I began to leave this as a comment, but it grew too long and I realized that it was not really about you to begin with. It is about a trope I would like to see die, one which no amount of defining, describing, and debunking seems to be able to kill.
I do not kid myself that this will be effective in killing it either. I offer it here only in the hope that it might at least maim it a little.
Here is what is happening. In the view of ideological leftists, the sin of privilege - particularly that of a white, heterosexual American male - can never be washed away. It is a permanent defect of your soul. It means - to ideologues - that you have no moral worth. Despite what they say, no amount of “unpacking”, no amount of insight, no amount of loyal "ally work" can regain your humanity. In their eyes, your privilege means that that - now and forever - you have nothing of value to say. Your experiences are of no consequence. Your views are always empty. While you might be trotted out on occasion as part of a show-trial illustration of remorse, once that is done you need to shut up and move to the background. Once you are privileged, you are free only to agree.
This is a common misconception, I think--and I think you ought to recall here, as I do, that you admit right up front that this isn't a topic with which you are very familiar, nor even one you care to educate yourself about:
I don't really care about feminism, and I could care less what Jessica Valenti or the various WOC bloggers that are involved in this controversy think. What interests me is Hugo's attempt to add his voice to the mix, by trying to convince both sides that there is room for both in his big-tent view of feminism. And I care very much what Hugo thinks, because he is clearly a decent man, and a deep thinker.
See, that's privilege in action: The feelings of white feminist women?--Not important, not worthy of consideration. The feelings of women of color?--Not important, not worthy of consideration. The feelings of a fellow Christian white male?--So important, it's worth it to you to disregard entirely those with whom he engages. Except, of course, to misinterpret what they're trying to say in what has to be one of the most misguided "fiskings" I've seen recently on these internets. To return to your post:
In the view of ideological leftists, the sin of privilege - particularly that of a white, heterosexual American male - can never be washed away.
As a Christian feminist myself, I do understand the urge to draw parallels between original sin and privilege. They are not dissimilar at first glance, but a better metaphor here would be something more like fish in the sea, or maybe even those dumb old Palmolive dish soap commercials: White privilege is what white people are soaking in. It doesn't make sense to talk about "washing it away" anymore than it makes sense for schools of saltwater fish to "wash away" the sea.
You can't go back and erase the subjugation of indigenous peoples by whites, you can't go back and erase slavery, you can't go back and undo genocide--and neither can I, and neither can Hugo. We exist in an environment that has historically favored white people, and we can't change that history. (The present and the future, now, are another matter.)
Is this so far-fetched, so loony a concept? I don't think that it is. I think it's just acknowledging the reality of existing circumstance.
It means - to ideologues - that you have no moral worth. Despite what they say, no amount of “unpacking”, no amount of insight, no amount of loyal "ally work" can regain your humanity.
This, this right here, is what I mean when I say "a common misconception"--because this is patently untrue, and yet I hear it all the time. The most recent example I can think of occurred at Brownfemipower's, where a commenter basically asked, what do you want white people to do? Kill themselves? And with regards to the book discussion that doesn't interest you, but on which you nevertheless feel perfectly entitled to comment, that same sentiment has been expressed as, what do you want white feminists to do? Refuse book deals? Stop speaking at all?
This sets up a demonstrably false dichotomy: White people must either obliterate themselves, or content themselves with eternal, subhuman, racist asshole status. Oh, the humanity (that white people are losing, boo-hoo)!
I say this is demonstrably false because the very conversation you reference, this conversation at Hugo's that was so dehumanizing to Hugo, includes arguments made by white people; you cite them frequently throughout your own post. You quote a comment left by Tom of the blog Automatic Preference; Tom is a white man. Your next blockquote is from a comment by Theriomorph; Theriomorph is a white woman. You then cite a comment by R. Mildred; by now you should not be surprised to learn that R. Mildred is a white woman. And if any one of those three white people you quoted has ever felt dehumanized by people of color, I have not heard of it.
But it does happen that the white people you quoted stand in solidarity with women of color, and this brings us to your next point, which, again, I see made by so many, so often, that I beg you not to take this personally:
Once you are privileged, you are free only to agree.
I am free to argue with a neurosurgeon about the best way to repair a cerebral aneurysm. I am free to argue with a homeless person about the best way to stay safe on the streets. I am free to argue with an astronaut about the best way to prepare for outer space travel.
I am free to argue all these topics, but it should come as no surprise when other people, every bit as free as I am, think me a jackass for doing so. I'm not a neurosurgeon, I am not homeless, and I am no astronaut. I don't actually have a shred of authority to invoke in any of these discussions.
And as a white woman, I don't have a shred of authority to invoke in any discussions of racism as it is experienced by people of color, either. If a woman of color says to me, "What you are doing right now is silencing me, what you say here is patronizing, I experience it as dismissive," I am free to argue with her, all right; but Theriomorph or Tom or R. Mildred are also free to say, "Hey, Ilyka, stop that. You're being a racist douchebag. You can do better than this."
Now if I have any sense at all, I'll listen to Tom and R. Mildred and Theriomorph when they say that--but what would be even better than that would be if I resolved to listen to the woman of color who raised that concern with me in the first place. That woman is giving me the invaluable gift of the benefit of the doubt; I owe her, not the other way around! The bare-bones minimum I can do is listen to her with humility, listen to her in love.
Yes, what would be best would be if I did not need to hear criticism of myself solely from other white people in order to understand. What would be even better would be if I saw in people of color the same humanity you so passionately defend provided it belongs to Hugo, and not to those nasty leftist ideologues about whom you have bothered to learn absolutely NOTHING.
(And, Hugo, what would be even better from you would be if you would learn to discern when the devil's whispering in your ear, and stop thanking him for doing that.)
Unsurprisingly, Sweating Through Fog, your erroneous conclusion follows naturally from your erroneous premise:
So as a privileged person, Hugo has no basis from which to persuade feminists about anything.
The problem is not that Hugo is a privileged person. The problem is not who or what Hugo IS. The problem lies (pardon the Catholicism a moment) in what Hugo has done, and in what he has failed to do. The problem is that Hugo is not listening. I will note wearily here that this is a longstanding problem, Hugo-wise; and again, one shared by pretty much every white person on the planet; and finally, one that is seldom relieved by enablers whispering, "It's hopeless, you'll never please them, you can't win, just kill yourself, Whitey."
What if, instead of white feminists closing themselves off from discourse they deem unproductive ("unproductive" appears here to be synonymous with "uncomfortable"), they eagerly assumed the roles of pupils instead of demanding always the roles of teachers?
What if white feminists tried listening?
But I forget myself! You don't care about any of that. You only care about Hugo's humanity. You know what, dude? I think Hugo's humanity is going to be just fine, if by "just fine" we mean "expansive and all-consuming to the point no one else can have any." So do not fret. Be of good cheer!