January 4 2017
Jillian Kay Melchior
A Brooklyn artist quickly sold out of “privilege cards” last month, a conversation-halting tool used to “check everyone in your life” in a “direct yet non-aggressive” manner.
“Uh-oh! Your privilege is showing,” the front of the cards proclaim. On the back, it says, “You’ve received this card because your privilege just allowed you to make a comment that others cannot agree or relate to.”
The card then lists checkboxes for several types of privilege, including “white, socioeconomic, Christian, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, citizen” and a fill-in-the blank spot.
A 10-pack of the business-card-sized privilege-checkers retail for $5 at CasaGirl. Their creator, Fabiola Lara, has said that all of the profits will be donated to a Brooklyn-based community center for young immigrants.
Lara declined Heat Street’s request for an interview, which asked her to respond to some of the criticism the cards have received. But she recently told Inverse that she created the cards in response to the November election.
“I don’t want people to use these cards to dismiss or silence others, but to serve as a tool to help others become self-aware in real life situations,” Lara said.
But it’s hard to see how these cards wouldn’t shut down conversation; rather than engaging with arguments or differences in perspective, they target (and invalidate) the whole person. The implication is that identity and experience are more important than knowledge or thought. Such is the nature of privilege-shaming.
But at Inverse, Lara insists her privilege cards are actually conversation tools: “I think there’s a lot of power in visualizing abstract ideas into concrete checkboxes on paper, and I made these cards hoping they would be a playful yet empowering tool for spreading awareness of the different kinds of privilege in the world. I also hope that if these cards are used in real life with your family members, it can facilitate a conversation that would otherwise be avoided. That’s the benefit of leveraging a real life moment to educate.”
Lara’s online shop also sells a poster of the Kardashian/Jenner family tree (“the modern American royal family”), Beyoncé wrapping paper, and stickers of gravestones bearing inscriptions including “gender roles,” “the male ego,” and “white privilege.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.