Day: January 9, 2015

Power and Privilege: The missing element of our Charlie Hebdo debate.

The concept of privilege — whereby one gains certain benefits due to their membership in a sociological group that has a measure of power — is one that has been hard to talk about in recent years. Too often, the concept has been hijacked by those who use it to shut down discussion and tar people that they find disagreement with. Even when it is not being used to that effect, you can peruse sites like Identities.Mic and see the most base and childish discussions of power and privilege imaginable. Take this article by Derrick Clifton, which assumes that no one cares about the bombing of a NAACP office in Colorado because it is not wall-to-wall coverage….on the same day that a shooting kills twelve people at a newspaper office.

Given the aforementioned example of the simplemindedness that accompanies many online discussions of privilege and power, it is somewhat understandable that leftists have avoided a discussion on privilege when it comes to Charlie Hebdo and the shooting that killed 12 of its writing staff. Many of the debates have centered around issues of free speech, the possibly bigoted nature of some of its attempts at satire, and whether satire should be given wide berth to offend in the pursuit of making people think. These topics seem actionable to a degree, and offer a measure of possibility when it comes to political action. Because contemporary discussions of privilege are so badly broken and given to unsightly episodes of social justice performance, it seems that it would be for the better to just ignore the discussion altogether.

But without the consideration of privilege and power, any conversation about this situation will be incomplete.