There is a growing number of words and phrases which, through being used as a way of batting away inconvenient dissent, have all but lost their original meaning. Racist, sexist, homophobe – the list goes on. But these words have nothing on that most recent addition to the ‘just shut up’ armoury, the catch-all silencer masquerading as a well-intentioned request. That’s right: ‘Check your privilege.’
It’s now the reflex rebuttal of the student radical, and it has become ubiquitous in campus discussions. In theory, the phrase asks us to consider whether our beliefs might be skewed by our limited experience of a particular issue. This is not, in itself, unreasonable. But, as so often happens when reason meets Tumblr sociologist, privilege-checking has been taken to ugly extremes.