It finally happened: “Cognitive privilege” is a thing now


White privilege, male privilege, able-bodied privilege, cisgender privilege….. you have no doubt heard of these, but have you considered the possibility that the fact that you’re more intelligent than others is a privilege too? Has it ever occurred to you that stupid people are just under-privileged?

This week, The Daily Iowa, The University of Iowa’s primary newspaper, published an article introducing us to one other form of privilege that we have all ignored: COGNITIVE PRIVILEGE. “There are many kinds of privilege besides white privilege: cognitive privilege, for example” the writer argues.

“We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence”.

The writer, one Dan Williams, argues that much like people who are proud of their race or take pride in being born a particular gender, people who are proud of their intelligence take pride in something that they themselves had no choice and played no part in.

“….The accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart. Once we have admitted the reality of privilege itself and identified some species of privilege, we are better able to talk about the temperature-rising topic of racial privilege.”

Not to worry, though. The writer say “The purpose” here “is not to instill a sort of Catholic guilt in someone’s psyche.”

“The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual that they know very little about.”

“Feelings of guilt are natural when coming to consciousness of one’s place in the scheme of things — and noticing that one has been conferred benefits through sheer accident — but guilt is an impediment to social-justice action, not a motivator” he writes.

“We can debate whether ‘whiteness’ is a sort of ‘master privilege’ that overrules all others.”