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Privilege Is Not a Point System, Buzzfeed

Signs are left in front of the White House's recently erected security fence now turned into a memorial against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, during a peaceful protest on June 7, 2020 in Washington, DC. - On May 25, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. (Photo by Jose Luis Magana / AFP) (Photo by JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Last night, my Twitter feed was abuzz (pun fully intended) with the latest quiz from Buzzfeed that helped users determine how privileged they are. I took it and it turns out that I, a white, middle-class woman with a graduate degree … am not privileged. Excuse me? The thing is, I very much AM privileged and I don’t need a quiz to tell me that. Privilege is not a point system and different types of privilege outweigh others.

This quiz is a useful tool for helping people to analyze their privilege, but it gives every type of privilege the same weight and that’s a problem. For every statement you check off, you get a point so when I check off “I am white” it gives me one point. That’s all. The rest of the questions are designed to emphasize how that whiteness manifests in different ways, but it’s not quite accurate and doesn’t take varied life experiences into account.

For instance, I can’t add on to “I’m white” because I can’t say “I’ve never been the only person of my race in a room.” My in-laws are Chinese and I have many times been the only white person in a room while conversations go on in a language I don’t know. And that is absolutely not the same thing as being the only Black person in a room of white people.

The quiz and many conversations going on right now acknowledge that there are many types of privilege, and that’s good. For cis, white, straight, Christian men it is extremely worth their time to look at all the ways they are privileged. But in the other direction, my lack of privilege in certain areas does not negate or excuse my white privilege.

I’m not straight, or Christian, and I’m part of a bi-racial marriage, but I still have incredible privilege because I am white, and this quiz fails to emphasize that. The protests and movement going on in our country right now are not about all types of privilege, they are about one. They are about dismantling white supremacy.

Yes, I’ve faced sexism, and some abuse over my religion, but that’s not what the conversation is about right now. It is about how we live in a system that is designed to benefit white people, and how that system abuses, oppresses, disadvantages and kills Black people. My lack of some other privileges does not compare. This quiz needs to be far more seriously and realistically weighted.

A more honest version of this quiz would be one where you checked of the “I am white” box and it automatically said: “Congrats, you are privileged.” Because right now we need to confront that our whiteness sometimes means everything. I don’t get out of it be being gay or pagan or female. Yes, these identities all interact and affect how I am treated in life, but I cannot use them, or a low score on a quiz that tells me I’m not privileged, to excuse my whiteness or convince myself that I know what it’s like to walk through life (as just one example) afraid that the police will kill me on a whim.

I respect what this quiz is trying to do, but privilege is both more and less complex than an internet questionnaire can ever express.

(image: JOSE LUIS MAGANA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.