The Superpowers of Captain Privilege

Those who do not learn hxstory are doomed to repeat it.

— Attributed to George Santayana, recently discovered first draft.

The word “privilege,” prefaced by a color or gender, has come into vogue as a mechanism of dismissing the value of other people’s views in favor of one’s own.  In its most common permutations, it’s used as justification to ignore the positions of white people and males, and can be doubled up should the views be expressed by a white male. To that, one can add a variety of words, including such gems as cis-hetero-normative, which reduces any sense of obligation to consider such a person’s views to negative 27.

All of this adds up to fun and games on campus, where rational thought is anathema to a decent grade in a liberal arts education.  But according to Judicial Watch, it’s now been introduced to the military.

Judicial Watch announced today that it obtained documents from the United States Department of the Army revealing that in April 2015, 400 soldiers in the 67th Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon, Georgia, were subjected to a “white privilege” briefing, including a PowerPoint presentation instructing the attendees: “Our society attaches privilege to being white and male and heterosexual …”

The slideshow also informed the soldiers: “Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans.” It alleged that there are unspecified “powerful forces everywhere” keeping different kinds of people from being valued, accepted, and appreciated, but “we act as if it doesn’t exist.” This alleged privilege creates a “yawning divide” in income, wealth, and dignity.  The material described a mythical African woman who isn’t aware that she’s black until she comes to America, encounters “white racism” and discovers the U.S. is “organized according to race.”

But it’s true, you say? Regardless of whether you’re right or wrong, the hierarchical structure of the military renders it irrelevant and problematic.  A sergeant takes orders from an officer. If the officer is black, a sergeant still takes orders from the officer. Female? Gay? Transgender? The sergeant still takes order from the officer. Why? Because that’s the fundamental nature of the hierarchy, that someone has to give orders so that folks on the battlefield don’t stop to discuss whether they are in agreement with the officer when bullets are being fired at them.

While the concept of privilege is a worthy discussion for the classroom, its introduction into the military, a place where great efforts are expended to break down the narcissistic concept that everyone’s thoughts, will, bias is worthy of respect, in order to create a necessary obedience to its hierarchy so that people don’t die, is nuts [ableist slur].

As it happens, I agree that privilege exists, but it plays out less as a matter of privilege, and more as a matter of detriment. In other words, the black kid who suffers the store dick (yeah, I said it) at Barney’s shadowing him the whole time because what black kid isn’t a shoplifter, can’t enjoy the same shopping experience as my kids. Yes, it’s far more nuanced, far deeper, than this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Nor does it mean that latent (or patent, for that matter) racism doesn’t exist. It’s not an accident that cops kill unarmed blacks in disproportionate numbers. And no, I’m not saying that calling America the “land of opportunity” is a microaggression.  Just because some people have reduced a real problem to an inane absurdity doesn’t mean the real problem doesn’t exist. It just means those people are fragile, narcissistic, snowflakes. And even snowflakes can suffer prejudice, aside from the derision they earned by being snowflakes.

But whoever came up with the idea that the military is a good place to push this issue is dangerous.

Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do.

Privilege has become one of those loaded words we need to reclaim so that we can use it to name and illuminate the truth

***

Race privilege gives whites little reason to pay a lot of attention to African Americans or to how white privilege affects them. “To be white in American [sic] means not having to think about it” [Quotation not attributed]

***

Our society attaches privilege to being white and male and heterosexual regardless of your social class.

***

Imagine a school or a workplace where all kinds of people feel comfortable showing up. [sic] valued, accepted, supported, appreciated, respected, belonging. [sic] Something very powerful keeps this from us.

The truth of this powerful forces [sic] is everywhere, but we don’t know how to talk about it and so we act as though it doesn’t exist

The trouble we’re in privileges [sic] some groups at the expense of others.

It creates a yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health and quality of life.

It promotes fear, suspicion, discrimination, harassment, and violence.

***

Consider the “black woman” in Africa who has not experienced white racism and does not identify herself as a “black woman”.  African, a woman, but not black.

She only became “black” when she came to the U.S. where privilege is organized according to race, where she is assigned to a social category that bears that name and she is treated differently as a result. [Emphasis added]

***

The trouble we’re in can’t be solved unless the “privileged” make the problem of privilege their problem and do something about it.

The fact that it’s so easy for me and other people in dominant groups not to do this is the single most powerful barrier to change.

Captain to sergeant: your squad will take the point, going up the hill first.

Sergeant to captain: You know, Sxr, I don’t think so.  That’s a very dangerous mission, and I get the sense that your ordering my squad, which is inclusive and diverse, is a product of your cis-hetero-normative white male privilege oppression as manifested…[boom].

The conclusion drawn from this “indoctrination” by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton is as silly as the idea of social justice training itself:

The Obama administration undermines the morale of our military with morally repugnant ‘equal opportunity training’ that makes many soldiers feel unwelcome because they are the wrong sex, race, religion or aren’t part of a politically correct group.

The problem isn’t resolved by replacing one set of feelz with another, and casting this as a political choice is just as foolish regardless of which side of the spectrum you’re on. The issues are discipline, obedience and effectiveness. Captain Privilege’s superpower isn’t white privilege, but the bar on his shoulders, whether those shoulders are black or white, male or female, gay or straight. History teaches us that anything else means people die.

45 comments on “The Superpowers of Captain Privilege

  1. pml

    Having served in the US Army for 26 years and having sat through any of the EO classes I can say that there was nothing more that caused more issues or controversy than these classes. They caused all kinds of issues internally because of the issues raised like this Power Point presentation.

    Soldiers at all levels hated them, hated being forced to go to them and would do what ever they could to get out of them.

    I can tell you that when the bullets are whizzing by you ears, you could give a shit what the color of the guy next to you.

      1. HouseMaster Sergeant General Bill

        He also serves who only stands and waits!?! You also serve by waking up in the morning. Pml is correct.

          1. pml

            Thanks, but I don’t need nor have I ever asked for validation. Beleive it or not there are some of us old guys around that still believe in service to our county.

      2. REvers

        Check your privilege. Calling the home of one of our furry friends a “hole” is totally demeaning and is clearly a microagression. Foxes have feelings, too.

      3. GK

        Question from Chesterton’s Fence? This white privilege briefing would represent something like a Chesterton fence someone in the military put up, right?

        Obviously you take it that the military doesn’t actually have a good reason for a white privilege briefing. But does that mean it’s not possible for the military to have a good reason for a white privilege briefing?

        Isn’t it possible that the military leaders who greenlit this found the briefing relevant to keeping people alive? Or that it met some objective they had carefully considered and understood?

        1. SHG Post author

          While I have no clue what you’re trying to say in the first two paragraphs, your third is both clear and interesting. If that’s so (and while unlikely, it’s possible), what would that objective be? I can think of plenty of downside, but no upside for a military purpose. “Possible” is a very low bar (think space aliens). Care to aim higher?

          1. Jeff Davidson

            Most military personnel will likely not be in a foxhole nor have bullets whizzing by their heads. Most will regularly interact with a wide variety of civilians, either as colleagues or when they are off duty and off base. My view of white privilege is about the same as yours, but educating service members about the views held by minority groups about dominant groups could be very helpful, particularly when the military is seen by some as a representative of a government controlled by the dominant groups. This may not be upside for a military purpose in terms of combat, but it could be in terms of getting along with fellow citizens outside of the base and understanding/tolerating some unfair and undeserved slurs that might come their way.

            1. SHG Post author

              I was hoping someone would come along and offer a mind-numbingly vapid SJW spin on this. The only shame is that you didn’t do so earlier, so everyone could enjoy it.

            2. pml

              I could waste my time and spend the next hour trying to explain to you why your PC crap has no place in the service but it obviously would be a waste on my time so I won’t

    1. Boffin

      Same shit, different day. 25 years ago, a Navy buddy showed up with a T-shirt saying “My CO went to Tailhook and all I got was this lousy sensitivity training.”

  2. David M.

    Didn’t officers hurting their soldiers’ feelz occasionally get the officers killed in Vietnam?

      1. David M.

        Is it? Bad enough when it’s draftees, but today’s soldiers are volunteers and professionals on whom, like you said, a lot of effort is expended to give them the correct mindset.

        Undoing their training for the sake of gender politics is obviously a bad thing. But no amount of training is going to make morale a nonissue. Both poorly trained and unhappy soldiers indulge their feelz to everyone’s detriment. If Fitton’s right and this is taking a toll on morale, he’s got a point – it’s a two-part problem.

        Are all feelz really created equal in the military?

        1. SHG Post author

          Fragging is a time honored tradition in the military. There is a message there: Don’t treat the people beneath you like shit, especially if they have weapons. But now that you’ve explained it, I see your point.

    1. Joseph

      Racial tension also contributed to the occasional fragging in Vietnam.

      All armies have a lot more tail than teeth, and even if racism dies away on the front lines as soldiers depend closely on each other for survival and bond over the whole not-dying thing, the majority of the armed forces in Vietnam at any given time were not in direct combat. In many such units, racial tensions were a major problem, contributing to racially motivated assaults, infighting, and sometimes fragging.

      Of course, Vietnam was fifty years ago and the situation of blacks in American society is far different from what it was back then – as is the fragging situation – but I’m not sure people should simply accept just that nobody cares about race in the foxholes, it means it’s not a problem in the rest of the armed forces. If an officer thinks that giving a briefing on privilege will reduce racially-based tension or resentment, he probably thinks it’s going to help with morale rather than hurt it.

      (Also, despite what I’ve said about “racism not being a problem on the front lines”, up until someone with a bunch of stars on his shoulders decided the Army needed to make a systematic push against racism, black soldiers in Vietnam were still dying on the front lines at a highly disproportionate rate, mostly because the system had been assigning a higher proportion of them to combat roles but partially because they got assigned point more often. Filtered through today’s language I suppose you could consider that a microaggression.)

  3. LTMG

    From 2001 to 2011 I was living and working in East and Southeast Asia. If I was somehow the beneficiary of white privilege, it sure didn’t help me during this decade. Purveyors of the white privilege nonsense somehow overlook that outside North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, white privilege, if it exists, has no benefits.

  4. elhunde

    I’ll take a position that it can be appropriate in at least three places in the military:

    1. Promotion boards. The military should be an meritocracy. However, people do have biases, there are stupid cultural assumptions made about professionalism. This can be as simple as a black solider with beard wavier being looked down upon.

    2. Military Justice. Be it simple disciplinary issues, or full court marshals, the problem of bias exists. Be it an officer who might treat a white screw up better than a black screw up, or giving a spiel to members of a general court martial.

    3. Hygiene standards: this takes more unpacking and mostly refers to permitted styles of beards and hair. Those beard waivers I mentioned are highly controversial. Lots of older and retired servicemen think everyone should be shaved. But black men get PFB (also known as razor bumps) much more than whites. Additionally, there’s religious issues with beards, such as the current lawsuit for Sikh’s to keep their beards. Then finally, there’s the issue with black women’s hair. It became a huge deal about 18 months ago due to heavy increases that banned most natural hair styles for black women. There was a media outcry that reversed the most draconian of the changes. Sometimes there are issues where it actually does matter.

    Look, I get it, the enemy doesn’t care about our feelings. Making the military one big lovefest is silly. But these aren’t always so crazy.

      1. Rick

        You said this in the post: “But whoever came up with the idea that the military is a good place to push this issue is dangerous.” As I read it, you were saying the language of privilege shouldn’t even be talked about in the military (through official training, anyway). Elhunde pointed out three places in the military where this probably would be valuable: promotions, criminal justice, and grooming standards. It’s not clear to me how saying that sometimes the military should talk about privilege is an “entirely different” issue from saying the military should never talk about privilege.

        1. SHG Post author

          When you rationalize your grasp with “As I read it,” you answer your own question. How “you read it” has nothing to do with what I wrote.

  5. mb

    “The problem isn’t resolved by replacing one set of feelz with another”

    Unless you can find enough genderflective, transracial, otherkin to replace the straight, white males in the military, you might want to rethink that. It’s easy to analyze the problem based on people who are already there, but who is going to sign up to be told that he is on the good side of a, “yawning divide in levels of income, wealth, dignity, safety, health and quality of life” no matter how bad he’s had it or how hard he’s had to work and, “regardless of your social class”?

  6. Kirk Taylor

    Jesus flapping fuckballs! Nothing ever fucking changes! The military can literally take ANYTHING and turn it into a useless training session with which to torture poor enlisted people. There has GOT to be something behind this that has nothing to do with the subject matter. There’s no way the military has been creating bullshit, useless, waste of time feel good training for the last 50 years (joined in 86 and my elders were very clear this was nothing new) if there isn’t some fucking point to it! There must be some deep seated psychological basis for training people in stupid, obvious, retarded and insulting topics that is unrelated to the actual topic of the lesson.
    Sorry this adds nothing to the discussion, but I had to rant about the fact that NOTHING EVER CHANGES in the military. I guarantee there was some big bucket of fuck training in the Roman Legions about not judging your fellow conscript for being the son of a vomitorium attendant.

    1. David M.

      You might be interested to learn they found a 3rd-century military document, the Feriale Duranum, in Dura Europos that’s basically a list of everyone’s stupid religious holidays so legionaries could request leave on a case-by-case basis and not hurt anyone else’s feelz.

    2. Lurker

      One thing: Roman legions were all-volunteer from 80’s BC on. There were no conscripts.

      However, considering that they recruited really widely, sensitivity training of some sort was probably in order. A Roman legion might have a black Numidian serving alongside a blonde German. (For Romans, the Numidian was probably the more civilised one. They were not big on racism, although they were big on ethnicism.)

      1. David M.

        Not true, I’m afraid. In fact, in provinces like Egypt, there was a sort of feudal conscription system in place by the middle of the 3rd century.

        (And Numidians weren’t black. You’re thinking of Nubians.)

  7. losingtrader

    Wow. I can’t believe you wrote an entire post on this subject without sneaking in the word “niggardly.”

    1. SHG Post author

      I thought about it. There are few things more fun than watching people get outraged because they don’t know what a word means.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Well there is nothing niggardly about flapping fuckballs.

        Speaking of flapping?

        “I never served, but from what I’m told by many who did, there is no skin color in a fox hole.”

        You should really consider taking a pass on military-isms altogether in the future esteemed one. Admiral in the Nebraska Navy or not, holding hands with Tom Fitton and stroling through West Point fantasy land to add a little value added nuisance to a point you have been driving home consistently for some time might be just a teensy wheensey bit too far into the forest of frustration.

        And seriously….you are a good twenty blocks out of your element when you go bobbing for discipline, obedience and effectiveness apples in the jingoistic jugs of military readiness and the like.

        But to the point of your post. Yeah, yeah, we get it but don’t get lost in the forest or next thing you know the United States Army will be employing me to be their spell checker.

        1. SHG Post author

          I never served, but I’m way closer to the action than you know. And no, I don’t have to explain it to you.

  8. Eric L. Mayer

    Each quarter, mandatory blocks of Equal Opportunity and Consideration of Others training are conducted within all Army units. While this is considered to be command-directed and supported, it is usually delegated down to a mid-career noncommissioned officer (NCO) who is usually in the pay grade of E-5, E-6, or E-7.

    Most NCOs conduct training that is pre-approved, safe, boring, and puts the audience to sleep. Some try to make the subject of the instruction more edgy in order to stimulate audience participation and discussion. A small minority have an axe to grind and want to use this forum to express their personal biases and prejudices.

    Based on what I’ve read, which all seems to be incomplete in presenting the whole story of what happened at Fort Gordon, I’d say this probably falls in one of the latter two categories.

    To those who have suffered through these mandatory training blocks, the reaction to this story is likely a collective meh. Even if we assume that the instructor was trying to grind an axe, people with these types of radical views have been in the Army for decades (if not centuries). Ideally, commanders deal with it in a calmly professional manner and then turn their attention back to their missions.

    1. SHG Post author

      Do I understand correctly, then, that as far as those who are forced to suffer through these training blocks, they are basically ignored and do no harm no matter what sort of nonsense is promulgated because no one gives a damn?

      1. Eric L. Mayer

        Imagine you’re attending a mandatory CLE that you have to complete before a short-term deadline. Then also imagine that you have a huge trial coming up, so you spend the entire CLE reviewing documents for this trial while the instructor drones on about law practice management software programming nuances.

        It’s kind of like that.

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