Gary Galles, an economics professor at Pepperdine University, offers an insightful piece for the Mises Institute that dissects the term “check your privilege” – and what it really means.
He begins by giving the phrase’s users the benefit of the doubt.
“It could be an invitation to debate,” Galles notes. “In a sense, ‘check your privilege’ largely amounts to ‘check your premises’ behind your views, and many are willing to recognize that such a reminder can be useful in advancing conversations about social issues.”
The professor argues when it is used in that fashion, “it can be useful in advancing our potential for mutual understanding.”
But let’s face it, that’s not how the phrase is actually used in most cases. My opinion, not Galles’, and he goes on to point out:
But the Phrase Could Simply Mean ‘Shut Up’
And when does “check your privilege” become code for “be quiet” rather than “evaluate your premises”? “Check your privilege” is about shutting down discussion when the user is making the assertion that you are hopelessly confused in your understanding, and that your opinions amount to aggression (whether “micro-” or “macro-”). … In other words, others assert that they don’t need to listen to you, much less respect your arguments.
… when “check your privilege” is used as a magic phrase to peremptorily end “social justice” discussions, it is the assertion of a special privilege for some to be allowed to define themselves as white hats and those who disagree as black hats, without ever having to make a real argument. It also allows users to turn it into an epithet of social demonization to try to impose their “solutions,” always at the expense of the supposed black hats. In the process, it undermines social cooperation by undermining the rights upon which it is built.
And that, unfortunately, is how it is most often used by social justice warriors on campus today.