Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Can A Buzzfeed Quiz Really Determine Your Privilege?

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April 21, 2014

“I consider myself to be physically attractive.”

“I’ve always had cable.”

“I have never been a victim of violence because of my race.”

These questions are from a Buzzfeed quiz called “How Privileged are You?” The quiz asks you a series of questions related to your gender, race, income, and sexual orientation, and then rates whether you are “not very privilege” or “privileged.”  And I think that it’s complete bullshit.

There’s no “quiz” you can take to determine your privilege or oppressions. Understanding who you are and your access to privilege, spaces, and resources is complex.

What was the purpose of this quiz? To raise “awareness?” When you post your results on Facebook, what is the point? Really, think that about for a minute. I think that this quiz is seeded in white guilt, as many of the writers from Buzzfeed make joke after joke about white people. This is especially true when I see a person’s results plastered all over their social networks, like they’re “admitting” that they have access to privilege. As we know, that’s just one small part of having privilege. You cannot just post a link to your results on Twitter and say, “Wow, well, I’m done ally-ing it up for the day!”

For other folks who fall on the “more oppressed” Buzzfeed scale, this quiz just reinforces that “yep, you have no access to power! Ha-ha. That sucks.” It re-victimizes folks who have been subjected to hatred because of their identity.

The other problem I find wrong with this quiz is that in certain questions, it doesn’t specifically identify particular identities that experience oppression. It just asks questions like “my race…” or “my gender,” without specifically calling out “white” or “male” experiences. This can easily lead to people who are in positions of privileges to call out “reverse racism” or “misandry,” when we all know in social justice that this is not a cultural phenomenon.  For example, one question says, “I have never been denied an opportunity because of my gender.” A cisgender male can check this answer off if he feels like he was wrongly denied admission to a school that uses affirmative action, when obviously this is not a case of sexism.

While I am happy that a dialogue around privilege is more public, but the presentation of this idea falls short of what we should expect in terms of public education.  We need to have difficult discussions and dialogue about how privilege and oppression impacts us individually, and then take the time to educate ourselves about identity and power. It’s more than just a few clicks in a Buzzfeed article.

It’s tempting to want to quantify or calculate our privilege, but it’s way more complicated than that. Our privileges and oppressions are fluid and manifest themselves in a variety of ways, and we need to understand that reflecting upon and pushing against our privilege is not a one-day task, but a life-long journey.

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