Saturday, August 15, 2009

Speaking of White Privilege. . .

In Peggy McIntosh's groundbreaking article, she lists 46 things as the daily effect of white privilege in her life. It would be too long to list all 45, but here are some, pretty much chosen at random, for a taste:

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

3. 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.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

12. 1 can go into a book shop and count on finding the writing of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.

13. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance that I am financially reliable.

15. I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.

17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.

19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

24. I can be reasonably sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

25. 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.

26. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

33. I am not made acutely aware that my shape, bearing, or body odor will be taken as a reflection on my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.

39. I can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on my race.

40. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

41. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

43. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

46. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.

Do you see white privilege at work in your life? Do you see how that might be different for your children? It starts with that first one -- arranging to be in the company of people of their own race most of the time. For most of them, most of the time, that isn't possible, is it? And some of that rubs off on us, as parents. #15, not having to teach our children about systemic racism, doesn't apply to us. Does that feel like the loss of a privilege we're entitled to?

Discuss, please!


Anonymous said...

Wow! So true!

Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann BF said...

I have come across this many times and used it when I used to teach sociology...with this awareness comes responsibility, to move out of the "privilege comfort zone" if one happens to be of majority culture.