@kel: you are not a bad person! Privilege is a position, that’s all. Every position has its blind spots. Within privilege the blind spots help privilege sustain and grow itself.
Privilege is the privilege to say “we” and mean oneself. Perhaps this is its defining characteristic?
So privilege not just “a” position, it’s the position (of discourse), including no less the discourse about privilege.
In other words, the “we” is also a (constituting) subject [essentially the protagonist, the subject of history]. Therefore, privilege is constitutively blind to privilege.
This means unfortunately, good-natured attempts to discuss privilege by the privileged are also caught up in the blindness of privilege.
For instance @kel, the hostility and lack of empathy you feel (and the lack of acknowledgement of these feelings) may well be symptomatic of an as-yet-unquestioned blind spot.
This doesn’t mean that the privileged can’t discern some of the workings of privilege.
For instance, every “we” has its others or its "they"s. Used in a sentence: “After the hurricane, ‘they’ were looting, but ‘we’ were looking for food.” This is the essential construct, by which privilege constitutes the “we” and the “they” and hence perpetuates itself.
Privilege is NOT immunity from horrible things. One can argue that the victims of a school shooting are privileged, because “we” see ourselves in these victims. “We” can empathize with the murdered ones. A school shooting is an offense against the historical subject of privilege. Each shooting thus has the potential (as yet unrealized, unfortunately) to change the conversation about gun control. Unfortunately, the vast numbers of innocent children dying from gun violence outside school settings (“1297 each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention”) never gets a mention, as if “they” were somehow less deserving.
Privilege does not mean being a bad person, in fact it means being a good, honest, caring person, but one who carries certain blindnesses that intensify inequality. A bad person in fact undermines privilege; he lays bare the rules of the game.
The blindness toward the “they” is sometimes acknowledged and even resolved (gradually) in the domain of privilege. Usually it’s only resolved for the privileged, in that it makes “us” feel better; it does not lead to the radical collapse of inequalities that are needed to destroy the privilege that divides the “us” from the “they”.
But there’s a worse problem: the “they” at least exists in some way (for the privileged) in the sense that “they” are constituted by privilege. [Lacan has a formalization of this idea with the “big Other”, the “collective symbolic order”] This holds out the possibility the “they” could one day enter into privilege.
However, there exists (and here is where ALL stories really need to be heard, especially @kel…) the vast expanse of the unmentioned, who are neither “we” nor “they”. Because it is the unmentioned who constitute the true (radically immanent) ground for the “we” and the “they”, NOT the constituting subject of privilege for whom privilege has become an issue.
Will it ever be possible to accept (or even listen to) the unmentioned ones, simply as given, without the givenness of a constituting subject?
In some ways – major ones – I am a subject of privilege [in terms of my whiteness, access to education, ability to support myself]
Yet I am also one of the unmentioned.
I feel the latter deeply, personally, finding myself in relation to communities, perhaps spiritual, perhaps related to emerging concepts of identity, that are not even fully formed, that are still working out whether or not they exist, that are still developing a language and a thought proper to their functioning, let alone being registered in the symbolic order of privilege. They appear and disappear, go dormant for several years, reappear in broader contexts, then emerge as themselves again – perhaps then I do as well.
To be unmentioned is not to be victimized as the “they” but to walk the threshold between existence and inexistence.
The unmentioned subject simply cannot be thought; the privileged paper over the void and its abject horrors with the name “heresy”.
Historical victims capable of entering the realm of privilege are assured that they will one day be victors, that they will perpetuate the cycles of violence and oppression upon new victims.
The murdered heretics simply went unmentioned, their thought forgotten, with no impact on the present world.