“Check your privilege” is a stupid slogan, because “check” is a meaningless verb unless it is applied to a hockey player, a sound technician, or an anxious person worried they left the iron plugged in. Last weekend I saw a person, a white person, carrying a sign at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in our majority white Northside Chicago neighorhood, holding a sign that read: “White people, listen: check your privilege.” I recoiled. This person must have done a lot of personal privilege-checking to feel comfortable instructing thousands of strangers to do the same, strangers who mostly look like her and live in the neighborhood she lives in, which, due to redlining, has historically excluded black people from home ownership.
Privilege needs more than checked. It needs forfeited, and that won’t happen without a fight. That won’t fit on a sign.