Privilege isn't a sin, but it's a responsibility and a debt to be repaid

I mentioned I might write up this blogpost. Recently I was on a mailing list thread and someone actually said they didn't like being accused of the "original sin" of white male privilege. So I took the time to write it.

Thanks @mlemweb for allowing me to use her story in it.

@cwebber @mlemweb So many people complain about how they are being forced by the various equality movements to spend their skills, abilities, power on other people's lives, and they don't see a cent of it in return.

Hardly anyone writes how fun and fulfilling it is to use these same things to help other people who didn't have such a generous start in life, and how their gratitude, experiences, tales tend to even out the costs and make me healthier as a person and richer with experience.


@cwebber @mlemweb Do we really have so many people who are too blind to see the riches that others bring into one's life? I don't fully understand that yet.

@phoe @cwebber @mlemweb Years ago I helped someone at a small company get more involved in system administration at the company

A couple years back I ran into her again at a conference. She had become a developer on a major Free Software project that I use *and* she's a grandma

Needless to say, she has far exceeded me :)

What did I get out of it? A friend, so absolutely worth the effort

@cwebber I am not sure about the race allegory, it implies competition, a winner at the end and rules that can always be bended by the rulers (potical and/or economic powers). Equal chances is a myth, trying to correct them to win a race is keeping the competitiveness of life. Previledges must be understood and aknowledged by themselves not in order to compete fairly, just because its a debt, as you rightfully explained.

@jums It's imperfect for sure, but I'm trying to break down one of the more popular myths, the "prosperity myth", which does use this metaphor, by examining it on its own terms.

@cwebber its very telling that so far there hasn't been a single positive reply to your post on the list.

@cwebber I read all the replies so far and they make me want to scream.

@dthompson yeah... I just read through them. Quite sad.

Apparently saying that all women face sexism is "ridiculous". I guess maybe if you still believe that today you aren't likely to be convinced of anything (and likely aren't listening to any women)

@cwebber @dthompson

i actually don't care if you have more privilige than me i'm going to crush you anyway. don't help me i can handle this on me own.

@cwebber the most disappointing thing is that it is being deemed outside the scope of GNU and just a matter of simple disagreement, rather than a prerequisite for any healthy community.

@dthompson @cwebber i don't have anything useful to add except that it's heartening to see some of the people i respect most in free software taking the side of empathy and discussing the problem in public. thank you both.

> If we really want to treat everyone based on merit, we'd have to give everyone an equal place at the starting line, an equal track, etc.

Uh, I thought treating someone based on their merit is defined as picking the person that is most up to the task, not the person who spent most effort. If someone who was born with ability to teleport used it to win the race, I'd pick them for the job, no matter how little effort they spent.


What the second part of your blog post describes would be IMO more like some people in the race leaving things on the track for others to trip on.
And that's cheating and evil, and there should be rules to punish such behaviors.


@Wolf480pl So you don't care how much effort a person put in, whether or not they got socially advantaged help to be in that position... yet at the same time, you consider it to be "cheating" to fix up the track and help those who are socially disadvantaged?

@cwebber uh, no, that's not what I meant.
I meant the junior developer saying
"I assume your husband must have written this code" was cheating, i.e. throwing stuff at the track so that your your wife trips on it. This was unfair and bad.

Intentionally hurting other people who take part in the race is unfair and bad.

Fixing up the track to help the disadvantaged catch up is good.

But in the end, what matters is how fast you are.

@Wolf480pl Ok, I appreciate you clarifying. I don't think we fully agree but I'm glad to see I misread and to understand that you didn't mean that cleaning up the track was cheating, and that cheating was throwing things in the way.

@cwebber in sociology and anthropology there was/is a French streaming with the concept of a universal debt. The idea is that you come into the world owing it.
I don't like it, but I thought it might be of interest for you.

@cwebber Thank you for taking the moment to reflect and write this piece.

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