Two cases of being born with an advantage over others; one of which is condemned while the other is celebrated

This has been on my mind for the last few months, and I’ve been struggling to come up with the way to approach the subject. There are two cases I know of where people are born with an advantage over others, and while both of them have been in the news in the last few months, in one case the advantage is condemned, while in the other it is celebrated – often by the same people.

First of all… What is white privilege? Wikipedia (via Google) tells me:

White privilege (or white skin privilege) is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

In other words, being born white, I have advantages over people who are not born white. In my case, it isn’t financial, but it is more in the way people treat me. That is, because I am fair-skinned, and well spoken (I talk “like a white”), I have a better chance at a job interview, even against another candidate who has the same intelligence, ability and experience as myself. It means that in many cases, even black people treat me better than they treat other black people. If I walk down the street in downtown Johannesburg, nobody clutches their wallets with all their strength, in fear that I may rob them. In general, I am treated better than people with darker skin. I didn’t ask for this advantage. I was born with it. That does raise questions such as: If one is aware of one’s privilege, is one not then bound ethically or morally to do something about it? But such questions are not my topic for today… They belong in a more in-depth look at white privilege itself.

On to the other advantage that some people have… Recently the 2016 Olympics were held, and much fuss was made of South African female athlete Caster Semenya. The issue is that she is an intersex person. While she identifies as female, she has testes that produce testosterone.

Thus she has as much testosterone as someone who uses anabolic steroids, which have been illegal in competitive sport for decades. High levels of testosterone lead to higher muscle mass, as well as faster muscle repair, so anyone with high levels of testosterone can train harder, and push themselves to extremes they would never be able to reach without that testosterone. That leads to a performance advantage over other athletes. That’s why supplementing testosterone is illegal.

Of course, in Semenya’s case, her testosterone level is natural. It’s natural because she has internal testes producing it, just like a man. Hence the controversy. Again, as in the case of white privilege, this post is not intended to make any kind of judgement. She has an advantage over female athletes who aren’t intersex. Pretending that she does not have an advantage is disingenuous and involves rationalizing her advantage away using rhetoric.

Instead, my purpose here is to point out that we have two clear cases where someone was born with an advantage over others… and the consensus online is:

White privilege is bad.
Intersex is good.

Why?

In my mind, an unfair advantage over others is unfair. Or is it? If Semenya’s advantage is not unfair, then why is white privilege unfair? I didn’t ask for it. I am not responsible for the actions of other white people in the past. Do we not all make use of whatever advantages we have in order to be successful in our professions and our lives?

Again, I will reach no conclusion here… The point is to highlight the disparity between the two cases. It seems to me that it is hypocritical to support an intersex athlete (who is born with an anatomical advantage) but to condemn white privilege, which is also an advantage that some are born with. It seems to me that we should either condemn both or support both, and that anyone who supports Semenya but condemns white privilege should examine their motives and spend more time thinking about the subject.

Update: Just a reminder that this post is opinion. Normally I piss off conservatives – maybe this time I might piss of those on the left. I’ve tried to post this without bias, but that’s difficult. My view is that both advantages are unfair. Sure, the one is inherited and the other is the result of years of oppression of black people – but that does not change that neither advantage was asked for, and no person who has such an advantage is responsible for having it. What you choose to do about it when you know you are privileged is another matter, outside of the scope of this post.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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3 Responses to Two cases of being born with an advantage over others; one of which is condemned while the other is celebrated

  1. Jerome says:

    I’m told that this is a false equivalence but I just don’t see it. In both cases, we have someone with an advantage, one that they did not ask for.

    I’m also told that white privilege oppresses people. No it doesn’t. The root cause of this privilege is that people were oppressed. Claiming that people who are privileged oppress others is just wrong. It’s conflating the cause of the privilege with the result, which is a genetic fallacy. In truth, regardless of how such an advantage came about, the origin of it is not relevant to the result.

    I’m not saying that it is OK to have white privilege and accept it… One can make an effort to fight for the rights of others. One can make other white people aware of the privilege that they have, and not take it for granted. One can be empathetic for others and try to make this world a better place.

    What I am saying is that it has somehow become politically correct to care about intersex athletes, despite a physical advantage that they have over women athletes, and not see that this is equivalent to claiming that white privilege is harmless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sally says:

    I hear what you’re saying! However I’ve been talking to my kids recently, ah let me re-phrase that, I’ve been permitted an allocated portion of time with my two sons to listen to their opinions, lol, 👍(I have a 15 y.o and a 20 y.o) and they are of the opinion that the Caucasian male, closely followed by the Caucasian female are the most controlled race at the moment; because the fear of speaking out loud and not concentrating on what you say, could cause you big trouble if you accidentally say something that ‘may’ be deemed as racist or prejudiced!
    So my 15 y.o has temporarily fixed this problem at his school! Because most Western societies now are extremely multicultural, then having multicultural friends is practically a given. By the way am I allowed to swear on here? If not I hope you can edit this post? …. Because, he has one friend who is an aboriginal but is quite fair skinned, and he tells him (daily) that he’s a poor excuse for a black man. He has a Spanish friend who is known to everyone as Bailey’s (my sons name) Wog, and he and his mates use derogatory terms (in an affectionate way) to talk to each other daily! At first I was horrified but when I realized that they all do it I was actually impressed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jerome says:

      I have mixed feelings about privilege… Although I’m friends with activists and SJW types, it pisses me off when they share a particular meme that starts “Attention white people…” because I don’t believe it is ever fair to generalize, and to condescend to an entire group so that you can “educate” them about privilege you assume they don’t know that they have… seems wrong to me.

      Also I disagree with the idea of white guilt… I once read a comment by someone who expects all white people to issue an apology for the past. That’s absurd.

      And then there’s those who accuse all whites of being racist who set up their argument in such a way that any voice of disagreement is automatically assumed to be in denial and thus wrong, yet they do not acknowledge valid counterarguments, because by their logic, and such argument is proven wrong.

      Maybe I should avoid the subject entirely.

      Liked by 1 person

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