I can just about predict exactly how this thread will go, but like I told someone else on an unrelated topic: Just because it’s futile doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.
I have snipped portions of Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh to demonstrate that White Privilege is real.
The article is now considered a classic by anti-racist educators. It has been used in workshops and classes throughout the United States and Canada for many years. While people of color have described for years how whites benefit from unearned privileges, this is one of the first articles written by a white person on the topics.
I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white
privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can
count on cashing in each day, but about which I was meant to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.
I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white
privilege on my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach somewhat more to
skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographical location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, my African American co-workers,
friends and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.
I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely
When I am told about our national heritage or about western civilization, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the
appearance of my financial reliability.
I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute
these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the person in charge, I will be facing a person of my race.
If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and childrenâ€™s
magazines featuring people of my race.
I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
I can choose bandages in a color and have them more or less match my skin.
I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.
In unpacking this invisible backpack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily
experience which I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the
holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some these
varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be
ignorant, oblivious, arrogant and destructive.
I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions which were
passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turf, and I
was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways, and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male
advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, themyth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
All emphasis is mine, and much of the article has been snipped.
Thoughts? Please, be specific. Address the numbered points and why you disagree with them, don’t take the intellectually lazy way out and just say I’m full of it.
Let the pile-on begin…