Taylor Moran’s opinion piece on offensive words and privilege raises several interesting points, which I agree with for the most part. There is one section, though, that surprised me to no end. About halfway through her essay, Moran comments, “The only one who is allowed to decide what offends me is me. Those with privilege have absolutely no right to decide what is and what is not offensive.” Upon reading that, I dropped the bagel I was eating.
As Moran opened her piece with a statement of candid self-appraisal, allow me to do the same. I am a white, well-educated, Christian-raised, well-to-do, European, straight male. I have almost every facet of “privilege” possible. However I am extremely opposed to Moran’s statement that I am not allowed to decide what is and is not offensive in any regard: She herself stated only a sentence ago that the only one who can decide what offends is the individual. If that is true, why can I not choose phrases that offend me personally when they apply to me, and likewise ask for the removal of those terms?
Here is an example: I am of French descent, and am moderately offended when referred to as a “Frog” or when racially charged statements are made against the French. These have happened several times at Case Western Reserve University, sadly. Yet Moran would seemingly deny me the dignity of asking others to not use such detrimental terminology, solely because I am privileged in the modern definition. If a black person can decide what terminology offends them, and ask for others to cease its use, as can a LGBT person, can I not do the same with respect to my French heritage? If I cannot, why? Is this revenge for how poorly my ancestors treated yours? Payback here solves nothing and will only breed animosity.
Overall I found Moran’s positions enlightening, but I worry that the wholesale rejection of the viewpoints of the “uber-privileged” cuts a significant portion of the population out of important conversations. How can a guy like me help make the world a friendlier place if I am told that my viewpoints are useless? Indeed, being told that I am not allowed to have opinions only made me momentarily less open to discussion of important issues. Let us not forget that everyone has a place at this table, even a cisgender patriarch like me.