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Topic: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

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  1. #1

    White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

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    i thought i would give this post a life of its own because i think this lady is very perceptive.
    She came to Australia and did a documentary and in the audience were Aborigines and Jewish ladies that showed great empathy towards her and towards each other, she has some genuine insights.



    White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group
    Peggy McIntosh

    http://www.utoronto.ca/acc/events/peggy1.htm




    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 that 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.

    After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don't see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
    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.
    I usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one's race or .

    I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of 2-the time.
    If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure 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 represented.
    When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
    I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
    If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
    I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
    Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of 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 remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
    I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
    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, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
    I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, out numbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
    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 public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
    I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
    If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
    I can choose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin.
    just a few quotes from the above article

  2. #2

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by charles
    i thought i would give this post a life of its own because i think this lady is very perceptive.
    She came to Australia and did a documentary and in the audience were Aborigines and Jewish ladies that showed great empathy towards her and towards each other, she has some genuine insights.



    White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack



    Peggy McIntosh

    http://www.utoronto.ca/acc/events/peggy1.htm













    just a few quotes from the above article
    I saw an ad for a job up here in Canada once that shocked me. It said something like, "We are an affirmative action workplace, white males need not apply."

    What's your take on this, Charles?

    Rob

  3. #3

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    I can challenge and refute pretty much everything on that list. But before I do, I want charles to answer Rob's question. I don't want to distract from this. Rob has asked a very important question that should be answered before proceeding.

  4. #4

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by robh
    I saw an ad for a job up here in Canada once that shocked me. It said something like, "We are an affirmative action workplace, white males need not apply."

    What's your take on this, Charles?

    Rob

    My simple answer is this, that relationships of power exist on many levels, the Sociological, Psychological, Cultural, Class, Gender etc all i have been trying to say is that if you are going to have theories of no force, human rights, religious constructs of ethics and morality etc they have to based on the reality of human existence in its many facets.

    To answer you more directly all descrimination is undesirable so if the situation at the moment was to be reversed and ethnic minorities and women held all the power in society and they started to abuse this power on any level, off course they would also have to made accountable, it is important to understand all areas of the human predicament and formulate our ethics and morality on a firm base of justice

    Now the problem with historical injustice is a complex one, the example you refer to does not mean much unless it is placed firmly into the context of what i have written above. Out of context its sounds ethically wrong and descriminates. Can you supply more detail?

  5. #5

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by charles
    Now the problem with historical injustice is a complex one, the example you refer to does not mean much unless it is placed firmly into the context of what i have written above. Out of context its sounds ethically wrong and descriminates. Can you supply more detail?
    So are you implying that such a policy can be justified?

  6. #6

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by Brady Wright
    So are you implying that such a policy can be justified?
    Brady i acknowledge that both robh and yourself have a valid point!!

    now am i implying it can be justified? my answer is no, it cant be justified

    But lets be realistic about the problem, there is a relationship that exists between different class's, cultures etc and unfortunately we as a species have not developed our ethical and moral values beyond the parochial relationships we have to our own enviroment and symbols of culture that gives meaning to our notion of reality. So yes women can be bastards, look at Thatcher for proof, ethnic minorities can be racist , embiciles , bastards , off course, but this is not the issue, or at least not to me, we need to develop ethical values and morals based on our humanity, based on firm principles of human justice, that apply to everyone, back to the more concrete example above i think it is wrong how the add was worded, for example if the add was placed by women of an ethnic minority whose goal was to establish a refuge for women who have been descriminated against and the women were simply stipulating they did not require white men because of the sensitivity of the situation,well i would agree with them, but i would disagree with how they expressed themselves and the violence inherent in their wording of the add, so everyone is accountable to the same laws of justice or else justice means nothing.

    Now on the face of it, i may seem like i am contradicting myself, but Brady we have been discussing these issues for over a month now, and i hope you are taking into account all my ideas discussed over this time, that is that as a species we need symbols of culture that determine our place in the world and our humanity, but also that these symbols are not static representations of reality but are dynamic ever growing reflections of how we see ourselves and our place in the universe. This relationship unfortunately, for the most part is abused by our species, we could go into this from many angles and off course there are the equally important Political and Economic ramifications to this relationship of Culture and its symbols and the relationships of power, this is a complex issue

  7. #7

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by charles
    My simple answer is this, that relationships of power exist on many levels, the Sociological, Psychological, Cultural, Class, Gender etc all i have been trying to say is that if you are going to have theories of no force, human rights, religious constructs of ethics and morality etc they have to based on the reality of human existence in its many facets.

    To answer you more directly all descrimination is undesirable so if the situation at the moment was to be reversed and ethnic minorities and women held all the power in society and they started to abuse this power on any level, off course they would also have to made accountable, it is important to understand all areas of the human predicament and formulate our ethics and morality on a firm base of justice

    Now the problem with historical injustice is a complex one, the example you refer to does not mean much unless it is placed firmly into the context of what i have written above. Out of context its sounds ethically wrong and descriminates. Can you supply more detail?
    It was a few years ago that I saw the ad, so I can't supply any more detail. I have a vague recollection that the job itself had nothing to do with who its customer base was. I live in Canada which celebrates its multiculturalism - which I'm not so sure is a positive thing (I'll explain my reasoning for that later if you wish, just ask) - and it seems that with these affirmative action initiatives, the pendulum has swung the other way. Instead of asking, "does the applicant qualify for the job because he/she has the education, experience, qualifications, etc." the question has become, or maybe should I say STILL is, "what colour is the applicants skin, or what is their gender, then we'll ask what qualifications they have."

    The interesting thing about this affirmative action issue, is that when it was "big" news here, I half jokingly predicted amongst my friends "that means white males need not apply". The shocking part about the ad to me was that they would actually say that in an ad!

    I do have another question for you Charles after re-reading your response: You mentioned my example was "out of context". Does that mean in proper context you believe this type of discrimination is acceptable? Can you give me a hypothetical situation where you believe this is acceptable? I'm not sure I'm following you on this.

    Rob

  8. #8

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    First, charles, you still have yet to explain exactly and concretely what you mean by "symbols" with regard to culture.

    Okay, on to my comments on the original post:

    I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of 2-the time.
    Why does that matter? The only reason this would matter to someone is if they’re racist.

    If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
    And so can pretty much everyone, with very few rare exceptions (exceptions that are usually pretty lucrative if litigated).

    I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
    Ditto. And BTW, whether someone is neutral or pleasant has mostly to do with the way you treat others.

    I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
    Ditto.

    I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
    When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
    More racism. None of this should matter unless you have a race-centered mindset.

    I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
    Another racist comment. But incidentally, in the US, some historical school curricula actually give scant paragraphs to important achievements such as the invention of the airplane or the American Revolution, but give huge sections, or even chapters, to minority social icons.

    If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
    This actually goes against her point. The fact that such a tome would be easily published indicates white society’s hunger for self-criticism and multiculturalism. And I imagine she’d probably have an easier time getting it published if she were black. However, I doubt very much that a transcript received in the mail by a publisher for review would lend much hint to the reader (outside of direct references in its text) as to the race of the author.

    I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
    No comment necessary (rap). Except that perhaps it’s a bit racist to ascribe some of these things to racial identity.

    Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
    She’s assuming that skin color DOES work against it. It doesn’t. It’s all about personal presentation (read two items down for more on this).

    I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
    What?!

    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.
    Let’s be clear. No matter what color you are, if you present yourself badly, people will make certain judgments about you. If a white person wears certain clothing (clothing consistent with stereotypes about “rednecks” or “white trash”), the very same judgments will be made about them – not based on race, but on personal appearance. The same is true for any person, regardless of color. And, BTW, heaven forbid you go anywhere outside of the South or lower Mid-West and speak with a southern accent – your intelligence and literacy will be judged for sure, no matter what color you are!

    I know that when it’s late at night and I’m a bad part of town, if I see a guy walking toward me shabbily dressed, regardless of his color, I’m going to be more tense than if he was nicely dressed. If I saw a shady-looking white guy, he’d make me more nervous than a decently dressed black guy. It’s all about appearance. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true: if I saw a woman in the same setting, regardless of race and regardless of dress, I’d probably feel no tension at all. Why’s that? Because, statistically, women are not known to be violent aggressors (all jokes aside). Now is that prejudiced of me? No, it’s just horse sense.

    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.
    These are all examples of the ills of collectivist thinking. If anything, the mentality she’s advancing is the very same mentality that supports these kinds of things.

    I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
    That’s true of any person who’s part of the dominant culture in their geographic and cultural sphere, regardless of color. I doubt Chinese people living in Beijing feel much “penalty” for being oblivious to, say, the language and customs of people in Africa. Now of course a point could always be made about the need to know English, but that’s only because the English-speaking West has created such an explosion of media through TV, film, literature, and the internet. That doesn’t speak of insensitivity or wrong-doing on their part, it merely speaks of their productivity and creativity – hardly things for which they can be blamed.

    I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
    So can anyone who’s not a cultural outsider. I’m white and, obviously, I know a lot of white people, and I don’t know any of them who would automatically assume someone to be a “cultural outsider” just based on race. Now if they were actual foreigners or immigrants or something, then maybe so, and reasonably so.

    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.
    Why is that important? More racism.

    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.
    This is meaningless. If she was singled out for other dubious reasons, it makes it no better. And if a minority is audited or pulled over for legitimate reasons, what’s the problem? Just because someone can *speculate* that it was because of their race means nothing. Why not speculate about many other reasons? Surely race isn’t the only reason.

    I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.
    I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, out numbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
    More racist, color-centric thinking.

    I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
    Again, this is a symptom of the very kind of view she’s promoting.

    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.
    And where WILL one’s race get one mistreated or denied entry? I guarantee you that if you can find such a place, you’ll make a lot of money (lawsuit). You should be so lucky.

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

    If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
    You need not ask such questions in any case. You can’t control other people and their stupidity. You can only control yourself. And the best thing you can do in that area is to have a positive attitude and do your best. If you’re constantly paranoid about what other people are thinking, you’re only hurting yourself and are probably hurting your relations with others in the process.

    I can choose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin.
    Please. And if I’m left handed it’s hard for me to find a mouse that fits my hand. Or if I’m extraordinarily tall it’s hard to find cloths that fit… I could go on and on. It’s all about numbers. Most people fit in a certain height range. Most people are right handed. Most people fall within a certain color range. Deal with it. And if you think there’s a large enough market for products that cater to the minority’s needs, by all means, go fill the niche and get rich! And if not enough people buy what you’re selling and your business goes bankrupt, then now you know why those things aren’t widely available.

    In summary, I think many of this woman’s points reveal her own racism rather than “white privilege”. They are subtle confessions of her own racist thinking rather than revelatory of the thinking of the white population at large.

  9. #9

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    Quote Originally Posted by robh
    which I'm not so sure is a positive thing (I'll explain my reasoning for that later if you wish, just ask) -
    yes robh i would be interested in your reasoning because Australia is also a so called Multicultural society, maybe comparing insights would interesting


    Quote Originally Posted by robh
    and it seems that with these affirmative action initiatives, the pendulum has swung the other way. Instead of asking, "does the applicant qualify for the job because he/she has the education, experience, qualifications, etc." the question has become, or maybe should I say STILL is, "what colour is the applicants skin, or what is their gender, then we'll ask what qualifications they have."
    i think we get back to our definition of Race and its relationship to Culture.
    i agree with you on the surface it is simply wrong to have the pendulumn swing completely the other way , all this shows is total ignorance by all involved and that society has not learnt anything.

    So i think maybe i will clarify what i feel is an important distinction to keep in mind.

    Now i think its almost indisputable that people discriminate, so we have to ask ourselves ,
    why do people discriminate?
    well i will try an give as concise an answer as i can, but it seems to me we could look at a number of factors

    1- Economic Scarcity - if the jobs are not there how and who do we allocate the jobs?
    power tends to concentrate in the hands of people who share similar views and customs {i have only touched on this because i dont want to get side tracked}

    2- Race and Culture
    humans need the basics of food shelter etc but beyond that we also need other higher aspects of our being, spirituality, symbols of culture( sound, visual, tactile etc)
    now we generally feel a need to identify with people who share these aspects of our being, for eg, family, friends etc of course, i am being simplistic here, but i think the essence is that we need our being verified by people who also share our values, and when this relationship is threatened we react to protect ourselves.

    Now what does this all mean in relation to our discussion.

    1- a people can not exist without Culture, if the language is taken away from a people they will slowly cease to exist as a people, similarily with other aspects that are important to their sense of self, that is Religion - what gives them meaning in understanding the infinite , the universe etc
    cultural symbols, which express their humanity, and is a way that an individual and his collective express who they are and communicate to us of their existense which is fundamental for their identity.

    The problem is how do we balance Economic and Political reality with our need to preserve our Being, not a simple question. Where do we start?
    If we could ignore Economic and Political reality i dont think we would have a problem, we could let each cultural entity unfold according to its natural inclinations, assimilate in areas it wish's to, and transcend symbols in other areas, a good example of this is Jazz , where now it is practised in all corners of the world , and even here in Australia we have many fine Jazz muscians, but unfortunately we cant ignore reality,
    So what do we do?
    if a society is concerned with justice , than we have to concern ourselves with what is the reality of human existense, at the moment i dont see this at all, our leaders are not concerned with any of the things i have been discussing for obvious reasons, they question the whole structure of a society, power relationships etc

    With the obove in mind we come back to the swing of pendulum, of course it is wrong because if justice is not for all , well than we dont have justice,
    But how do we balance the above, the Cultural and the Economic etc
    clearly if power concentrates in the hand of certain groups they exert a power over other groups, and to be honest i dont have a concrete answer, so i can only give you my beliefs and opinions about this, which i guess you could infer from what i have already written

    1- If we are truly going to have societies that are based on justice and human growth, than we have to find ways of balancing our needs on all levels, if we ignore the essential ingredients that give us our humanity, violence and exploitation will only follow, no matter how the dominant group rationalizes away the contraditions with psuedo economic idealogy that pretends to answer these questions but is only a convienient mask of realtiy

    2- how do we correct historical injustice? what is clear to me if something is not done than the injustice will continue, so clearly something needs to be put in place affirmative action etc with all its possible problems what else is availabe to us? i personally would hope that with reason and understanding we could balance the forces in our society and come to reasoned conclusions on how to allocate work etc

    3- At the moment most planning in society seems to me to be centred on our physical being, and as i stated above for obvious reasons, it is the easiets and most convienient to deal with, and doesnt challenge power structures within a society , but if we are to talk seriously about the problems we have to discuss other aspects of our humanity that i touched upon above

    4- it is my firm belief that if we could find a balance than societies could balance the need of assimilation and transcendence among groups within a society



    Quote Originally Posted by robh
    The interesting thing about this affirmative action issue, is that when it was "big" news here, I half jokingly predicted amongst my friends "that means white males need not apply". The shocking part about the ad to me was that they would actually say that in an ad![
    i agree that is unjust to have the situation reverse, see above

    Quote Originally Posted by robh
    I do have another question for you Charles after re-reading your response: You mentioned my example was "out of context". Does that mean in proper context you believe this type of discrimination is acceptable? Can you give me a hypothetical situation where you believe this is acceptable? I'm not sure I'm following you on this.

    Rob
    i gave an example above concerning a womens refuge, another example could be where people work in a caring situation, for example bathing the elderly , i dont think an elderly women would feel to comfortable being bathed by a male etc so there are situations where the gender and ethnicity might be more appropriate, but in situations where the skill is important , than i would say the best man or women should get the job, but with the big question we also balance out the other factors in our society, perhaps not an easy thing to do.

  10. #10

    Re: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

    charles, you're wrong and here's why:

    1. Culture needs individuals to exist, not the other way around. Culture serves individuals – individuals do not serve cultures. In other words, culture exists to serve Man. Man does not exist to serve the ends of culture.

    2. The way to keep certain groups from having power over others is to banish the initiation of force from all relationships. This includes government.

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