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36: Liberal Bullying

A Thousand Things to Talk About
36: Liberal Bullying
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Today, we’re talking about liberal bullying.

Specifically, is it being a bully to ask someone to check their privilege?

Show notes and links:
Offbeat Empire: Liberal Bullying
Mises Institute: The Intellectual Intolerance Behind “Check Your Privilege”
Cracked: 3 ways ‘Checking Your Privilege’ Never Fixed Anything
Google Trends: Check Your Privilege


Full episode text

Today, we’re talking about liberal bullying.

Specifically, Is it being a bully to ask someone to check their privilege?

In 1998, an article entitled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” introduced to the wide world the idea of checking your privilege — or, better put, understanding the advantages or parts of society that you may benefit from without even necessarily realizing it. This article wasn’t the first time that this idea of “checking privilege” — sometimes literally, by filling out a checklist — had been introduced, but it was one of the more popular introductions.

These checklists — and this framework with which to attempt to more deeply understand how and where your experience may not intersect with the experience of others — have proved an incredibly useful tool in developing a deeper understanding of others, and in explaining why context may not be as widely shared as it sometimes feels like it should be.

Yet at the same time, there has been an explosion of the use of the phrase “check your privilege” in ways that some have pointed out feels much more like bullying and the bullying it was intended to protect against. In an extensive blog post about her experiences in moderating a community of mostly liberal-progressive individuals, publisher Ariel Meadow-Stallings puts it this way:

I love the social justice motivations, and the encouragement that we all be self-aware of how the language we use has powerful, sometime unexpected impacts on the people around us.

BUT. But. Seriously, I’m just not down with:

The derailing of conversations to debate semantics

The need to process it all publicly

The righteousness

The intolerance and inability to respect that those who share your values might not share your opinions(…)

This is where this kind of conversation begins to feel more like liberal bullying, where the only correct response is agreeing and acquiescing. Any other response is seen as ignorant at best, hateful at worst.

However, even Ariel points out in a follow-up that, “I remain deeply conflicted about call-out culture, and I totally see the validity in many of the concerns that have been raised about this (idea).”