There’s a lot of variation within white. I happen to be swarthily white, but I’m white nonetheless.
I know that all us whites are privileged, but I’m especially privileged. And yet, though I probably should, I don’t seem to suffer from white fragility. I’m not proud to be white, but I’m not ashamed of it either. I’m not proud to be privileged, but I’m not ashamed of that either. I’m told this is because – and I’m sure it’s true – people who are privileged don’t reflect on their privilege. If I did reflect on it – and seeing what non-privileged people have to deal with – I’m guessing I’d just be relieved that I’m not one of them. I’m not sure exactly what white fragility amounts to, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that feeling of relief.
Being relieved that I’m privileged doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to those who are not. But neither does it mean I’m naive. I too play my J-card shamelessly whenever it’s to my advantage. In fact Christian guilt was precisely how I snagged my penultimate wife.
But the resurgence of grievance culture that I seem to be mocking is, as just noted, a re-surgence. It’s the resurgence of the grievances we did not mock back in the Sixties. Rightly so then, and rightly so today. The murder of George Floyd was not a one-off. The rejection of trans women by their cis-gendered brothers and their feminist sisters leaves them nowhere to shower in safety. And so on. I get that. Or at least as much of it as I can get, given that the police have never treated me other than with respect, and I don’t have to think twice before using a shower room.
My complaint, then, is not with grievance culture itself, but with grievance activists, too many of whom have the rhetorical sophistication of a five year old. My wife, with whom I am well pleased, is my researcher, and she’s been collecting the EDI (equity, diversity, and inclusion) policy documents from hundreds of universities and colleges from all across North America, a like number of demand letters from their aggrieved students, and a like number of obsequious responses from invertebrate administrators.
This insanity will play itself out, as it did in Spain under the Inquisition, in Nazi Germany, in the Soviet Union, in China … Ultimately education is subject to the same forces that play out in any other market. But it’s the damage that’s being inflicted while they do.
Those of us who are pushing back to conserve what we can while this Inquisition rages in our hallways and in our classrooms are dubbed right-wing, reactionaries, enemies of the people, to be either removed or, failing that, marginalised. Some of us are more protected than others. That’s part of our privilege. But privilege has its burdens. Call it, if you will, our noblesse oblige. I think our privilege incurs a duty to use that privilege to resist, even if, as is inevitable, that resistance will be interpreted as to the dismantling of our privilege. We have broad enough shoulders to take it because, well, we’re privileged.