"Check Your Privilege": A Totalitarian Refrain

by Will Grigg

The phrase “check your privilege” is among the most obnoxious expressions of recent vintage. This demand is an implicit accusation routinely directed at white, male students, who are supposed to feel guilt over being the beneficiaries of the institutionalized advantages that come with being part of an “oppressor class.”

Beginning this fall, first-year students – we dare not call them “freshmen” – at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government will be required to undergo an orientation session dealing with power and privilege. [It's not much of an exaggeration to describe this kind of thing as a variant of the “struggle sessions” employed in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution. Those exercises were designed to induce “self-criticism” among people regarded as class enemies or suspected of ideological impurity.]

Collectivism, especially of the left-wing variety, is entirely obsessed with identity. All social relationships are divided between oppressor and victim classes. Those assigned to the former group can never eradicate their inherited guilt; those designated as victims, on the other hand, enjoy a limitless supply of inherited virtue, which can be drawn upon by political figures who claim to act on their behalf.

 This is a variant of the ideology that fed the guillotines in Revolutionary France, and filled the killing fields of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.





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