WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work - WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE A Personal

WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work

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Unformatted text preview: WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies (1988) - Peggy McIntosh ➔ Author states: “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.” ◆ This essay is a partial record of Peggy McIntosh’s personal observations, not a scholarly analysis ● Based on daily experiences within her particular circumstances ➔ Questions: ◆ Is this is a specifically an American phenomenon or is it an international one? ◆ How were you [students in class] taught about racism; through your family, peers, media or educational system? ➔ White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provision, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks ➔ Author reviews several types of layers of denial that she sees at work protecting, and preventing awareness about, entrenched male privilege ◆ She draws parallel from her own experience, with the denials that veil facts of white privilege ◆ Author lists 46 ordinary and daily ways in which she experiences having white privilege, by contrast with her African American colleagues in the same building ➔ After faculty development work in Women’s Studies, the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged proiv life, the author understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious ◆ Began to count the ways in which she enjoys unearned skin privilege ➔ In school, author was never taught about slavery in any depth; they were not taught to see slaveholders as damaged people ◆ Schooling followed the pattern in which Elizabeth Minnich pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like “us” ➔ Author provided a list of special circumstances and conditions she experienced that she did not earn but have been made to feel are hers by birth, by citizenship, and by virtue of being a conscientious law-abiding “normal” person of goodwill ◆ Out of the 46 conditions the author states, one that really got my attentions was: “I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.” ➔ For the author, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it she must give up the myth of meritocracy. ◆ Meritocracy: government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability ➔ A further paralysis of nerve comes from literary silence protecting privilege ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ➔ ◆ Type of evidence - Use of other literature: Author finds such analysis in Lillian Smith’s unparalleled Killers of the Dream and Margaret Anderson’s review of Karen and Mamie Fields’ Lemon Swamp ● Smith wrote about walking toward black children on the sweet and knowing they would step into the gutter; Anderson contrasted the pleasure that she, as a white child, took on summer driving trips to the south with Karen Fields’ memories of driving in a closed car stocked with all necessities, in stopping, her black family should suffer “insult, or worse” ● Adrienne Rich also recognized and writes about family experiences of privilege, but in my observation, white women’s writing in this area is far often on systemic racism than on our daily lives as light-skinned women Author sees a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions that were passed on to her as a white person ◆ Can control her own “turf” Whiteness protected the author from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence ◆ The word “privilege” now seems misleading to the author ● Its connotations are too positive to fit the conditions and behaviors which “privilege systems” produce ● We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned, or conferred by birth or luck “Privilege” may confer power, but it does not confer moral strength Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is, in fact, permission to escape or to dominate Male colleagues do not have a great deal to lose in supporting Women’s Studies, but they do not have a great deal to lose if they oppose it either ◆ They simply have the power to decide whether to commit themselves to more equitable distributions of power Through Women’s Studies work, the author has met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance ◆ Author states: “We need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. We need more down-to-earth writing by people about these taboo subjects.” White students in the United States think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color; they do not see “whiteness” as a racial identity ◆ Many men think that Women’s Studied does not pertain to them because they are not female; they do not see themselves as having gendered identities After recasting many elements from the original list, author added 8 further observations Difficulties and dangers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. ◆ Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same. ● In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage which rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and ethnic identity than on other factors. ➔ Oppressions are both distinct and interlocking ◆ Combahee River Collective statement 1977 ...
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  • Fall '11
  • AmyBhatt
  • White people, women’s studies, Whiteness studies

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