist white man for holding such a strongly negative view of Malaysian culture.

    When I asked for elaboration, she pointed out that people hold different values – I had been assuming that my values were right and that Malaysian values were wrong.

    I responded that it wasn’t the values of the Malaysian norm that bothered me persay. It was the way that they were imposed on everyone in a blanket fashion – does a gay Malaysian man value the notion that homosexuals should be discriminated against? What about his values?

    This was met with the (correct) point that, typically, when a white man is accused of racism he will nearly always find some method to deflect that accusation (I’m not racist – one of my friends is Malaysian!). Apparently my entire argument could be reduced to a post-hoc justification for a pre-existing racist bias against Malaysians, non-Western cultures, and particularly Islam.

    Keep in mind that this was coming from a Malaysian girl who enjoyed a typical New Zealand lifestyle including alcohol, bacon, no headscarf, and occasional premarital sex should she ever feel like it.

    And I took that criticism very seriously. Still do. Agonized over it for a while. Still am. It’s true that I didn’t like the standard values of the society very much in relation to my own subjective wants and needs. Also true that I went into Malaysia with some preconceptions only to have those preconceptions confirmed (of course). And I was only there for a week and a bit – do I really have any right to pass judgement on an entire culture when I’ve only been exposed to it so briefly?

    I’m pretty sure that my general impression (and associated criticism) of Malaysian culture remains valid and accurate… But I do have a certain amount of stomach-churning doubt that I could be wrong and ignorant of the fact.

    Which is a good thing, of course. Doubt is always helpful motivation to take a reality check.

    Hence my interest in your views on the subject.

  11. 11
    Crommunist

    It sounds like you had specific criticisms not of Malay people, but of the things enshrined in the culture. My question would be if your criticisms came in the form of “Malaysians are homophobic, sexist, etc.” – the few interactions we’ve had lead me to strongly suspect that this was not the case.

    From this view of the conversation, I’d definitely call that a spurious accusation. I’m not much for cultural relativism (in fact I wrote two pieces on it that went up today), preferring to critique ideas on their merits rather than saying “that’s just how they do things, so it is above criticism”. If pressed, I can defend my position on homosexuality without having to merely assert that the other person is a bigot – I may in fact call them out if it is an accurate charge, but I won’t just rest the argument on that. So too can I defend any values that “my culture” holds. They are not right simply by virtue of my say-so, and if that’s the only justification I can provide then I am on shaky ground.

    You instinct to question is a good one, I think. I was earlier today accused of inciting hatred. My first reaction was one of concern – what kind of hatred have I incited, and how? However, after careful reflection on my past statements and looking into the definition of ‘hate’, I was able to conclude that the assertion was empty. The reason for my anger in response was that hate is not the kind of word that should be thrown around lightly, and because I take those kinds of things seriously. Racism is the same, but if the accusation relies either on a distortion of what racism is, or is just built on a say-so argument, it can be rejected. In the same way, as long as your criticisms of Malaysian culture isn’t just “it is different from mine,” but “it demonstrably harms people” then I think your position is reasonable.

  12. 12
    grassrute

    The story of your father is certainly a sad one. How the blacks were treated at that time was detestable. It’s a fine example of racism, but doesn’t testify to the claim of “privilege” today.

    “White people represent a disproportionate amount of political, financial and sociopolitical power in this country, and in the rest of the world. There are two potential explanations for this” Wrong, there are more than two potential reasons for this. Imagine Canada wasn’t such and awesome place to live, but instead was full of injustice. Canadians immigrating in masses to um, where exactly is a country in the east that enjoys the freedoms we do here? South Korea, nope, not welcome unless I’m married to a South Korean. Japan? Nope, not unless I can prove, in a lengthy process, that I have something to offer them. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, China? No no no no no. Egypt? Possibly, but jobs and political power certainly aren’t going to fall into my lap!

    “’I don’t see white privilege.’” Well lah-dee-friggin’ dah”

    The founders of this nation and the application of their ideology to life, work and politics are what made this nation what it is. It’s what makes this nation desirable and what drives us to invite others to live here. Once here, the opportunities are endless. Get your head out if the clouds and observe what’s really taking place in this country.

    “There’s no such thing as ‘reverse discrimination’” Correction, the term doesn’t exist. I am referring to discrimination against the children of this nations founders to “correct” past discrimination. Our Quasi-judicial bodies in Canada are engaged heavily in this activity, with rulings that include affirmative action. This doesn’t create an equal playing field, but rather discriminates in the other direction. Yes DISCRIMINATES, not loosing “privilege” Example:

    In the case of Scott Brokie, which you claim is not discrimination, you are wrong. His right to freedom of conscience/religion was trampled on. Although he is willing, and does work for any identifiable group, when asked to print material he doesn’t agree with, he simply turns the work down. This has nothing to do with Scott Brockie crying “I’m loosing privilege.” Suppose a Christian went to a printing company requesting a brochure be printed that stated among other things, “sex outside of marriage is immoral” If the owner of the printing company doesn’t agree with the message, and refuses to print the material on those grounds, it’s not discrimination against the Christian. If a Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the company MUST print the material and apologize, would you have a problem with such a ruling?

    Finally, suggesting that “privelege” is a problem in Canada only serves to drive a wedge between minorities, who are treated more than equal, and the rest of Canada. Shame on anyone who seeks to divide this country. Your words will only have everyone looking for something that may be wrong, for some injustice that may have happened. It may be unintentional, but it’s the reality.

    You can suggest I have air between my ears and be cruel. That says more about you than it does me.

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    It’s depressing to have to explain things that I would think are a combination of basic logic and common knowledge to an adult, but I suppose I drew the short straw when I decided to put my opinions out there.

    First of all, and I’ve said this before, this article is not about white privilege. It’s about religious privilege. The fact that you don’t see them is a manifestation of that exact privilege. It’s like if you smell really bad – everyone else notices, but you’ve become so accustomed to it that you don’t notice. You reek of privilege. Every word that comes off your fingers further cements it. Anyone who understands privilege and how it manifests will be able to spot it from a mile away.

    If your father and my father immigrated to Canada at the same time, and had similar qualifications for work, your father would have had a much easier time of it because of the colour of his skin. He would have had better access to housing, jobs, better treatment by police, etc. Expand that out at the population level, and the next generation (our generation) have very different opportunities, despite the fact that we have identical claims to being Canadian. The only difference between us is the colour of our skin, but white kids (on average) start off with an advantage. The result of this is that white people continue to enjoy an advantage over people of colour (PoCs) that is due only to their skin colour. That advantage is called ‘privilege’. I’m not sure I can break it down any more simply than that. From here on in I will simply interpret your “I don’t see it” as a refusal to see it, rather than an honest inability to understand the process.

    Possibly, but jobs and political power certainly aren’t going to fall into my lap!

    Once again, assume that you and I both jump through those same hoops (which, by the way, has nothing to do with privilege, and I’m not even sure why you brought that up, or why you excluded entire continents from your “rebuttal”) and manage to immigrate into one of those countries. Once there, you’re going to have a much easier time getting jobs and political power because of your skin colour, and the mythos that surrounds it. I, on the other hand, will be assumed to be a gang-banger who drinks 40s and smacks my bitches, because that’s the image of black people that the world is familiar with. Strangely, incestuous NASCAR rednecks don’t seem to do the same to tarnish the sheen of your pigmentation.

    You keep talking about “the founders of this country.” Are you referring perhaps to the French? Or perhaps the generations of Chinese, Polish, Ukranian, African, and South Asian people that actually built this country? They are the ones who “made this nation what it is”. Or perhaps you’re referring to the First Nations people who showed the first British settlers how to survive and exploit the abundant natural resources here, not to mention the number of wars they fought and died in. I’d tell you to get your head out of the clouds, but I’m pretty sure your head is stuck somewhere else…

    If the owner of a print shop refuses to print materials because of their religious content, it is absolutely discrimination. It doesn’t matter if he’s Christian or not. Of course, you can only cite a hypothetical story where this “reverse discrimination” (which is a stupid phrase, as I have explained) happens, because it doesn’t happen the other way. If it did, it would be just as illegal as what Scott Brokie did. His right to freedom of conscience wasn’t “trampled on”. That’s fucking ridiculous. If my religion says I am duty-bound to walk naked through a pre-school, does arresting me “trample” on my rights? I’m not sure what it is you do, but I can be fairly sure it has nothing to do with science, law, politics, history or sociology, because you repeatedly demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge in any of these fields.

    And in the last comment, I believe I called this out: “Shame on anyone who seeks to divide this country. Your words will only have everyone looking for something that may be wrong, for some injustice that may have happened.” Ah yes, pointing out the problem makes me the real problem, just like shouting a warning to a pedestrian is what gets her flattened by that bus. If only I had kept my mouth shut, we could maintain the status quo where white people represent a disproportionate number of seats in Parliament, on board rooms, in medical schools, law schools, engineering schools… you know, the “fair” Canada that you live in. The rest of us live in the actual Canada, where these things are problems, not the natural order.

    You can suggest I have air between my ears and be cruel. That says more about you than it does me.

    Yes, it says that I am quickly losing my patience for repeated stupidity. Everything you’ve said so far was already addressed in the very article you’re commenting on. Nothing you’ve offered so far has been anything other than repeated, unfounded assertions and distortions of fact. I warned you that if you continued to come after me rather than discussing the issue that I would stop being nice. No use in crying about it now.

  14. 14
    Daniel Schealler

    This is really spooky.

    Grassrute is entirely reminding me of arguments I used to put forward on the subject of how New Zealand Universities make it easier for Maoris and Pacific Islanders to get into graduate courses.

    I used to think that the lack of Maori attendence at University was a cultural issue common to Maoris – that Maori culture had values that didn’t include intellectual pursuit. And I though this was okay – each to their own, and all that. It wasn’t a negative reflection on Maori (or so I thought). It was just that they wanted different things out of life.

    In my third year at Uni I very briefly dated a Maori girl. I worked part time at a bottle-shop in those days, and it turns out that my manager at the time knew the girl I’d been seeing.

    That manager raised her eyebrows. She was pleased – we got on well. She told me: Her parents will be stoked!

    I asked: Why?

    She said: No-one in their family has dated someone from University before.

    Holy. Fucking. Shit.

    Almost everyone I know in my family and circle of friends either a) went to university themselves, or b) achieved a good set of qualifications in their relevant profession.

    So when I was growing up, I was surrounded by people who encouraged my intellectual development. From a very, very young age.

    Of course I would wind up interested and passionate about intellectual pursuit. So of course I would be set up in such a way as to get into University and gain all the benefits of a higher education. And of course most of my friends would be people I met at University.

    I mean, for crying out loud… My mother managed to teach me to read by the time I went into preschool! I could discuss totalitarianism, George Orwell, Blackadder, Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister, do algebra and understand contemporary layman’s physics by the age of ten! I felt like a humiliated geek most of the time – children can be cruel. But in hindsight? I struggle to conceive of a more privileged background in terms of non-school based education. None of the above was really down to myself or my own discipline – I still don’t have much of that. It was all down to being exposed to those influences from a very early age.

    But if I hadn’t had that background? If I had the background of the girl I had been seeing at the time? It would have changed my life. Given that I’m earning well in a profession I love and have a bright future in, I can only conclude that my life would have been drastically altered for the worse if I hadn’t been so fortunate.

    Which then got me thinking about the girl I’d been seeing, her immediate family and background. And all the boys and girls who grew up very similarly to herself. They didn’t grow up with a mother fighting her way through a BA in teaching, a mother that kept bouncing her essay ideas off them since they were old enough to listen and talk back. No. Alice’s (not her real name) father considered himself lucky to have a high-school education. Her mother had dropped out of high-school when she was 15.

    I had been taking my lifestyle for granted. It was effortless for me – so people who didn’t have it must simply have been inclined towards other things, right? It was down to inclination, preference, and discipline. All you have to do is show up to class and pay attention, and it all just clicks into place, you get your piece of paper, and the third or fourth job you apply for takes you on at the entry level of your dream career. That’s how it works for everyone, right?

    So. Fucking. Wrong.

    The gap between the lifestyle I had been taking for granted as attainable by everyone and what other people in New Zealand are not necessarily able to achieve even after extreme expenditure of time and effort came into stark contrast. I understood that the lack of Maori and Pacific Islander participation in higher education was a problem for everyone, not just for Maoris and Pacific Islanders. It entrenched the absence of education within an entire community. Not only does is that community limited in what they can contribute as a result of this – in many cases they can also become a drain.

    It’s bad for the country. New Zealand can’t afford to have such a large slice of its population remain so educated. The opportunity cost is staggering. Something needs to change.

    But that’s not going to happen so long as the status-quo is maintained. Something needs to be done to break it. Making it easier for Maori and Pacific Islanders to get an education is a first step – if we have more Maori and Pacific Islander households where children are being raised in an environment that encourages educational pursuit, the following generation will be more likely to pursue and excel in tertiary education than the one previous.

    But none of this was apparent to me before my manager made that comment – that no-one in my date’s family had ever had a relationship with someone with a university education before.

    Before that, I always thought that it was just a cheap PC handout to people that had been otherwise to lazy or disinterested in education to up-skill themselves first.

    I was blind to the social good that could be achieved by making sure that all the groups within society had representation at University, how that would break down group and self-identity barriers to participation in highly skilled professions.

    I was not only ignorant in that regard – but I was also ignorant of my own ignorance.

    Thus, I bristled at the accusation of racism I would occasionally receive, either directly or in the form of someone on television discussing these very issues.

    I bristled in much the same way that grassrute is bristling now.

    Like I said – it’s a little spooky.

    I can agree that the whole ‘aim to get over X% Maori and Pacific Islander attendance in all graduate classes’ thing is a clumsy way to address the problem.

    But I can’t think of anything better. And even a clumsy attempt is better than no attempt at all.

  15. 15
    Crommunist

    That’s a pretty powerful story, Daniel. Thanks for sharing it here.

    It is eerie how it can just ‘click’ and you step right through the looking glass. Once you’re aware of it, it changes your whole outlook. The funny thing is that I didn’t realize that I enjoyed a great deal of privilege myself, because I’d never even heard of the concept. But once you see it, you can’t un-see it, and then you marvel at how obvious it is, and wonder why you never saw it before.

  16. 16
    grassrute

    Crommunist, you’re right. I’m making it too personal. I am certainly sorry for that and I hope you can accept my apologies. So I’m asking for your forgiveness and yes, I’m sincere. In the future, if I engage in a discussion in this manner, give me a huhum!

    Daniel’s story is certainly interesting, but the situation in Canada today is different. The situation in the US is also different. This video clearly displays what I mean by affirmative action and “reverse discrimination.” When I watched this, I discovered that I’m not the first to use this term:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZx8F7aHdFQ&feature=player_embedded#!

    Stephen Boissoin and Scott Brockie were both hauled before a human rights tribunal costing them upwards of $200,000 to defend themselves. Like it or not, they were engaging in what has always been a right in this country. It is Progressives who would like to see those rights removed, one even calling free speech an American concept.

    It’s easy to suggest that the religious in this country are enjoying some kind of privilege, but your not religious and therefore don’t know what the religious are enduring in this Country. I have been watching the Tribunals closely and see the victims piling up.

    “If my religion says I am duty-bound to walk naked through a pre-school, does arresting me “trample” on my rights?” This is a poor comparison. More accurately: if you were forced to promote our children walking naked in school by printing flyers for “(CNT) Children all naked all the time,” (this is hypothetical) would that be fair? The printer should have the right to refuse to print material he finds objectionable. (it is a Charter right)

    “You keep talking about ‘the founders of this country.’” I’m referring to the individuals that had bible texts engraved in the parliament buildings, the ones that wrote the National anthem “God keep our land, glorious and free” and to the ones that were responsible for the school day starting with the Lord’s Prayer.

    Referring to other countries: “which, by the way, has nothing to do with privilege, and I’m not even sure why you brought that up” This was just comparing Canada today, with other countries today. I repeat that Canada today offers a relatively fair playing field. In fact, the cards today are stacked against white males because of affirmative action. There is no arguing that statement, it’s a fact. If any identifiable group at anytime feels he/she was discriminated against when applying for a job, the Human Rights Commissions are just waiting for the complaint to be filed. (FREE of charge for the complainant)

    “That advantage is called ‘privilege’. I’m not sure I can break it down any more simply than that.” I understand what it is; I am just saying it’s overstated in Canada. I am also saying that the term ‘privilege’ is used to downplay persecution in Canada. I can assure you it does occur in Canada; the religious today do NOT enjoy any ‘privilege’ in this Country.

    My points in a nutshell:
    1) “privilege” is not a serious issue in Canada
    2) Any advantage that whites or Christian may enjoy is combated by the HRC’s
    3) Christians don’t enjoy privilege but are rather seeing the start of persecution
    4) Canada today is a role model of how minorities ought to be treated
    5) crying “foul” today in the name of “privilege” is an effort by, what appears to be a liberal mindset, to downplay the sufferings of those who hold to traditional values.

    As to my occupation, that’s irrelevant. All Canadians have the right to an opinion, or does that pose a threat to the ‘privilege’ of the lawyers, politicians and scientists? We all have different levels of education, life experience and connections that don’t disqualify our opinion.

  17. 17
    Crommunist

    You’re absolutely not the first person to use the term. Doesn’t make it any less stupid.

    There is absolutely a legal distinction between the American version of free speech and free speech in the rest of the world. Personally, I favour the American interpretation. Curtailing free speech rights is too easy to abuse. All it would take is one zealot to claim that criticism of the government violates the rule of law, and they can begin cracking down on dissent.

    The printer should have the right to refuse to print material he finds objectionable. (it is a Charter right)

    No it isn’t. Freedom of conscience doesn’t license discrimination, it means simply that you can’t be jailed for holding a belief or opinion. I can’t be jailed for hating my neighbour, but it’s not a violation of my freedom of conscience if I am jailed for slapping him.

    Your assertion that I don’t know what the religious are facing in this country because I’m not religious is laughable. First off, I was raised in a religious household, and second not being a member of a group doesn’t mean one must be ignorant of it. I could very well just put the brakes on this discussion by saying “you’ll never understand what black people face, because you’re not black.” Of course that would be ridiculous. You may not understand the full nuance of the subjective experience, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn. As far as “watching the victims pile up”, you should learn about a concept called ‘confirmation bias’ – basically, you’ll see what you want to see and ignore whatever doesn’t fit your idea.

    Canada was founded in 1867. The biblical inscriptions on the Peace Tower went up in 1916. The national anthem was written in 1939, and the original lyrics are in French and don’t say anything about God. Public schools don’t say The Lord’s Prayer and never have. I don’t know what kind of fantasy revisionist history world you’ve concocted for yourself, but your level of disconnect from reality is starting to get a little scary.

    We can both agree that Canada has a more level playing field than Iran or China. Is that really the standard you want to judge by? I’d prefer to keep making this country better, rather than allowing inequalities to continue to pile up in the spirit of “could be worse.”

    In fact, the cards today are stacked against white males because of affirmative action.

    I don’t even know what to say to this. Do a quick Google search: what percentage of members of Parliament, MLAs, mayors, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, senior policy decision-makers, and presidents of large companies are white males? If this is “the cards stacked against them”, can I please have the cards stacked against me too? While you’re using “the Google”, you might want to look up the term “zero-sum game”. You’re operating under a fallacy that in order for one person to succeed, another one has to fail. Life doesn’t work like that – giving someone a hand up doesn’t take anything from you, it actually makes your life better. You should also figure out what persecution actually is, because you obviously don’t have a clue what it looks like.

    BTW, your “traditional values” said that my father is not a complete human person, and that my sister isn’t a person at all. Fuck your “traditional values”. The free speech that you defend isn’t a “traditional value” either; you have “The Progressives” to thank for that one. You don’t have a right to impose your “traditional values” on other people – that’s not persecution, that’s justice.

    My rebuttals to your points in a nutshell:

    1) Yes it is, as I have outlined time and again. You just don’t want to see it. That’s your privilege.
    2) That’s why they’re there – to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed based on merit. I’m glad you support their work.
    3) You don’t understand what persecution is. Stop using words you don’t understand, it makes you look foolish.
    4) You should probably check with some minorities before you say stuff like that. I doubt the First Nations groups would agree with this statement.
    5) I said it already, but I’ll say it again. Fuck “traditional values”. I prefer values based on the virtue of justice rather than ones based on the virtue of being old.

    All Canadians have the right to an opinion

    Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one, and most of them are full of shit. If your opinion is based on fallacy, distortion of truth, and complete re-definition of terms, then your opinion is worthless, and while you may have the right to share it, nobody has the obligation to take it seriously.

  18. 18
    Brian Lynchehaun

    This comment is made of win. :)

  19. 19
    grassrute

    Yawn

    It would appear personal attacks are aloud on your side of the fence, double standard noted!

    Here’s a link so you can brush up on your history re: prayer in public schools. I attended a public school where the day started with the Lord’s Prayer and singing “God Save the Queen,”

    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Religion+in+public+schools-a0160104812

    FYI HERE’S A FACT: THE LORD’S PRAYER WAS USED IN THE PUBLIC SYSTEM

    Level playing field: Imagine a business that, for whatever reason, has all white employees and a white manager. Leveling the playing field doesn’t mean hiring all blacks, or women or whatever until the mixture accurately reflects the diversity in the population. Rather, it means no longer discriminating when hiring. Use only credentials/qualifications. To hire a black person only because the numbers are out of balance is discrimination. Reverse discrimination if you like, there’s nothing stupid about it!

  20. 20
    Crommunist

    It would appear personal attacks are aloud on your side of the fence, double standard noted!

    Either you have the memory of a guppy, or you don’t read. I warned you that I would stop being nice if you continued to press the issue. You kept going, and so I stopped being nice. No use complaining about it now. Also, you showed up on my personal blog. I’m allowed to do whatever I want – this is my house.

    “…the Lord’s Prayer in the classroom seems to be allowed in Alberta and Saskatchewan, unlike across the rest of Canada”

    I stand corrected. 2 out of the 10 provinces do allow the Lord’s Prayer. Alberta and Saskatchewan were made part of Confederation in 1905, about 40 years after the founding of Canada. Not that this disqualifies the point that the Lord’s Prayer is allowed, but only in 2 places, and only within the 20th century. Your point about the “children of the founders” is still historically inaccurate, since the Prairie provinces were not exclusively British or Christian in 1905 (or ever).

    I have explained why “reverse discrimination” is a stupid phrase. There’s no such thing. There is “discrimination”, but what makes discrimination against white people “reverse”? I will not deny that affirmative action is a clumsy and inelegant policy that has its many negative points. However, saying “use only credentials/qualifications” is a naive approach. Unless you mask names and have interviews in a dark room with voices disguised, there is a (largely unconscious, I like to believe) bias against women, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. Affirmative action policies force a correction into the system, to counter-balance the bias, with the eventual goal of eliminating that bias. We can dispute its effectiveness, or even how it should be measured, but throwing it away because all of a sudden it is white people who experience discrimination (a much smaller version of the bias that has been directed against PoCs and women for generations) is simply going back to the old way of doing things.

  21. 21
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Since you enjoy hypotheticals so much, grassrute, try this one on:

    So I have a business, with all white men. And I’ve decided that I’m going to hire people on the basis of their qualifications *only*. I’m aware of bias, and I’m going to do my best to avoid it, but I’m not going to implement affirmative action.

    My building, however, was custom built. When I had it built, I had a workforce all ready to go, of all white men. In order to keep costs down I decided (seeing as only men worked for me) to only build one communal washroom (it’s a single floor building).

    Now… If I hire a woman, I’m going to have to either build a whole new washroom, or convert another building, or refurbish the communal room (i.e. remove all the urinals and replace them with additional stalls).

    And that’s going to cost a lot of money.

    So now, practically speaking, hiring a woman has a massive price-tag attached as compared to hiring a man.

    I’d really prefer to avoid this cost, so I probably won’t hire a woman because of the cost.

    Is this sexism?
    Or am I entitled to exercise my free choice?

  22. 22
    grassrute

    The only thing that makes you sexist is the assumption that a woman can’t use a communal washroom.

  23. 23
    Crommunist

    Bahahaha. Best answer ever.

    Unless it wasn’t sarcasm. Then I fear for the future.

  24. 24
    grassrute

    This is not hypothetical. My wife worked in a retail outlet that only had one washroom with a lock on the door. Was her boss sexist towards men or women? hmmm

  25. 25
    Crommunist

    Different from having a men’s washroom and then telling women they have to use it though. A single-stall washroom is one thing, but a regular men’s room (multiple stalls, urinals) would not be particularly inviting to your wife, n’est-ce pas?

  26. 26
    Brian Lynchehan

    You (grassrute) did not engage the question, but chose to make a flippant remark instead.

    Did you understand the question/scenario?

    If so, that entails that you are not sincerely interested in dialogue. Try again?

  27. 27
    grassrute

    Oui Oui, but you do realize this situation is unrealistic. In reality, I wouldn’t think it any of my business how you (Brian) were to deal with this self-induced situation. Nor do I favour gov’t interference in your business. There are a number of ways in which I could deal with the situation if I were short sighted enough to build a single, large multi-stall communal washroom in a place of work:
    Accommodate – put a lock on the door and an occupied sign for her personal use or allow an additional 10 minutes at break time for a Tim Hortons run until the funds became available for the renovation.
    Renovate – a company with enough employees to require a multi-stall washroom that is hiring can afford to build a dividing wall to make two washrooms out of one, or to build a second washroom.
    Companies with multiple employees tend to have a large turnover so the needed change is inevitable. Therefore not to make the change will only benefit the business owner. This is something that should be the business owner’s initiative, not some gov’t bureaucracy. Forcing you (Brian), in this hypothetical situation, to build the washrooms may also build resentment.

    Can I draw another comparison? Suppose the building is a very old two story building and has no elevator. My business in on the second story and I rent out the bottom floor. The applicant who is most qualified for the position I am offering is paralyzed from the waist down and is in a wheelchair. Is hiring the applicant that can take the stairs discrimination?

    In answer to Brian’s question, I don’t think your decision is sexist. Rather, it lacks innovation and results in your having less qualified applicants to choose from.

    In any case, I think the business owner is free to make his own decision. At no time do I believe the company is required to hire the most qualified for the job if it means large spending on renovations. Further, I think the business owner can hire the least qualified person if he/she wants, it’s his/her prerogative.

  28. 28
    Daniel Schealler

    And suddenly I realize: There’s no nice way to use the word ‘entails’ in a confrontational argument.

    ^_^

  29. 29
    grassrute

    Correction
    In my last post I stated “Therefore not to make the change will only benefit the business owner” The word “not” is not supppose to be there. Should read “Therefore to make the change will only benefit the business owner.” oops.

  30. 30
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Grassrute: Do you understand that providing answers to questions that I neither asked nor implied strongly indicates that you don’t understand the question?

    Daniel: Nope, ‘entails’ isn’t a nice word. It usually is involved in explaining how someone is wrong.

  31. 31
    Katherine

    Oh, Grassrute. The stupid coming out of your mouth is facepalm inducing.

    Please stop making us Americans look bad.

    It’s times like these I’m extra-proud to call myself a Progressive. Something that you disapprove of seems somehow more likely to have merit.

  32. 32
    grassrute

    “Oh, Grassrute. The stupid coming out of your mouth is facepalm inducing.”
    Is that which comes from my mouth ‘stupid’ because Katherine says so? Feel free to refute me, at this point, you’re not very convincing
    “Please stop making us Americans look bad.”
    You’ve got the wrong guy; I’m not one of those anti-American Canadians.
    “It’s times like these I’m extra-proud to call myself a Progressive. Something that you disapprove of seems somehow more likely to have merit.”
    Another compelling argument, if I say it’s black, it must be white.

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