Have you heard about the latest in educational pedagogy: Identify Your Privilege Bingo.
Who needs math, or English, or History in preparing young men and women for the challenges facing us as individuals and as a country?
No, what we need is another exercise of identity politics to drive home the point of just how unfair – sorry, didn’t use the proper “buzz” word here – how inequitable life is in this most unjust of countries that rewards the privileged while oppressing mercilessly those without privilege.
But what makes for privilege? That’s the really interesting question, and one that will identify the motives of those who use this kind of garbage to push their political agenda.
On the Bingo card there are 25 boxes possibly to be checked. With the middle box being “Free,” and thus there are 24 categories of privilege to be identified in this “educational” exercise.
One of the boxes is “male,” so right off the bat half the population escapes the privileged mark of Cain. But why do women get a pass? I know many women who have led extraordinarily privileged lives compared to some working-class males with whom I grew up.
But in the educational view of these social justice charlatans, maleness is always, and without exception, a sign of oppressive tendencies.
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Just as an experiment I decided to play a little Identify Your Privilege Bingo, remembering who I was when I was in public school. Here are the results.
Native English Speaker: Yep, I am one of those. Of course, I went to college in an Appalachian community where those living there might have been using English, but it was sometimes difficult to be sure. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Shakespeare done via Appalachian speak: But, sowft, wut liite thru yonder winder brakes? And since when have so-called hillbillies been considered a step up on the privilege ladder?
Comfortable Walking Outside Alone: I did. As a kid I would often walk the streets late into the nights and early mornings. I would walk without direction, just thinking my solitary night thoughts of loneliness. I often described myself as the only 12-year-old existentialist stalking the midnight streets of Kensington, MD. Privileged? I didn’t think so. But according to Bingo….
Heterosexual: Yep, count me in. But does that make me privileged? According to the Bingo Baristas serving up value judgments on the lives of others I am. But what kind of privilege is it to be judged bad because of who I am and have been since birth?
College is the Expectation: No privilege for me here. Growing up in a very blue-collar, wrong-side-of-the-tracks neighborhood, none in my family had ever gone to college and there certainly was no expectation that I would. My oldest brother never got past 8th grade.
Have Your Own Bedroom: Not sure if I qualify here. I had a bedroom with my two older brothers until they finally moved out, and thus it was only in high school that I had a bedroom to myself. Does that count as privilege? I’d say not. Though I did appreciate it on those nights when Astrid up the road came to visit.
Both Parents Went to College: Not even close. No privilege for me here.
White: Okay, in addition to the “male” category, this seems to be the big “catch-all.” Yes, I am white, as are 61.27 per cent of other Americans. Out of that huge swath of people it is painting with too broad a brush to say they all are privileged to the detriment of others. And with Affirmative Action, who is privileged now? As an academic, I became used to seeing what in effect were “No whites need apply” ads for new faculty.
Christian: If I am playing the game as my public school student self, then no, I am not a Christian and therefore have no privilege from that. Later, as an adult, I became a Christian after a Kierkegaardian conversion experience. But as far as gaining privilege because I grew up as a Christian? Nope. Didn’t happen.
Never Been Racially Profiled: This one is almost silly. Yes, I have been racially profiled. Today, given the times in which we live, one cannot help but be racially profiled. The whole point of this ridiculous Identify Your Privilege Bingo game is to racially profile me as a bad person who, because of my privilege, brings pain and suffering to others. Then there’s this, playing pick-up basketball games someone would always want to guard me, the short, pudgy white kid. But I played basketball for my college. I had my way with them.
Involved in Extracurricular Activities: Yes, I played sports during my public school career, sang in the choir, and participated in school dramatic and musical productions. But so did nearly all of us participate in one activity or another. Again, painting with too broad a brush to create privileged oppressors.
Never Worried About Food: This is a tough one for me. No, I never worried about food. Truth be told, I didn’t know how limiting my food choices were. Being the youngest of three sons of a working single mom, she would put together either hamburgers or hot dogs when she got home, along with French fries and lots and lots of beans. I never went hungry, but looking back our cuisine options can hardly be considered a sign of privilege.
Parents are Married: This one, too, leaves me a little perplexed. The assumption seems to be that one has two parents while growing up. Fact is, my dad died when I was four years old. My first living memory is of him dying. Circumstances determined that we be raised by a single working mom. So yes, my parents were married. But privileged? I don’t think so.
Feel Represented in Media: This is another ambiguous one. I guess what they are going for is that if you’re a white guy, you are seeing white guys on TV shows. So yeah, in that sense I am privileged. But as far as representing the kinds of experiences and problems I have had and the terrible loneliness of not having a father? I’m sorry, Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet simply didn’t cut it.
Cisgender: Another catch-all. But get this, of all the “oppressed” who allegedly suffer at the hands of the privileged I dare say the vast, overwhelming majority of them are also cisgender. So where’s the privilege? This one is part and parcel of the “heterosexual” category.
Drive/Get Driven to School: Nope, had to walk to school my entire life. We were poor in the relatively rich Montgomery County, MD. We didn’t have a car. If we wanted to go food shopping we had to walk the two miles to the store and two miles back. No privilege for me here.
Born in Country of Residence: In a 2019 Migration Policy Institute study, it is reported that 86.3 percent of the U.S. population were born in the United States. So, again, this category paints with too broad a brush in seeking to label people with the pejorative of being privileged. And just like the “cisgender” and “heterosexual” categories, the vast majority of those deemed “oppressed” by the woke are themselves born in the country of their residence. So whence “privilege”?
Feel Safe Around Police Officers: This one in particular is tied to the times. The assumption, of course, is that minorities do not feel comfortable around cops. But when you dig, it is white liberals who spread this message and demand a defunding of the police, while minority communities in urban settings say no, please bring more police into our neighborhoods. But yes, I feel comfortable around police officers. There was a time when I wanted to be one. So count me privileged.
Able-Bodied: When I was younger, yes, I was an able-bodied youth. Today, of course, I have a prosthetic leg, a big scar on my chest from open-heart surgery, some false teeth, hearing loss, and my dick just hangs there. But my mind is still quick and sound. Am I privileged? You decide. But, if we are playing this game as I was in public school, then yes, I guess I was privileged.
Never Lost a Loved One: Absolutely not. As mentioned before, I lost my dad to a heart attack back in 1952. He’d had rheumatic fever, which led to the family moving to Dallas, TX, so he could have the benefit of a warm, dry climate. There were no open-heart surgeries or transplants in those days. He lived less than a year in Dallas. No privilege for me. Also, I had two high school buddies who died in Vietnam.
Employed: Yep, been employed since I was 16 delivering the Washington Post to morning porches before school and then working as a busboy after school at a restaurant. When I wasn’t in school, I worked. Now, I am a retired college professor of Philosophy and Religion. Do I just sit around in retirement? Nope. I work part-time Security at a local casino because I enjoy talking to folks and they pay me besides. Is having to work as a youth to be Privileged?
No speech Impediment: This one, too, paints with too broad a brush. Most everyone is privileged by this criterion. So, what’s the point. It’s tragic when one has a physical limitation like a speech impediment, but justice does not demand we ignore its implications in the real world. For a demonstration, just note the “other” defense lawyer in My Cousin Vinny.
Mentally Healthy: This seems another ambiguous one to me. One person’s mentally healthy is another’s completely bonkers. But my physician wife tells me it simply refers to not being crippled by depression or other mental malady. So in that sense, I guess I am privileged. Though seeing how the Kansas City/Buffalo game ended with its overtime rules has sent me into a near deep depression.
Military Kid: Nope. No privilege for me here. Though I have to wonder, just what is it about being a military brat that makes for a privileged upbringing? All I can think of is that those who approvingly use this Bingo game simply don’t like the military and are willing to slander them with this little exercise of judgmentalism.
Male: There it is, along with being white, that which makes the world, and more particularly America, such a terrible place to be if you are among the oppressed, which is an ever-growing crowd of the victimized. At least, that is the simple-minded vision of the educators who think this “game” is a good exercise to stimulate growth and understanding in our youth.
So how did I do? Out of the 24 possible indicators of privilege, according to our educational superiors, I checked the box on 14 of them. Does that make me privileged?
It reminds me of what in Philosophical Logic is known as the “Argument of the Beard,” which asks: How many hairs does it take to make a beard. If someone answers 500, the next question becomes: But how about 499? That’s only one hair’s difference. Why can’t that be a beard? If you allow it, then why not 498, and on and on.
So how many boxes need to be checked to lead a fully privileged life? This will lead to what is known as a “philosophical dispute,” where an abstract notion, like, for example, being a Communist, can be identified by a number of beliefs and actions.
If one then asks if Robert Oppenheimer was a Communist, one can look at his beliefs and his actions and measure them against the abstract model of a Communist. If he embodied some, but not all, how many must there be to, in fact, call him a Communist? And therein the dispute.
Same here. The Woke crowd has an abstract notion of what it is to be privileged, and thus a bane to those who lack privilege and who suffer oppression at the hands of the privileged. This Bingo game names some beliefs and actions that, to their mind, make for privilege. So how many must be checked to claim someone is beyond the pale of social justice acceptance.
Clearly, the makers of this game want – desperately want – those playing this little game to see themselves as unfairly privileged. It must warm the cockles of their hearts to point their sanctimonious fingers at all those who “fail” this little game of identity politics. They are worse than Brylcreem on a snail.
Well, regardless of how many boxes I checked, I am here to say that life is more nuanced and complicated than is allowed in this little game.
In fact, life has placed some significant hurdles in my path growing up and ultimately becoming what I’d like to think of as a responsible and sensitive adult spouse, parent, and worker. I have never seen myself as particularly privileged.
I do see myself as having worked hard, living a life of delayed gratification, being as honest as I am able, honoring the lives and work of others, and being a good citizen in my community. What the Woke crowd identifies as privilege I see as blessings. Have I been blessed? You betcha. But many of those blessings have come through discipline and hard labor. And I make no apologies for that.
And it is criminal that these social justice ideologues who pass as educators are using this Identify Your Privilege Bingo game to undermine the mental state and ethics of a school-age generation greatly in need of the sorts of skills that math, English and history lessons from a good, solid education can provide.
Damn those who would rob children in this way.
By Ron Nutter
Ron Nutter is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative, and retired college professor of Philosophy and Religion living in a cabin on a mountain in Western North Carolina with his retired physician wife, and he still reads voraciously.
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