Privilege checking has become a mainstay of a certain kind of conversation about race or identity. One person reminds -- or accuses -- another of enjoying all kinds of unearned advantages, thanks to their skin color, gender, class or sexual orientation. Checking someone else’s privilege can be a form of hostility. Checking your own can be an act of humility. Either way, it can oftentimes be painful. But does anyone actually benefit from talking about privilege? This hour, the benefits and drawbacks of talking about privilege.
For most of her life Debby Irving was largely unaware of race. Then, when she was in her 40s, she enrolled in a course on race and cultural identity, and overnight became hyperaware of the privileges she'd been afforded throughout her life as a result of her white skin color. That set her off on a journey to explore her own hidden assumptions about race and class.
Who really benefits from conversations about white privilege? Philosopher Naomi Zack believes that if your goal is to fight racism, a good first step is to stop talking about your own privilege. She says we should instead focus the conversation on violations of rights.
Free speech advocate Greg Lukianoff believes universities are coddling students in the name of emotional well-being. In an Atlantic cover story he coauthored earlier this year, he argues it can even have damaging effects on their mental health.
When it really comes down to it, talking about privilege is just one approach to having a meaningful conversation about difference and race. Talking about diversity is not always easy, but poet and writer Sofia Samatar believes it's crucial. She believes institutions should focus less on meeting quotas, and instead foster open and nuanced conversations about difference.
Scientists are on the cusp of developing new technologies that could radically change how we’re born and how we die. But just because we can do it, should we? For lots of people, it’s just plain wrong for humans to play God.
But Oxford University bioethicist Julian Savulescu has a different view. He says we have a moral obligation to use new technology to create the best possible children.