Got Privilege? Sit Down, Please.

It seems that lately, for every effort made to bring light to injustice, there always seems to be a subsequent rally cry in defense of some other unrelated group (usually one that needs no defending).

The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is countered with ‘All Lives Matter’ remarks.

The pursuit of feminism (by definition, “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men”) has sparked “meninism”, a mockery to women who fight voraciously for equality.

Support of gay marriage—demonstrated by the White House’s decision to temporarily change its exterior lights to rainbow, and by U.S. citizens displaying rainbow-tinted profile photos—was somehow seen as a threat to some heterosexuals, who countered with their own American flag-tinted profile photos (not wrong in and of itself, but the timing of the display was not ideal).

An innocent animal is poached for the benefit of one man’s ego, and some cite other global issues as being “more important” (although animal rights activists, authorities fighting black marketeering, and scientists who observe the extinction of poached species might disagree).

"Cecil" the lion walks through Zimbabwe's Hwange Game Reserve. BRENT STAPELKAMP /
“Cecil” the lion walks through Zimbabwe’s Hwange Game Reserve. BRENT STAPELKAMP /

From what I’ve seen, the people who care enough to raise their voices or create a movement—to address what are sadly deemed insignificant issues—are the people who have seen or experienced oppression to the nth degree.

And to minimize their struggles—struggles which, at times, have lasted for centuries—by criticizing their outrage or creating an opposing movement? That’s not just offensive human behavior, it’s an inexcusable display of social privilege.

I’ll tell you why people are so enraged about Cecil the Lion.

For one thing, he was defenseless in the face of a master huntsman with cash and advanced weaponry on his side. And Cecil isn’t alone. Many species have seen the utter devastation of their habitats and been hunted to near extinction, all for the jollies of the human race; and these creatures have been powerless to stop it.

And you know what’s even more pathetic? We humans don’t just kill animals, we destroy each other, too.

Maybe that’s why I feel hopeful when I see outrage over the senseless murder of an animal: it means we haven’t lost our humanity.

When people come to the defense of groups, individuals, and—yes—even animals, who may be helpless or ill-equipped to defend themselves, it means we still have compassion. Maybe rallying for one cause is another step closer to defending those who are powerless against other critical social injustices: racism, sexism, abuse, discrimination, child marriage, slavery, and human trafficking.

More importantly, maybe we should recognize why movements for social change exist in the first place: because something in our society is broken and needs fixing. And maybe, when we see people attempting to address injustice, we should applaud them and seek to feel empathy, rather than attempt to justify our own social privilege.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


6 thoughts on “Got Privilege? Sit Down, Please.

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