The real and inherent danger of privilege is in giving others power over you, declaring that power, that privilege, to be unfair, then demanding compensation in the form of cash, preferential job or schooling treatment, or just the right to be self-righteously angry.
Privilege is another word for advantage. Advantages are everywhere in our society; sports, education, business, military, etc., etc., etc. That’s a poor excuse for giving up and demanding that the advantages be eliminated before trying your best. The book, then movie, Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, published in 2003, was about the relatively impoverished Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team’s analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team despite Oakland’s small budget. Other big-market teams, e.g., the Yankees and Red Sox, had 5-7 times as much money to spend on players as did the Athletics. That’s a real advantage; privilege, if you will. But Oakland did not whine and ask for relief; they found a way to win. And the baseball world sat up and took notice. And we are taking notice as well.
The danger of privilege, of having advantages, does not come from some people having it and others not; it comes from how we react when others have more than we do in areas that are important to us. That’s the subject of today’s 10-minute podcast.
“Check your privilege!” When I first heard that admonition, I had no idea what it meant. I knew the speaker thought that privilege was bad, and that the other person was supposed to reflect on his supposed privilege, and make some changes. After a bit of research, I found that when someone tells you to “check your privilege,” what they’re really asking you to do is to reflect on the ways that your status might have given you an advantage–even if you didn’t ask for it or earn it–while their status might have given them a disadvantage. For example, a tall white guy might get hit with “Check your privilege” if he cuts in front of a small woman of color in a movie line. That has nothing to do with privilege; the guy was being a jerk. Asking him to check his privilege will do nothing but get a laugh and the middle finger from him. Two guys his size telling him that what he did was “not cool” might actually teach him a useful and lasting lesson.
Let’s all take a trip to the homecoming football game at either our former high school or college alma mater. We are excited to be there. The weather is great and the $2 hot dogs are actually hot and quite tasty. The other team is our archrival, and the hometeam stands are buzzing. Then we remember that we have not won a game against them in the last 12 years. Or is it 14? They have more funding, winning coaches and recruit better players. We don’t stand a chance. How are we going to handle ourselves? Choice time. Before we make that choice, let’s hear another voice, “The best competition I have is against myself to become better.” –John Wooden. Now for our choice. Do we grumble and complain about how unfair it is? Do we yell out the football equivalent of “Check your privilege”? Maybe something like, “Overpaid, overpaid,” or “Unfair game, unfair game?” Or do we settle in for 2 1/2 hours of supporting the young men who have trained hard to get ready for their formidable opponent, and need and deserve our encouragement for the entire game? They are walking onto the field, knowing they are in for a tough 150 minutes. They will be able to hold their heads up if they do their best–despite the physical beating and the score. We will be able to hold our heads up with them if we give them our all in support. And we will all be the better for it.
Remember Coach Wooden’s words, “The best competition I have is against myself to become better.” The winning struggle is never against others, all of whom may be stronger, smarter, richer, better supported, and may have been raised in more successful social circles–privileged, if you will. The game is not played against others who have more of what we may need and want. It is always a struggle against ourselves.
Let’s hear from Coach again: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” “Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” “Teaching players during practices was what coaching was all about to me.”
Note that Wooden, quite correctly, did not mention–directly or indirectly–opponents or any other people. And he clearly did not say that attitude or level of effort would in any be altered in the presence of others, opponents or not, who had more, were more privileged, or had advantages, be they minor or daunting.
Today’s Key Point: there is a privilege, but it has nothing to do with race, gender, money or zip code. It comes from having a strong work ethic, working hard over time, respecting authority, having a lifelong pursuit of learning and taking 100% responsibility for everything that happens to you. If you have that, you are privileged. And you can pass on that privilege along to others.
Segueing from the specifics of today’s topic to overall principles, the core, driving principles at Revolution 2.0, are:
And do it all in love; without love, these are empty gestures, destined to go nowhere and mean nothing.
If we apply those two core principles, personal responsibility and brother’s keepers, simultaneously, never only one or the other, we will always be on the right path. Depending upon what we face, one principle or the other may appropriately be given more emphasis, but they are always acted upon together.
The Founders, Revolution 1.0, were declared traitors by the British Crown, and their lives were forfeit if caught. We risk very little by stepping up and participating in Revolution 2.0™. In fact, we risk our futures if we don’t. I am inviting you, recruiting you, to join Revolution 2.0™ today. Join with me in using what we know how to do–what we know we must do–to everyone’s advantage. Let’s practice thinking well of others as we seek common goals, research the facts that apply to those goals, and use non agenda-based reasoning to achieve those goals together. Practice personal responsibility and be your brother’s keeper.
Let’s continue to build on the revolutionary vision that we inherited. Read the blog, listen to the podcast, subscribe, recruit, act. Here’s what I mean by “acting.”
Revolution 1.0 in 1776 was built by people talking to other people, agreeing and disagreeing, but always finding ways to stay united and go forward. Revolution 2.0 will be built the same way.
Join me. Join the others. Think about what we are talking about and share these thoughts and principles with others. Subscribe, encourage others to subscribe. Act. Let’s grow this together.
And visit the store. Fun stuff, including hats, mugs and t-shirts. Recommend other items that you’d like to see.
Links and References
There Is Privilege, But it Has No Color
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the blog with comments or questions about this podcast or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And you can subscribe to the podcast on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google, or Stitcher.
Now it is time for our usual parting thought. It is not enough to be informed. It is not enough to be a well informed voter. We need to act. And if we, you and I, don’t do something, then the others who are doing something, will continue to run the show.
Know your stuff, then act on it. Knowing your stuff without acting is empty; acting without knowing is dangerous.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.