Proles and Royalty

I’ve been composing an essay in my mind about why the vocabulary of ‘white privelege’ should be abandoned in communnication aimed at increasing equality between races, as well as haves and have nots.

An important point, I think, is that the things listed in articles like this one, aren’t priveleges. It’s as though I started withholding water from one of my children and told the others they should be grateful for the priveledges they have. It’s crap.

It reminds me a lot of an impression¹ I have of how equality is viewed differently in the U.S. and in Germany. Both are systems in which inequality used to be the norm, and is now. . . well, the norm, but we get that it shouldn’t be.

Coming to Germany, I was surprised to hear the language that came out of a lot of otherwise educated, cultured people’s mouths. The German translations of words that I’d never use in the office in U.S. are used all the time here. The idea that I’d filter my language seems to a lot of people as though I were trying to elevate myself above my station, like I was trying to create a difference where none existed.

In the U.S., however, the impression I got — and this was from parents and teachers — was that my ‘equality’ was an obligation to be the best I could be. The idea (call it white privelege) that nothing was holdiing me down, and, as such, if I wound up with a gutter-mouth, it was my own fault.

In short, my perception is that ‘equality’ for my circle of Americans means that we can all be royalty now, the circumstances of your birth shouldn’t matter. In Germany, ‘equality’ seems to mean that we’re all proletarians, and an attempt to be anything more is old-fashioned and elitist.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. I don’t know what to do with it, but whenever I hear the words ‘white privelege,’ I feel the same thing: this sense that, if the system is unfair, it’s as necessary to cut those who are being treated properly off at the knees as it is to extend a hand to those who are being improperly. And I reject that idea. It’s not what equality means to me.

¹ I totally get that I move in very different circles in Germany and the U.S. This can be a differencce between conservative middle-class and urban, athiest working-class. But it’s not how I feel it.


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