Check your Privilege, Become an Ally


Photo credit: Mickey Z.

Mickey Z. — World News Trust

Feb. 27, 2015

One of the great lies of so-called libertarianism is the concept of a level playing field.

You know, the bullshit about if we all work equally as hard, we each have the same chance for “success.” This malicious mythology allows the free (sic) market crowd to convince themselves they’ve earned their place while others have lazily squandered their birthright.

Sadly, the level playing field myth remains alive and well. It rears its ugly head, for example, every time a person claims to be “colorblind,” every time a victim of privilege is accused of “overreacting,” and every time someone howls about “reverse racism” in a “post-racial” world. 

It thrives each time a white or white-passing activist declares: “I don’t see skin color, ability, or gender, I just see the individual. For me, we are all one.”

As an able-bodied middle-class white cis-male activist striving to become a better ally, here’s a sample of how I choose to mansplain, I mean, reply to such drivel:

  • As long as women across the globe fear the sound of footsteps behind them on a dark street, we are not all one.
  • As long as I can peruse media outlets and see people of my gender and race widely over-represented, we are not all one.
  • As long as I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a "credit to my race," we are not all one.
  • As long as a woman is battered (usually by her intimate partner) every 15 seconds; 75 percent of all rapes are committed by a man that the victim knows; and in 95 percent of reported domestic assaults, the female is the victim and the male is the perpetrator, we are not all one.
  • As long as there’s not a 1 in 8 chance of me beingmurdered but that ratio holds for trans women of color, we are not all one.
  • As long as I can plan a commute to any protest without considering if a particular subway station is accessible, we are not all one.
  • As long I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color without any penalty for such oblivion, we are not all one.
  • As long as a woman is raped every 46 seconds in the United States (78 rapes per hour), and every day, four women are killed by their abusive partners, we are not all one.


I could go on — and on — but please consider this: As long as I can confidently claim that I do not enjoy white male privilege and have most of my white friends enthusiastically agree and promptly start talking about (wait for it) “reverse racism/sexism” or “men’s rights,” we are definitely not all one.

Unless we learn to recognize, accept, and celebrate our differences without assigning privilege to them, we’ll never cultivate the kind of solidarity, intersectionality, and coalitions required to challenge the dominant culture while also creating the communities we’ll need to navigate the coming collapse.

In a society built upon a foundation of hierarchy, declaring “we’re all one” — regardless of our intentions — is yet another example of privilege run amok. If we wish to profoundly connect with our fellow humans, we must become allies… not “one.”

Instead of defensively debating whether or not all men are misogynists or all white people benefit from racism, let’s instead focus on the reality that all privileged humans can play an important role in the struggle for justice by: 

  • recognizing and exposing all forms of oppression
  • checking our privilege, 24/7 (see below)
  • calling out others on their behavior, 24/7
  • not blaming the victims of privilege and/or downplaying their experiences 
  • learning how to listen
  • recognizing and celebrating differences without assigning privilege to them


Male Privilege, “Not All Men,” and the Scourge of MRA’s

Before you (yes, I’m looking at you, my fellow white cis-male activists) attempt to prove that male privilege doesn’t exist on the scale I describe, I urge you to consider the 46 examples listed HERE but for now, ponder these:

  • If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.
  • If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question. If I have children and provide primary care for them, I’ll be praised for extraordinary parenting if I’m even marginally competent. If I have children and a career, no one will think I’m selfish for not staying at home.
  • Every major religion in the world is led primarily by people of my own sex. Even God, in most major religions, is pictured as male. Most major religions argue that I should be the head of my household, while my wife and children should be subservient to me.
  • Complete strangers generally do not walk up to me on the street and tell me to “smile.” I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my sexual availability. Sexual harassment on the street virtually never happens to me. I do not need to plot my movements through public space in order to avoid being sexually harassed, or to mitigate sexual harassment.

(Again, please click the link for many more examples.)


Shift Happens…
I’d like to share one of the most crucial lessons I’ve ever learned as an activist: The most fundamental male privilege is choosing to remain unaware of male privilege.

Wake up and join the struggle.

It takes no extra time to choose solidarity instead of privilege. The payoff for this transition is not only a richer, more compassionate life for yourself but also, a deeper commitment to collective liberation. #shifthappens

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recentlyOccupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

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Check your Privilege, Become an Ally by Mickey Z. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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