Author: Chelsea Jack

“Privilege,” “Lived Experience,” and Other Words I Use Without Thinking

One of my most memorable lovers’ quarrels was about the controversial sociologist Alice Goffman. Go figure. “A privileged white woman who went to Princeton shouldn’t write about disadvantaged black men in West Philly!” I insisted, confidently dropping my favorite rhetorical trump card — “privilege.” “You haven’t even read her book,” my partner deadpanned, calling me out for shamelessly parroting someone else’s thoughts on Goffman. “How do you know she doesn’t have something worth saying about those communities just because she’s white?” (What a smart guy, right?) Discerning reader, you read this and probably thought something like, “Oh, she tried that whole thing.” What’s that “thing” you know I was trying to do, but are short on words for? *** “Privilege” can be a helpful term to describe systemic socioeconomic advantages that make life easier for some than others. It can help us identify what justice looks like, and what it doesn’t look like. I’ll be the first to admit, though: its ubiquity seems to make it easy and safe to use, almost without thinking. It’s what …