Today is Christmas. To those who observe it, I hope you’re having a happy holiday and found what you were expecting under the tree. Me? No tree. No presents. Just a movie and Chinese food, with friends, in a crowded restaurant.
Christmas is one of the days in the United States where I realize I’m part of a religious minority. Almost everything is closed. Everyone (it seems) is out celebrating the birth of their religious savior, and pushing it in my face. Further, although that’s a harsh way of saying it, I don’t have a problem with much of it. People should be free to celebrate whatever faith they want (even if their faith is questioning God or non-believing — which, as the existence of God can be neither proved nor disproved — is just another form of faith). I’m more troubled with the Government observing the holidays, as that is favoring one religion over another; that’s only offset by my getting the day off.
The reason I’m writing this post (other than I have nothing else to do Christmas morning), however, is to note that I’m obviously not alone. Two days ago, I circulated on Facebook an article from Everyday Feminism (which has since been pulled, but I found the original elsewhere) about all of the examples of Christian Privilege in US society. This must have hit a nerve, as it has been one of the most shared links I have ever posted.
“Privilege” is the hot word on everyone’s lips. In the wake of Ferguson, there have been vast discussions of White Privilege. This is thing that does exist, but it is really an artifact of our society’s history… and thus, it is very hard to change. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to change it, but we need to recognize it won’t happen overnight. Eliminating racial based privilege and judgement will take multiple generations and training to do completely. The fact that we are even questioning the privilege and discussing it is a big step forward — compare this with our attitudes towards race 100 years ago in 1914, or even 50 years ago in 1964.
The first step towards solving any problem is recognizing it. That’s why it is important to recognize where we are giving inherent privilege without realizing it — beit White privilege, Christian privilege, Thin privilege, and so on. Perhaps this is why that article hit such a nerve.
I should, digress for a minute, about the recent anger towards the police. In addressing the question of privilege, we should not forget that policemen are people too, and that the vast majority of police officers really want to protect and serve and help all people. Any death is tragic — irrespective of color of skin, or of profession. When we judge people based on their uniform or profession, we are making the same mistake as those who judge on skin color. We need to learn to see people based on the person, not how they are packaged.
The discussion of privilege does not mean that everyone needs to be the same. That leads us down the political correctness path, and takes us to a Harrison Bergeron world (and if you haven’t read that short story, you should — it was very prescient. You can read it here. I’ll wait.) Rather, it means we should see people as the person they are, and not provide special benefits or treatment based on some characteristic.
Bringing this full circle to what day it is — I really like the notion of the recent Christmas episode of The Librarians. Christmas is as good of a day as any to spread good will, good cheer, and recharge the goodness of humanity. May today recharge you with good spirit, and may you find in the coming year the lessening of judgement and privilege based on the packaging, and the greater recognition of the person and the contents inside, which is where true value and worth lies.