Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Christian* Privilege Checklist

So. Time to discuss an uncomfortable subject. Hopefully, this will kick up enough controversy to get my blog some more hits.

The following material is flagged Yellow Level. It contains material that is disputed by some experts but accepted by others. Caution is advised when deciding whether you personally choose to believe it.
The following post contains material of a potentially life-changing nature. Understanding what follows will make you a better person (mind, this is true understanding; just skimming it so that you can drop things in casual conversation and sound enlightened will not magically make you a better person). However, this is because it will constantly lurk in the back of your mind. Once read, it cannot be unread. So, red-pill-blue-pill time. Click this link and you will spend hours clicking on links until you forget I ever wrote this. Read on and you will understand your life and the people around you on a completely new level.

Seriously. This is the only warning you get. If you don't turn back now, you will not be able to turn back later. And once you understand, you will have to choose what you do with the information. You can use it to understand why certain things are the way they are. You can use it to try to change things from the way they are. You can, if you are a complete bastard, use it to keep things the way they are. But you will have to decide. Once you wake up, you cannot return to sleep.

Got it? This is information that can color the way you interact with everyone from now on. It is patterns that you will see in your day-to-day life. It is something that will always whisper in your ear, "This is a pattern that appears everywhere". It will, however, almost certainly not drive you mad. It might drive you sane. But it will always be with you, and you will always be able to see it no matter what you decide to do about it. And you must do something.

Given that you've read this far, I can assume that you've read my warning and decided you're fine with having your eyes opened. (If you're not, here's the link again.) Either that, or you skipped over my warning and deserve what's coming to you.

In either case, here goes. Last chance.

We (at least where I am; I can't speak for anyone else) like to think think that our society offers everyone a fair shake. That if you succeed, it's because you deserve it; if you fail, you also deserve it. That racism, sexism, and so forth are artifacts of the past, and that our enlightened society has moved on past them.

If only that were the case. See, the biases that made the Civil Rights Movement a necessity are still around, just in less overt and more insidious form. It's no longer okay in most circles to shout "N*****!" if you're white (see, my blog's autocensor caught it), but it is acceptable for politicians to make the entire point of their speeches about how "lazy" [code for "poor", and usually also "minority"] "welfare queens" [code for "single mothers"] need to "show some ambition" [code for "demonstrate upward mobility despite circumstances that make that... rather difficult... and will make it even more difficult if the politician in question gets their way"] and "find a man" [code for "become economically dependent on a man"]. It's no longer acceptable to say "b****es [self-censoring that time; the autocensor didn't catch it] need to get hitched and back in the kitchen", but it is acceptable to say that "career women" [a snarl word in some circles] "can't raise children properly without a man in the house" [code for "need to get married now, whether they like it or not", with an added implication of "and if they don't have kids, they need to get popping them out now"] and that "it is a scientifically documented fact" [actually, it isn't, at least not any more that it is that black people are less intelligent than white people; that is, the studies suggesting it have been pretty thoroughly debunked] that "women raise children better than men" [backhanded way of saying "if a woman is working and financially independent instead of cooking and cleaning, she's a bad mother"]. It is... not quite as unacceptable, but still up there... to say "d*** [autocensored] f******s [self-censored] need to be hung, every last one of those perverts up by the neck", but acceptable to lambast a "small, vocal minority" [as if that mattered, given that the entire point of a republic instead of a democracy is to protect against tyranny of the majority] for "demanding special rights" [that being, the right to marry, and the right to have it actually investigated if they get beaten to death], and to work references to pedophilia in somehow, as though anyone gay were a card-carrying member of NAMBLA (look it up. Actually, don't. Or at least just go with the South Park episode on it. And if you're at work or have kids around or you work at a daycare of something like that, have the Boss Key ready. If you don't know how to use the Boss Key or your workplace monitors internet use, wait until you're at home and the kid's asleep.)

And rhetoric influences reality. Racist rhetoric leads to racism, in the form of services to minority areas being cut before services to white areas. Sexist rhetoric leads to sexism, in the form of congressional committees dedicated to discussing women's health with a conspicuous absence of women.. And homophobic rhetoric leads to homophobia, in the form of "You perverts are going to hell! You ought to just send yourself there!" bullying. (These are not the only examples. Please don't yell at me in the comments about how I overlooked something. I haven't got enough space for a comprehensive list, and as examples, these suffice.)

In order to draw awareness to this, the idea of the Privilege Checklist was born. These are things that the group society holds to be "superior" don't have to think about (and usually don't), but that prop it up over the "inferior" group. This is an introductory (not comprehensive!) list of things that result from society's ingrained attitudes.

And here's my attempt. In American society, Christianity is the dominant religion*. The default person, the person that an American knows nothing about, is assumed to be white [not a minority], native-born [not an immigrant], male [not female or intersex], heterosexual [not gay, bisexual, or asexual], cisgender [not transgender or genderqueer], able-bodied [not physically disabled], neurotypical [not autistic, schizophrenic, or having any similar condition], adult [not a child or teenager]... and Christian. This naturally leads to certain attitudes in American society, both toward Christians, and toward anyone else.

And so, I present: The Christian* Privilege Checklist.
  1. I can reliably find organizations dedicated to my faith. If I have reason to go to a place where clubs, social organizations, and the like gather, I can usually assume that at least one will be dedicated to my religion.
  2. Advertising the tenets of my religion or groups associated with it is generally not considered a subject of controversy.
  3. I can mention my faith in public without being called into question. If I wear clothing or jewelery that makes my religion obvious, I can typically assume that it will not be noticed or will be considered worthy of admiration.
  4. My religion is treated as the default position. I only rarely need defend to others why I have chosen it, and may demand that they explain their own decisions.
  5. As my religion is the default position, it is never assumed that I have only chosen it because of hatred of some person or religious figure or some personal trauma.
  6. I am generally considered to be a good person. If I mention my religion to a stranger, I do not need to explain why I refrain from violent behavior, and I will not be asked.
  7. The transgressions of extremists who share my faith do not reflect on me. If a Christian* bombs a public building or kills abortion doctors in the name of God, I do not need to worry about others assuming that I will do the same.
  8. Elected officials are aware that I and people like me compose a majority. I can reliably expect that, while seeking office, any candidate will pander to me and people like me.
  9. Most members of the government at least nominally share my faith. I can reliably expect that laws will be passed based on the principles of my religion.
  10. No member of the government would dare to make a speech denying that I am a citizen.
  11. Authority figures within my religion are likely to wield a disproportionate amount of lobbying power.
  12. Laws are unlikely to be passed that discriminate against me on the basis of my religion, or that forbid me to practice my religion.
  13. If I am in the military or otherwise reliant on use of public space, I can reasonably assume that accommodations and worship spaces and services for my religion are available.
  14. If I am in the military, there are no common slogans denying my existence.
  15. Especially if I am in the military, I can reasonably assume that most authority figures share my religion.
  16. If I am in a theoretically secular hierarchical command structure, and I demonstrate open religious bigotry toward my subordinates, I will be considered a martyr if I am punished for it.
  17. Government figures do not consider my religion grounds for suspicion, and do not monitor me based on my religion.
  18. If I am a plaintiff in a case seeking to protect my religious rights, I can reasonably expect to be praised by the community.
  19. If I am a plaintiff in a case seeking to protect my religious rights, and for whatever reason I am not anonymous (whether because my identity was leaked, because the judge revealed my identity, or because I have chosen to forgo anonymity), I am not likely to be harassed, threatened, or assaulted.
  20. Challenging the tenets of my religion is more likely to be considered offensive than challenging the tenets of another.
  21. In a number of venues, if I am debating a point of fact with someone else, the tenets of my religion are considered at least as valid a premise as established scientific theory or double-blind controlled experiment.
  22. The tenets of my religion are well-known, and as such others only rarely impute beliefs to me with which I do not agree.
  23. I am extremely unlikely ever to meet someone who considers my very existence offensive because of my religion.
  24. If I take offense at a point stated by a person who is not an adherent of my religion, public opinion is likely to blame the other person, even if my points are equally or more offensive.
  25. In media, most portrayals of my religion are accurate. I do not need to worry about basic tenets being misrepresented or the entire belief system being summarized as "a source of magic", "evil baby-sacrificing satanic demon-worship", "outright refusal to believe in anything special regardless of evidence", or any combination of the above.
  26. In media, most portrayals of my religion are positive. If a media portrayal depicts negative or questionable elements, it is considered an act of war on my beliefs.
  27. In entertainment media, my religion is often used as shorthand for indicating that a character has positive qualities. It is almost never used as shorthand for indicating negative qualities.
  28. In entertainment media, characters sharing my religion are overwhelmingly portrayed as good.
  29. In most news media, my religion is never shown in a negative light. If the medium in question has an opinion segment or regularly engages in propaganda, the medium will often bend the story to portray my religion in a positive light or as a "victim".
  30. I can be reasonably certain that no one will call my patriotism into question based on my religion.
  31. My religion is almost never used as a justification for asking what reason I have for living, or for asking why I do not commit suicide.
  32. Public, and often private, events and services often offer space to my religion and no other. If I am denied this, or others are granted a space, public opinion will consider this a "repression" of my beliefs.
  33. Many public oaths incorporate references to my religion and my religion alone.
  34. My religion is never used as a slur, insult, or personal attack. 
  35. Open expressions of my faith are only rarely vandalized because of the faith expressed.
  36. I have the privilege of being unaware of my privilege.
*If you are not from a majority-Christian area, replace this with Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or whatever is appropriate to where you live. Also, keep in mind that just because you are not a member of the majority religion does not mean that you do not benefit from any of these; it often seems (from an atheist standpoint, anyway) that religious folk have something of a tendency to say "You may not be one of us, but at least you're not one of those godless heathens".

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