The White Privilege Escape Room

The white privilege trope has raised its obnoxious head in some recent Ethics Alarms threads, so this  is timely. In “The Privilege of Escape,” a new public art project by Risa Puno at Onassis USA, the recent escape room fad (you know about escape rooms, right?), participants discover after their “escape” that some participants were given easier challenges than others. From the approving review by Times critic :

“As we reunite with the second group, we discover that they didn’t escape in time — not because their members lacked skills or intelligence, but because of the room they were in. Simply put, they were forced to play with a major handicap, whose challenges they were unaware of because it was presented as part of the game. (When asked for feedback, someone from that group jokingly called the experience “hell.”) Meanwhile, we had the privilege of perfect conditions, which allowed us to achieve our full potential and escape.”

Ah! I see! A perfect metaphor for life in the U.S., where social injustice and bigotry create uneven playing fields, meaning that those who are successful  haven’t earned their success, and those who fail never had a chance! More:

The project is an observable and ultimately visceral demonstration of something that often goes unrecognized or dismissed because it operates invisibly. Members of dominant social groups tend to believe that society is a meritocracy; what we fail to see is that the playing field was never level to begin with. Ms. Puno visualizes this by staging a test that’s always rigged. If you’re placed in the disadvantaged group, it will be harder and more frustrating; if you’re afforded privilege, it will be easier and more fun. And just as with race, class, gender and ability, you don’t get to choose the group to which you belong.

The author concludes with this: “[T]he most pressing question regarding privilege isn’t “how does it make you feel?” but “what can you do about it?”

Well, the answer’s obvious, isn’t it? Install a benign totalitarian system that evens the playing field, distributes wealth, status and achievement evenly regardless of effort, ambition, virtue, and talent, so the challenges of life are the same for everybody!

The real lesson of “The Privilege of Escape” is how simple-minded and caustic to a productive and democratic society the seductive concept of “privilege” is, discouraging individual enterprise and risk-taking by demonizing success, while encouraging self-pity and hopelessness to force society into an oppressive structure that makes a centrally-determined level of success an entitlement.

Annoyingly enough for the “it’s all privilege” crowd, there is data that suggests that people have more control over their destiny that the victim mentality of “white privilege” would  have us believe. Isabel V. Sawhill and Ron Haskins of the (liberal) Brookings Institution  found that meeting just three criteria greatly reduced the likelihood of a family living in poverty:

1. Finish high school,

2. Work full time,

3. Wait until age 21 to get married, and

4. Don’t have children outside wedlock.

The Fraser Institute in Canada applied these same tests and concluded they hold  true in Canada as well.  The report  “The Causes of Poverty,” which was released earlier this year, found that less than one percent of Canadians who graduated high school, worked full time, and waited until age 21 for marriage live in poverty.

“The evidence is clear,” said Christopher A. Sarlo, its author. “There are certain societal norms that, if followed, are key to avoiding long-term poverty.”

Only 1.4 percent of Americans in 2007 did not any of these benchmarks, but they account for 76 % of the poor and 17 percent of the lower middle class. Charles Murray—I know, I know, he’s a racist, right?—described similar findings in  “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.”

The delusion that the playing field of life can be artificially leveled so that the vicissitudes of luck and individual choices are irrelevant is the infectious, potentially fatal virus always threatening democracy and personal liberty. “The Privilege of Escape” merely translates it into “art,” or, more accurately, propaganda disguised as art.

19 thoughts on “The White Privilege Escape Room

  1. Jack, you just don’t get it, do you. Graduating from high school, working full time, waiting until 21 to get married, not having children out of wedlock are all expectations unfairly imposed upon people of color by people of white color. That’s what white privilege is all about. Come on! White people made those four requirement things up and impose them on people of color to oppress people of color. Why should people of color have to do all those things? Huh? Tell me. Your saying those things shows your privilege plain as day! Why should people of color have to graduate from high school if they don’t feel like it? Work full time? Are you kidding me? To make money for somebody else? Get married? Why? To take care of some woman and her kids? Long term? Wait until twenty one? Hell will freeze over before anybody with half a brain gets married. Check your privilege, buddy.

    (By the way, I was first accused of being privileged by a PhD in child psychology who was the daughter of a medical doctor, and Jewish. How privileged do you think she was growing up? I’d never heard the term before. I was flabbergasted. I told her privilege is what my parents had done for me and what my wife and I had done for our children, and what they were doing for their children, with our assistance when required. Being privileged is something everyone should aspire to. It’s called having caring parents. This privilege scam is more annoying, and more toxic, than calling everyone a racist is.)

  2. This blog post about promoting victimhood is along similar lines as one of my recent posts about the false ascertain that some people start 50 yards behind. Different approach to a similar issue resulting in “similar’ish” conclusions.

    We Don’t Owe You Anything!

    “The socialist propaganda machine is lying to you and promoting immoral victimhood when they say that some people start 50 yards behind. No one starts 50 yards behind in their individual race for the American Dream, everyone begins at their own starting line, armed with the same individual rights as every other citizen, and each according to their ability or achievement has to fight to achieve and maintain their own individual version of the American Dream. If you want your version of the American Dream, then get off your whimpering woe-be-unto-me ass and fight for it. Invest in yourself and get the education you need to achieve whatever version of the American Dream you strive for.”

    “…your lack of planning, intelligence, initiative and poor choices doesn’t constitute and emergency for the rest of us, i.e. the rest of us don’t owe you a damn thing.”

    Fight for your own American Dream! No more excuses!

    “The rest of us aren’t required to sacrifice our rights to comfort your immaturity…”

    Jack said it best…

    “The delusion that the playing field of life can be artificially leveled so that the vicissitudes of luck and individual choices are irrelevant is the infectious, potentially fatal virus always threatening democracy and personal liberty.”

    Exactly!

  3. It should not be controversial to say that some people have enjoyed certain advantages, particularly in childhood, that others did not have. I know I was fortunate in having married, college- educated parents, who were not only caring but capable people. I also had the privilege of having several other adults in my life, like Scout leaders, who went above and beyond to nurture the character of young people in the community. Not everyone had these things, and I acknowledge that.

    And certainly it sounds nice to say we’re going to work towards a society where everyone has the same advantages and opportunities starting out. People tend to like the sound of that. But there’s another way of expressing the same thing, and it sounds a lot more sinister: that we are working towards a society where parents cannot influence their childrens’ future. Yikes.

    • “It should not be controversial to say that some people have enjoyed certain advantages, particularly in childhood, that others did not have. I know I was fortunate in having married, college- educated parents, who were not only caring but capable people. I also had the privilege of having several other adults in my life, like Scout leaders, who went above and beyond to nurture the character of young people in the community. Not everyone had these things, and I acknowledge that.”

      Water is wet too. Sure Dave what you wrote isn’t unreasonable; however, that’s not what’s going on. Many of these differences you spoke of are achieved by people making good choices and working hard to achieve their version of the American Dream. It really doesn’t matter who you are, who your parents are, what your perceived social status is by others, where you live, or what your skin hue is, you can ALWAYS find someone that has it better than you; to turn that into some kind of victimhood based on perceived differences in privilege is delusional thinking from stupid people.

      Apathy Fertilizes A Breeding Ground For Stupidity

      If you don’t want to live under rules created by stupid people then you need to set aside your apathy for society and politics, stand up for intelligent truths and do something about what’s happening!

      • Many of these differences you spoke of are achieved by people making good choices and working hard to achieve their version of the American Dream.

        Of course they are. That doesn’t mean these advantages aren’t real or don’t matter. They are and they do, otherwise we wouldn’t bother to secure them for our children.

        to turn that into some kind of victimhood based on perceived differences in privilege is delusional thinking from stupid people.

        This is true and an important point: privilege isn’t a zero-sum game. My parents’ careful attention to me didn’t cause someone else’s father to disappear and their mother to become a heroin addict. The fact I had these advantages doesn’t mean I’ve wronged those less fortunate.

  4. Having worked awhile in the Job Corp as a vocational counselor, it became very clear to me that despite having free room and board while in the program, books and vocational tools paid for, money reserved for getting an apartment when the graduates left the programs, only about 1/3 of the teens actually graduated from the Job Corp. The biggest obstacle was a shitty, lazy attitude and behavioral problems.

    • Shitty lazy attitudes are formed when charlatans work to obtain power by giving them an easy way to avoid personal accountability. Repeating that big lie simply helps reinforce the big lie.

        • Actually, not bitter at all. I saw first hand how shitty attitudes can be changed when you work with people and show them and not tell them how to achieve. I have seen young black men willing to change when you take the time to listen, help them deconstruct their ideas and allow them to formulate their own views based on an alternative perspective. One of the reasons I take great exception at the concept of white privilege is that there is significant privilege in blaming others.

          • I should point out that white privilege is not that someone has been given something positive.

            The escape room game creates an artificial disadvantage that players are unaware. The disadvantage is the conditioning of black males and now other ethnicities that no matter what whites will undermine you therefore you cannot succeed.

            The irony is that which holds one back gives one the excuse or privilege to blame others.

            • The only way to fix this, in other words, is to invest in the victims, one at a time, case by case. A tall price to pay for society. This investment is far more difficult when the government takes it on, from both sides. Each person has to accept that they determine their outcome, despite what others do or do not do.

              We have to work with these people to help themselves, to see reality practically, and use critical thinking skills to their advantage. We have to ‘raise’ them and mature them by allowing them a safe space to make mistakes, and to understand that they can try again. Learn to be a functional adult.

              You know, like their parents failed to do.

  5. This is another one of those posts where I wish we had our former contingent of reliable social justice warriors to come here and defend the “we have to level the playing field” argument, intellectually dishonest though it may be.

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