While my introduction to Privilege Watch focused primarily on race, my first case file will also touch on sexism and Christian privilege. The latter is something that I feel I’m exceptionally sensitive to. As a Jewish atheist, public presumptions of faith, especially Christianity, are glaringly obvious to me in a way that it seems Christians don’t recognize. Partly I attribute this to my summer internship in atheist activism with the Secular Student Alliance, but I also think that the experience of exclusion clues one in to the reality of the dominant culture. As Womanist Musings puts it:
“If you are gay or lesbian you’re an expert in heterosexist culture and how it marginalizes the various sexualities because for the entirety of your existence you have had to negotiate it to be able to survive. If you are of colour you are an expert on white privilege and racism because for the entirety of you life you have been assaulted by it. If you are differently abled you are an expert on abelism because for the entirety of your experience you have been denied access by others, or told to capitulate and remove yourself from any and all social actions. The oppressed are experts because we live it every damn day of our lives.”
Obviously, I can’t claim to have experience with those specific oppressions, but I think that this idea will be a running theme of Privilege Watch – namely, that minorities, be they racial, sexual, gender, religious, or ability, often know more about their dominators than they do.
Anyway, today’s case file starts with this Fox News clip. You can also see this at the wingnut propaganda site The Fox Nation under the wholly misleading title, “Guess Which Words Are Banned From Your Kids’ Textbooks?”:
I saw that sneer, Steve Doocy! Just for that you deserve a smack upside the head.
Students of rhetoric will note that the major device employed throughout the video is hyperbole. The suggestion that, just maybe, language that implicitly excludes the majority of the American population shouldn’t be used to shape young attitudes towards our history is equated with a prohibition on white Christian men, “mind control”, even “whitewashing reality.” This astoundingly over-the-top performance by Doocy and Tucker Carlson equates opposition to 50s-era preconceptions with the same hysteria as indoctrination – which, of course, conservatives never endorse. Additionally, it’s a common conservative ploy to claim that education = mind control, an attitude that is useful for defunding public schools and inhibiting original thinking.
This video bluntly illustrates just how unthinking and how un-self-aware privilege. We can’t argue that the textbook changes aren’t an attempt to shape attitudes – they definitely are, although their intent is to undo and de-legitimate the belief that white Christian men are the “real Americans”. What Doocy and Carlson totally gloss over is the fact that textbooks which focus fixedly on male-gendered language preserve, explicitly or implicitly, precisely those privileges which they see themselves as entitled to. This amounts to a form of ‘mind control’ far more damaging and exclusionary than anything that Tucker Carlson is railing against.
Adding insult to injury is how highly amusing Doocy and Carlson find this whole subject, which is emphasized by their use of the Geico commercial. Oh, those women and minorities! Getting so worked up over some words in a silly textbook! It’s almost as if they lack the white male privilege which means that we don’t have to constantly claw, tooth and nail, to ensure that representations of people like us, even when their contributions to American history are undeniably vital, are a part of the school curriculum!
….which, if Doocy and Carlson could pull their heads out of their asses for just a brief moment to note, would see is happening right now in Texas. The State Board of Education, which recently lost one creationist chair to gain another, recently received its social studies recommendations. Appointed fundie evangelicals David Barton and Peter Marshall – both of whom are committed to spreading outright lies to support the Christian conservative agenda – have proposed dropping critical historical figures such as Cesar Chavez, Thurgood Marshall, and Anne Hutchinson for being “unimportant”. In a move so shamelessly partisan it couldn’t have come from anywhere but Texas, they’ve also called for references to “democratic values” be changed to – wait for it – “republican values.”
Now, one might imagine that these horrendous historical distortions, advanced by men lacking any qualifications to be appointed experts in history, should merit comment, especially since Texas’ status as the nation’s largest textbook market virtually guarantees that its warped ‘standards’ form the baseline for textbooks nationally. But, due to the incessant demands of white male Christian privilege, Doocy & Carlson find themselves with their hands full, making sure that nobody except people just like them weasel their way into grade-school education – because that would be brainwashing.
 Actually, a recent Google search led me to this video of Doocy & Carlson discussing the warped Texas history standards. Predictably, they don’t mention the exclusion of Chavez et.al., but simply parrot the absurd talking points of Marshall and Barton, that liberals are trying to exclude religion from classrooms. Apparently, forcing three unqualified conservative ideologues to share a panel with three liberal/moderate academics is unbalanced and a threat to American values.