Column: A problem with privilege


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

What’s the problem with privilege? It’s so hard to spell. Spelling the word privilege is my kryptonite; like Superman, it weakens me and prevents me from saving the world. Every time I go to type it, I get the red, squiggly, judgmental, lightning-underline treatment from my word processing software. Then I simply correct my spelling error (and quickly forget how to spell it again).

Privilege in life is a lot like that. Even if those of us in positions of privilege stop and consider the fortunate hand life dealt us, we can easily forget and slip back into feelings of entitlement. I’m no exception. I’m a white, middle class, American man. In general, I’ve got a really good thing going for me (and I didn’t do anything to achieve this). I was basically born a prince. It’s easy for me to get a job. I don’t get unfairly pulled over on the road or scrutinized extra in the airport security line. I’m not at all worried when I walk to my car alone in a parking lot at night.

It’s not like privilege should be hard to spell. First of all, there’s no “d,” just a “g” hanging out on its own. However, my biggest problem is with the vowel order. But when you think about it, privilege is all about something that benefits yourself, whether fairly or unfairly. So, it’s no wonder the first two vowels are “i” and then “i” again. The third vowel is “e” (like in the word “me”). So, when you spell privilege, think “I, I, me.” It’s pretty much a Toby Keith song.

I think it’s important to realize and recognize that the U.S. was built on white male privilege. It just was. We committed atrocities against Native Americans and Africans while trumpeting ideals of liberty, freedom and equality. We kept women from voting until the early 20th century. The slow progress we see in our culture is not an attack against white guys like me – it’s just a slow even-ing out of privileges, which is only fair. When you’re at the top, you can’t go any higher. And, by others approaching equality, it doesn’t remotely make white men victims of persecution.

I don’t feel guilty for being a white guy in America, nor do I feel “under attack” for any reason. My biggest attack right now comes from spell checkwhich, justifiably soyells at me for my bad spelling.