Is Privilege the Same as Original Sin and, If So, Whose Blood Do I Have to Drink to Be Rid of It?
I used to be a Christian. I mean, a serious one. But I walked away from that set of beliefs and one of the reasons was the concept of Original Sin.
The idea is simple: we are all born into sin. Our very existence is steeped in sin and the only way out of it is belief and faith in the Christian god. We don't get a choice in the matter - the second we enter the world as a human being, we each are indelibly flawed with this unredeemable sin. Unable to live a solid life of good deeds or pushed to evolve with a need to improve ourselves to wash away this original sin, we are all held accountable for the acts of the first man and first woman and our only road out of Hell is to fall prostate upon the belief that we suck and can only be redeemed by Jesus.
It's kind of a shitty bargain.
And, if the activists and intellectuals of today are to be believed, it is very similar to the idea of white privilege. Those of us of the lighter hue are born into it. Our very existence is steeped in privilege - no choice in the matter. I am white-skinned and no matter how ardently I try to live a life that promotes justice and equality, I will always be held accountable for the acts of violence and forced servitude that white men 400 years ago started for economic gain. Unlike original sin, there isn't any way to atone for this. There is no Righteous God to worship to wipe away the privilege. There is only the constant recognition publicly that it exists. Sure, there will very likely be a time in human history future-tense when whites will be in the minority and privilege will begin to shift but certainly not in my lifetime so I'm stuck with a constant reminder of shame and guilt that I refuse to embrace (much like the Original Sin I reject).
Oh yeah. Also, I'm a dude. Which means, once again, in the world of a societal shift to a more (and often-times heavy-handed) Feminist Perspective, I am branded by birth indelibly flawed with no recourse but to bow down and apologize ceaselessly.
What? Is Literate Ape pulling the MRA-feel sorry for me cuz I'm a put upon MAN schtick?
Nope. Just interrogating the notion that by systematically shaming someone for a part of them that is wholly beyond his control, we can foment genuine change in the societal paradigms.
For the same reason that branding brown-skinned men and women as somehow less than or worse than because of the melanin in their cells or marginalizing women because they don't have a hanging chad (or even castigating people for finding lust for those of the same sex), I'm not completely sold on the idea that doing this same thing to white males is going to be terribly effective.
“But what, then, is original sin? According to the Apostle it is not only the lack of a good quality in the will, nor merely the loss of man’s righteousness and ability. It is rather the loss of all his powers of body and soul, of his whole outward and inward perfections. In addition to this, it is his inclination to all that is evil, his aversion against that which is good, his antipathy against light and wisdom, his love for error and darkness, his flight from and his loathing of good works, and his seeking after that which is sinful. Thus we read in Psalm 14:3: “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one”; and in Genesis 8:21: “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Actual sins essentially consist in this that they come from out of us, as the Lord says in Matthew 15:19: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” But original enters into us; we do not commit it, but we suffer it. We are sinners because we are the sons of a sinner. A sinner can beget only a sinner, who is like him.”
― Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans
"We are sinners because we are sons of a sinner."
"We are racist because we are sons of a racist."
"We are sexist because we are sons of a sexist."
A more common sense approach would be
"I am a sinner because I sin."
"I am a racist because I despise those of other races than mine and use this to my specific advantage."
"I am a sexist because I practice sexism."
As the past few decades have trudged by I've noticed that the Progressive Left has slowly taken to utilizing the methods of the Far Right - shame, manipulation, guilt, and a confrontational sanctimony that rivals that of the Puritans of Old - and I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea that we (I include myself in the Liberal camp) have resorted to hectoring and lecturing as our primary means of change. My discomfort not really being a problem for many, I'm content to deal with it on my own - discomfort being a sign of growing pains, you know.
I'm likewise not sure it's as easy as "I didn't own slaves so I'm not accepting the responsibility." As a white guy in America, my entire lineage has benefited from the enslavement of darker men and women. As a guy in America, whose only justifiable fear is being made fun of or rejected rather than raped or murdered, I can't simply write off the Patriarchal Boot on the Necks of Women as if I have no connection to it.
Ultimately, the question begged is this: Is Privilege the Same as Original Sin and, If So, Whose Blood Do I Have to Drink to Be Rid of It?
Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?