In a painful self-flagellating article on white privilege, the writer shows the people he pities are more privileged than he is.
I am tempted to say a lot of things about this rather silly piece at the Washington Post: “I tried to escape my privilege with low-wage work. Instead I came face to face with it.” And it has a teaser line: “The advantages of race and class are not easily shed, even in a falafel shop.”
But they weren’t advantages of race at all, and advantage is not identical to privilege. This whole thing is just full of false shame and false guilt and false virtue.
But one exchange the writer reports for us shows that, no matter how much he claims to want to put aside his so-called “privilege” he is still an arrogant fool and the people he feels sorry for (mostly poor immigrants from different places in Latin America) are far more “advantaged” than he is.
I never felt any bitterness from the other guys, but a distance did develop after the initial awkwardness of being the new kid in the kitchen. My cultural affinity with our customers had the flip side of alienating me from my co-workers, who laughed at my awkward attempts to speak Spanish. Along with the fun and camaraderie of work in a kitchen, I was also exposed to views that challenged the safe, touchy-feely beliefs I’d absorbed in my high school. I remember one argument I had with David as we were mopping and sweeping up at around 4 a.m., pop salsa on the sound system. We were talking about gay sex.
“I just don’t get how they could do that,” David said. His crucifix dangled from his neck as he mopped.
For one of the first times in my life, I was confronted with someone whose cultural perspective had led him to completely different conclusions.
“You don’t have to,” I remember replying. “They wouldn’t want to do it with you, anyway.”
I’d often use this kind of banter to stand by my beliefs without defending them outright. I had to become flexible in how I reacted to views among my new friends that clashed with those I shared with my old friends.
I wish he sounded like he was actually challenged by David. It sounds like he simply assumed what he heard was ignorance and didn’t consider much more about it.
As far as privilege is concerned, all he really writes about is how his skills were used differently than the other employees. Because his English was good he was preferred for the register and dealing with the customers. But since he admits he wasn’t paid more than anyone else and the restaurant, that really means he was assigned the more efficient task to keep the most business going. Each person did what they were best at and thus each kept the restaurant functioning and providing for all their paychecks.
This is called cooperation and efficiency, not privilege.