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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The privilege paradox

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I suppose formality decrees that I start off by stating that I am a well-off, cisgender, heterosexual, white male, towards whom an ounce of stigma has never been directed. If that casts a strike against the worthiness of my voice to be expressed and my words printed, then so be it. I understand the desire to amplify the concerns of the marginalized amidst the heavy dose of privileged power and opinion traditionally offered. However, the increasing desire for a one sided discussion in which those previously stigmatized speak, while everyone else listens, has led me to question the end goal of these means.

Obviously in the United States, and around the globe for that matter, the tipping point at which hearing only from marginalized voices ceases to do more good than harm has not been reached. I do not think that we at Carleton have made it there either. Yet, the conversation surrounding white fragility brings up a larger point that needs to be reconciled as these movements gain strength on our campus and beyond.

As a privileged ally in all causes against current systemic inequality, it has become impossible to principally agree with these movements while maintaining any degree of love and care for myself. If privilege is a source of evil in the world, then any action in which I take advantage of that privilege becomes immoral. Therefore, my morality now dictates that if I speak in class, lead a club, or get a job, then I am seizing on an opportunity unfairly bestowed. Eventually, the rabbit hole of this logic becomes inescapable. Do I belong at Carleton? Can I continue to pursue the hobbies I love? Do I deserve a house, the clothes on my back, or food to eat?

When we talk about white fragility at Carleton, we talk about the discomfort produced in those who have to come face-to-face with their own privilege. What we fail to account for is that our premise has created a paradox which makes ignorance the only course of action. If privilege is a collective and largely unconscious framework of inequality, then an individual is left with the choice of admitting that their very being is immoral, or taking the only drastic alternative to make the world a more just place. I do not accept that this movement can tell others to wait their turn to speak while leaving those silenced only with the dilemma of choosing between evil and death.

I have stewed over these thoughts for many months, and am still painfully short on sufficient answers. However, I hope that, at the very least, my voice deserved to be heard at this moment, and that we can take more time to listen to each other rather than bicker over who has the right to speak.

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