Unpacking the invisible knapsack

Discuss

147 Responses to “Unpacking the invisible knapsack”

  1. donncha-m says:

    Privilege is: not having to think about the issue.

  2. jerryeast says:

    These are interesting ideas and ones that have been discussed for at least a couple of hundred years in various contexts. But the main problem with such ideas about race and privilege is the misconception that there’s some magical state called “EQUALITY” – equality as an abstract idea does not exist – we live in an ever-changing, social world. We’re all victims (so to speak) depending on where we live or travel or depending on which corner market we frequent – I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with socializing within groups containing mostly people of one’s own race or religion (or eye color for that matter) This is what people do, and there is an advantage to doing this – some people call it networking – some might call it “a privilege”

    • Tess says:

      **blink**

      Read it again?

      This is definitely not about socializing with people like oneself.

      And being in homogeneous groups is far more beneficial to people who are in privileged homogeneous groups…

      I think you don’t quite get it.

      • Mordicai says:

        I think Jerry “gets” it.  I just don’t think Jerry “wants” it.  Sadly.

      • jerryeast says:

        “This is definitely not about socializing with people like oneself”

        Most of Maggie’s bullet points at the tail end of her post are concerned with socializing with people like oneself

        • Tess says:

          No, they’re about belonging to a society in which people like oneself are not visible – in popular media, in decision-making structures, etc.  It’s a structural argument.  The final two points can be avoided through segregation, this is true.  If you think that’s a good thing…

          **shrug**  the only people who can actually segregate themselves thoroughly are people with privilege – because that, too, is a privilege.  

          • jerryeast says:

            Now you seem to be talking about people with money and all the discrimination and inequality that comes with that – remember that people with money often earned it in normal, non-harmful ways and have a right to self-segregate to wherever they want

        • Gideon Jones says:

          I love the way you’ve re-cast discrimination as mere “socializing”, as if denying all Black people or Jews entry into your store were the same thing as choosing to be best buddies with Sam rather than Dave.

          • jerryeast says:

            Maggie’s entire post is about socializing and her life as a sociable person

            I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a discriminating person on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis – yesterday I had to use my powers of discrimination to avoid a potentially bad situation with a homeless fellow. Was I discriminating against the homeless fellow? Yes. We all avoid certain or “different” people for a variety of reasons. There’s no point in pretending we’re holier-than-thou and grand keepers of equality – we’re people with flaws. Everybody discriminates to some extent. That’s not a bad thing. How could it be?

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            Give me a break.  “Discriminating” against somebody because they appear hostile or possibly dangerous* is not the same as discriminating against somebody because of the color of their skin, somebody you would otherwise not feel threatened by.

            *not to say that your anecdotal story is true either.

            Sorry. This is in reply to “jerryeast”. I hate the way this reply system works now…

    • daen says:

      We’re as equal as we choose to treat each other.  If you think that inequality is the norm, then it becomes so.

    • We’re all victims (so to speak) depending on where we live or travel or depending on which corner market we frequent

      The ability to make a statement like this–equating discrimination from an entity-in-power with discrimination from an entity-that-is-oppressed–is a symptom of the same privilege that the article is about. Yes, yes, every time a gringo steps into the corner botanica, he gets sideways looks from the proprietor. But so often in Internet discussions of privilege, he takes this as an example of how, “we’re all discriminated against, depending on context,” and so concludes that all forms of discrimination are equal. They’re not. Discrimination from those in power is infinitely more harmful than from those who are not in power–which should really be self-evident.

    • wysinwyg says:

      I think you just misunderstand what people mean by “equality.”  No one wants equality in some dystopian Harrison Bergeron sense and no one believes people are or should be literally identical to one another.

      But if I walk into a government office or a bank or a deli or a dry cleaner’s or a book store or anywhere else sight unseen I expect to get equal treatment.  I don’t expect other customers to get to jump ahead of me in line and I don’t expect the proprietors to disrespect me or suspect me of criminal intentions.  “Equality” in the sense described here is the notion that this shouldn’t depend on my gender or sexuality or the color of my skin.

      Equality in this sense is really about giving everyone the same opportunity to express their individuality.  Equality in this sense does not mean anything like “conformity.”  Equality in this sense discourages conformity by affirming that there’s no one special way everyone ought to be.  Privilege, in contrast, is exactly that: an affirmation that there is some way to be — usually wealthy, white, and male in our culture — that is special and deserves extra consideration. 

    • thefugitivesaint says:

      Way to privatize and atomize an argument that addresses institutional and systemic discrimination. You didn’t actually address the point of the post, you  re-contextualized it and, in doing so, avoided the issue altogether.

  3. Tess says:

    Well said – and thank you.  This is indeed a classic, and always worthy of reposting. :)

  4. Mordicai says:

    Reposting this every year on MLK Day sounds like a really good tradition.

  5. xunker says:

    I believe the most important thing to accept is that double standards exist and that they apply to you, good and bad. Never assume you, yourself, are a baseline for anything. You are a product of a relative environment. Once we stop bickering about who is getting the privilege and who is getting the pain, then we can finally make progress.

    Accept that, in double standards:
    * You are hurt by them (even if they do not apply to you)
    * You benefit from them (even though you may not realize it)
    * You perpetuate them (even though you may not try to)
    * You are effected by the previous 3 things, though not always equally

    The worst thing the that struggle for equal human rights is that, for an appreciable part of the population, it crystalized an “Us vs. Them” attitude that instead of fostering cooperation has produced defensiveness and bitterness.

    The best thing about the struggle for human rights is that it is an ongoing process that we can continually refine.  There will never be a “destination”, it will never be “done”, but that’s not the important thing: the most important thing is that we keep moving forward to our ideal.

    One day, instead of saying “Look what ‘we’ did to ‘them’,” we will say “My God, look what we did to ourselves.”

    • daen says:

      Also, as Gabe Pressman’s mother said to him after he’d angrily told her about his visit to Auschwitz:  “I don’t give a damn what your hatred of the Germans will do to them. I do care very much what it will do to you.”

    • Tess says:

      Not that I dislike your point precisely, but we can’t stop talking about privilege when lots of people won’t accept that it’s real. My students often don’t believe that sexism happens or male privilege exists – how can we counter this if people aren’t willing to even see it?  And the way it is seen, if at all, is that those of us who are discriminated against speak loudly enough to be heard.

      • foobar says:

        If we only talk about male privilege, even reasonable, thoughtful men will be trained to see it as an attack on them. To put it tautologically, to include everyone we have to include everyone, looking at both male and female privilege rather than just one in isolation.

        • clpolk says:

          what’s female privilege, again?

          • foobar says:

            A women can appear in family court without fear that her sex or gender role will have a negative effect on the judgement.

            A woman can enter a male dominated profession with the knowledge that she’ll be supported against detractors and will have resources made available to help counter discrimination she may face.

            A woman can choose to forgo a career to focus on raising a family without fear that her community will disapprove.

            I’m sure you can think of many other instances.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            A woman can enter a male dominated profession with the knowledge that she’ll be supported against detractors and will have resources made available to help counter discrimination she may face.

            And be paid less than her male counterparts.

          • YanquiFrank says:

            this is in reply to foobar.  when women enter a male dominated profession the one thing she can count on is being harassed and ridiculed, threatened and intimidated. Not sure what world you live in where women get all this mythical support for entering a male dominated anything.  

            many women that forego motherhood for a career are looked at negatively — you’re supposed to do both!!  men don’t have this problem.  the only bias men face in family court is the presumption that children need a mother’s direct care (as opposed to financial support) more than a father’s care.  however, if the mother has shown some fault or if she cannot show some way to support herself and her child, she may likely face an uphill battle getting custody.

            if and when men forego careers to care for children they do not face discrimination due to it.  they may feel inadequate in some way, but that is their baggage.  I have never seen a loving father taking care of children treated like shit.  sorry, haven’t seen it.  frankly foobar, you seem to have a lot of resentment towards women that skews your judgment of how many privileges they get in a ridiculous way.  women almost always have a harder time getting by in the world, from the fact they are generally at the mercy of physically stronger men to the fact that they are outsiders in many workplace situations.  things have gotten a lot better for women but breaking down boundaries isn’t fun and takes a lot of guts and strength.  if you can’t cheer for women’s successes then just shut up and get out of the way.  

          • foobar says:

            @Antinous

            I don’t see how that disputes any of my points.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            That’s depressing.

          • foobar says:

            @YanquiFrank

            Would you really dispute that men face more social reprobation than women for opting to be stay at home care givers?

            This doesn’t have to be an antagonistic process, in fact the only way forward that I see is a cooperative, inclusive one. You can’t combat hatred with more hatred.

          • YanquiFrank says:

            I really don’t see a lot of stay-at-home dads being treated like crap for making that decision.  I don’t see them being harassed or targeted for abuse.  So no I can’t really see your point.   Perhaps some men are uncomfortable with such a decision and I can imagine some men making fun of other men for making this decision, but tell me — how does that really affect your life?  if a man mocked me for staying home with my kids I would mock him for having a shallow relationship with his kids and for being a neanderthal.  Would you be embarrassed if that happens?  What real effect might it have on your life?  There is no comparison between that dynamic and women being sexually harassed or passed over for promotions, or being paid less for being women.  You are ignoring the power dynamics inherent in women who step out of their accepted roles.  They just don’t exist for men.

          • Sean McKibbon says:

            cpolk – Women can love men without fear of being thought perverts and express their emotions in ways men can’t. Yeah yeah I know western culture has demonized female sexuality, but try being transgendered or gay and suddenly you will find being a female from birth seems to have lots of membership privileges.  Isn’t the whole point of the concept that everyone one has certain backstage pass privileges/disadvantages, but that certainly some groups seem to have more on one side of the ledger than the other?

            @yaqqi:disqus
             -  former stay at home dad here. Yes say at home dads are treated like crap in some contexts. it’s the point of the article that the discrimination and privileges are invisible to some people. when i was unemployed and at home it was assumed i was going back to the work force and subtle and not so subtle pressures were applied.

            On a side note having done the stay at home dad thing I found out fairly quickly that some of those things people see as gender role patriarchal privileges in fact are either economic or easily transferable to the “bread winer,” no matter the bread winner’s gender.

          • clpolk says:

            I came back to see if anyone actually was witless enough to answer without irony.

            …oh.

        • Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine says:

          This is certainly true, and I strongly agree with your reason for talking about it.  But it’s important also to be honest that it’s very far from equal-and-opposite: far too often, people pointing out that female privilege don’t seem to acknowledge that male privilege covers many, many more things, and has far more harmful effects, in our society at the moment.

          • foobar says:

            Like all value judgements, that’s entirely subjective. The harm will be vastly different from person to person.

            I would argue that male privilege impacts more women than vice versa in large part because men are much more strongly discouraged from stepping out of or even pushing on the borders of their assigned gender role.

          • YanquiFrank says:

            foobar, it is not entirely subjective.  what is entirely subjective is your belief that it is.  if you don’t feel comfortable getting outside of your male role then you need to either a) move somewhere people are more accepting or b) just get over yourself, do as you want and take the “consequences”

            you might find the consequences for you acting out of role are minimal compared to the hazing and abuse women get for just being women…  do we really need to go through all of the ways women’s opinions, feelings and thoughts are minimized?

          • YanquiFrank says:

            foobar, you are comparing serious career and life altering issues that women face to minor embarrassments men might face.  its not about your feelings.  its about reality.

        • Again, this argument boils down to the premise that all forms of bigotry are equivalent, which is simply not true, and is a tactic used to deflect attention from the most harmful forms of bigotry, by those who benefit most from them.

          • Cefeida says:

            I read  a comment on a different site a few days ago that was spot on about this. To paraphrase: “Apparently no hardship a woman faces can be taken seriously until it is first proven that a man must also face the same hardship.”

        • kairos says:

          It’s interesting that being treated as a sex object by men (‘sexual harrassment’) is judged to be fundamentally different and worse than being treated as a sexual non-subject (impotent) by other men by people unwilling to understand or accept foobar’s point. If you think that there’s no psychological harm or power dynamic going on between a man who works to support a family and a man who surrenders that role to a woman, or don’t think it’s comparable to the power dynamic between a woman whose ass gets slapped and the man who does the slapping, you’re guilty of the same fundamental failure to observe, recognize, and understand systematic social oppression that is accused by the OP.

          Get over yourselves. If your sense of being oppressed can’t survive attempting to legitimately comprehend a claim to being oppressed made by someone you consider oppressive, or part of an oppressive class, you’re just self-indulgently wallowing in resentment, not making a plausible effort to understand and counteract the dynamics of oppression.

          • thatbob says:

            -Being able to work in a profession or hobby with children and teens without being presumed to be a sexual predator.
            -Not being subject to the military draft
            -Being able to choose to wear clothing, accessories, and makeup that express anywhere along a gender continuum with no fear of harassment.

            No, not that’s it’s “equivalent” to male privilege. Just that it’s there, and you’re blind to it. Again, the thing about privilege: if you don’t see it, it’s because you’re soaking in it.

          • Maeg says:

            @boingboing-7a4a467e968ac32c4f328e6fb2d211f6:disqus  It’s late and I’m tired, but did you really just throw a woman’s ability to dress the way they want as female privilege? 

          • kairos says:

            @boingboing-1f2013e3dcfa352ca993cc25cc334c10:disqus: What if you’re in the closet, or just not gendered quite as masculinely as everyone has always demanded that you be? It seems like a lot of the “men aren’t oppressed” crowd here are making some serious and unwarranted categorical assumptions about sexuality here, and its relationship with sex and sexual power.

            The lines between sex, gender, and sexual orientation are complicated and fuzzy – especially from a practical position of limited information about other people – and the oppression I face and have faced in the past as a gay man – and that I haven’t, but has been by others – is not reducible to getting beaten the shit out of or denied hospital visitation.

          • Cefeida says:

            The difference is that the man, being already in a position of power in practically every other area of his life is much better equipped to deal with the oppression he faces. And yet, many men still make excuses for not challenging their prescribed gender roles. 

          • Cefeida says:

            And to reply to your ‘in the closet’ comment, guess what happens to a woman who doesn’t want to wear make-up, dresses, jewelry, is as strong as most of her male friends, and doesn’t ask for macho help when she doesn’t need it?

            She might get away with it. Provided she’s still hot enough to meet the macho criteria. 

            I’m not. In consequence, people think something’s wrong with me. And that’s just the beginning of the trouble just being myself causes me.

            Besides, back to the closet comment again, take a look at the way the lesbian issue is tackled by media and society as opposed to the gay issue. I would argue that tolerance for gays is much, much higher than it is for lesbians. And, no, men who watch girl-on-girl porn and like it don’t count as tolerant.

            Understand that while men can be very badly oppressed, too, and this is horrible, they are in a much better position than women to fight back.

        • thefugitivesaint says:

          Without getting into the drawn out debate below, i have one word: Patriarchy.

        • Jaye Thompson says:

          I’d like to argue (as, full disclosure, an unmarried, 30-year old white woman) that @boingboing-87eb9d4eaa03cf39630cf48a920d1920:disqus makes some interesting points — ones that I hadn’t considered, which is the point of this whole exercise — and I’d really like to see folks stop vilifying him for it. 

          I don’t think his point was (and I didn’t take his point as) saying that a woman’s inequality in pay (thank you, @Antinous_Moderator:disqus for making that point) or greater sexual harassment risk (thank you, @YanquiFrank:disqus) was “lesser” than the judgment a man faces for choosing to be a stay-at-home parent.

          If I read correctly, foobar’s point was that inequality and gender/race “roles” affect all humans in varying ways, all of which (ALL of which) are detrimental to our larger evolution and we should recognize that.

          As a woman, I am expected to bear children.

          (When I was 13, I announced that I didn’t want kids. I continued to say this until, well, about a year ago. Every time the subject came up, I got a condescending pat on the head and a lovingly bestowed, “You’ll meet the right boy and change your mind.” Having met the right boy and changed my mind, this is especially annoying.)

          As a woman, there is pressure to give up my job to raise these children.

          - If I do, I will face ridicule from my “feminist” friends, who believe my choice undermines our fight for their right to choose not to do this.

          - If I don’t, I will face judgment from those who believe — and with some statistical evidence and my own opinion backing them — that early childhood education is best performed one-on-one, and that children who are able to receive this are better prepared for school, better (in general) at forming social relationships, better able to compete for scholarships, etc., etc. blah blah blah.

          (To circle this back around, as a white woman, I have a reasonable chance of being able to MAKE the choice of staying home or not, rather than having a choice forced upon me. As a black woman, were I to choose to stay home and raise my children, I might face judgment from those who believed, simply by virtue of my being black, a mother, and unemployed outside the home, that I was suckling the teat of welfare, leaching resources better employed “elsewhere,” and the physical embodiment of Everything That Is Wrong With This Country. Makes one not want to go to the grocery store during the day dressed less impressively than Michelle Obama. As a white woman, going grocery shopping during the day with my children — even on the first of the month — would not be an event for which I have to fortify myself.)

          As a man, foobar faces no ideal choices, either.

          - If his parental partner stays home, he faces kick-back from those who judge him to be a patriarchal oppressor of the worst order, “making” his partner stay home to raise their kids (regardless of who made the actual choice or why).

          - If he stays home to raise his children, he’s a whiny little nancy boy who isn’t a “real man” who supports his family (financially), regardless of whether this is what he wants to do (making it the emotionally right choice), his partner makes more money (making it the financially right choice), and his partner would be less interested/capable of spending so much one-on-one time with — let’s face it — not the most elevated conversation (making it the best choice for their children’s welfare and development).

          - If neither choose to stay home, they face the very real possibility that their children will be less prepared to tackle (and triumph over) problems later in life AND judgment because “no one is taking care of those kids.”

          Examples of male privilege include:

          - Walking after dark in a bad neighborhood and having a better-than-female chance of not being raped

          Examples of female privilege include:

          - Being able to admit to rape and get the help you need to cope with that.

          - Being able to admit to spousal abuse

          - Having a reasonable expectation of support from your community/a support group for either of the above

          None of these situations particularly impresses me about our race and I believe they are all detrimental. Can we please admit that there are (varying) detriments to all prejudicial assumptions and work to eliminate all of them?

          • clpolk says:

            *blink*

            Well a woman (1 in 4)  is more likely to be raped than a man (1 in 17,) but you allege that since a woman stands a better chance of being believed, that’s a * privilege?*

            Really?

            Okay.

        • C W says:

          “even reasonable, thoughtful men will be trained to see it as an attack on them”

          These are not thoughtful, reasonable men.

          • Cefeida says:

            Really, you’ve never met someone conditioned by society in such a way that they do not even realise their world view and emotions have been warped? Which fantasy planet do you live on?

            I’m a grown woman and a feminist, and yet I still  catch myself unwittingly relying on men to help me in certain situations where I do not need anyone’s help, simply because they are men. Yes, really. This drives me crazy. I work hard to shed this ugly habit that society has taught me through generations of stories about damsels in distress, the weakness of the ‘fair sex’, and the superiority of men in brains and brawn both. But sometimes I still do it. I hate myself for it when I realise it later. Because I never realise it at the moment when it happens. It’s automatic.

            And men do the same thing. Thoughtful, reasonable, kind men, even feminist men, still sometimes belittle women without even realising they are doing it.

            Which, funnily enough, is exactly what the article linked is about. The privileges we don’t realise we have, and which we don’t realise others do not posess. Why don’t you read it again.

    • C W says:

      “One day, instead of saying “Look what ‘we’ did to ‘them’,” we will say “My God, look what we did to ourselves.””

      Victim blaming/shaming is awesome.

  6. Mana Tahaie says:

    It’s so refreshing to see mainstream blogs tackle issues of privilege and oppression in real ways and take a risk on days like these, rather than post the obligatory “I Have a Dream” platitudes and check “diversity” off their list for the year. Thank you for acknowledging racism in an honest way. 

  7. Adam Falshaw says:

    However subtle you want to claim it is, a minority learning about the history of their current surroundings – that being one most likely predominantly made up of the deeds of the majority race for the area – is not racist in any way. At its basest level, the notion suggests it is unfair that you, here and now, are displaced from your hereditary surroundings.

    Just because the history might detail grave racism, it doesn’t mean there’s some lingering debt in society that must be repaid. History takes its course and the reason we are even having this discussion is because the people who made that history realised along the line that what was going on was wrong. It is what it is, and I’d actually suggest that it is its own form of racism to sit here and wring our hands about all the other little things outside of the ‘usual big ones’ that could be swung as racism.

    Do you think a black guy living a life where racism simply doesn’t come into the equation most days of the year wants to see your ordinary person of realise they’ve completely ignored even the most insignificant of inequalities, and make some effort to feel guilty about them? It’s… patronising, more than anything, surely?

    (Also, given the nature of the post and what it is suggesting is wrong, don’t you think reposting this once a year for MLK day is completely missing the point? :D)

    Don’t get me wrong, I love your stuff Maggie and I’m not trying to be inflammatory here, but I took particular offence at the notion of history being a form of racism and felt the need to bang on about it for three paragraphs.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Do you think a black guy living a life where racism simply doesn’t come into the equation most days of the year wants to see your ordinary person of realise they’ve completely ignored even the most insignificant of inequalities, and make some effort to feel guilty about them? It’s… patronising, more than anything, surely?

      I think it’s patronizing to assume that this is about “liberal guilt” instead of interpreting it as people honestly trying to understand the role privilege plays in our society and our lives.

      This isn’t about “repaying debts.”  This is about upper middle class white males like me realizing that their lives are made easier by virtue of being upper middle class, white, and male.  I don’t feel the least bit guilty about being those things.  How could I when I never had a choice in the matter?  But if I’m going to be honest those three incidental aspects of my identity make a huge difference in how I’m treated by society.  This is about honestly acknowledging that, not about wringing our hands over it.

    • Tess says:

      Have you read much American history?

      Did you see black people in it? As anything other than slaves and a handful of famous people?  Not to mention the way it treats the people who were already here when Europeans arrived.  

      The contributions of women are likewise downplayed.

      In fact, in the history of any country, people of all kinds play important roles; but people with power decide which stories are written down, and which stories are told.   The stories we tell about ourselves have a strong influence on who we are…  so history is absolutely one of the ways that racism is perpetuated.

      And privilege – which is what this is really about – exists, regardless of whether a person has personally felt that they’ve been discriminated against.  

      • Jim Nelson says:

        You seen many poor white people in those histories, either? History is about the powerful, and wealthy, and influential. Since a lot of the history about the African-American experience is the story of poverty, we tend to not look at these things until you get to the college level – the primary / secondary school system is not really good at going into historical controversy.

        Systematic racism has reduced the number of influential minorities in history, but I definitely remember learning about the Underground Railroad, in elementary school, and thinking even then it was the most powerfully dangerous, inspiring, and just frigging HEROIC thing I’d ever read.

        Stuck in my mind a lot more than a list of dead old white men who kept the chair in the Oval Office warm 4 years at a time.

        It was especially dangerous as an example for someone who lived in the heart of the Confederacy, where Lee-Jackson day was celebrated by state proclamation on the same day as Martin Luther King day was in the rest of the country…

        But yes, the general ‘history’ taught to the populace at large is a list of ‘influential’ people, picked by people who exist within that system. So, self-reinforcement.

  8. Adam Falshaw says:

    However subtle you want to claim it is, a minority learning about the history of their current surroundings – that being one most likely predominantly made up of the deeds of the majority race for the area – is not racist in any way. At its basest level, the notion suggests it is unfair that you, here and now, are displaced from your hereditary surroundings.

    Just because the history might detail grave racism, it doesn’t mean there’s some lingering debt in society that must be repaid. History takes its course and the reason we are even having this discussion is because the people who made that history realised along the line that what was going on was wrong. It is what it is, and I’d actually suggest that it is its own form of racism to sit here and wring our hands about all the other little things outside of the ‘usual big ones’ that could be swung as racism.

    Do you think a black guy living a life where racism simply doesn’t come into the equation most days of the year wants to see your ordinary person of [any other skin colour] realise they’ve completely ignored even the most insignificant of inequalities, and make some effort to feel guilty about them? It’s… patronising, more than anything, surely?

    (Also, given the nature of the post and what it is suggesting is wrong, don’t you think reposting this once a year for MLK day is completely missing the point? :D)

  9. Just out of curiosity:  what are white people, who are already well aware of both the obvious and subtle advantages of being white are, supposed to do about it?  I mean those that are white middle class folks, not politicians, lawyers, etc.

    Personally, I just try to be fair and equal.  Although since I live in Poland, one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe, it’s more about not discriminating on the basis of gender, marital status, religion and/or someone’s nationality.  I think the worst discrimination here happens against Roma although that is just my opinion based on my observation as a seven year resident.

    • Mujokan says:

      From what I’ve seen on TV re. Polish football supporters, the number one is Jews, and then gypsies and blacks are not too far behind.

      • It’s hard to discriminate against Jewish people when there really aren’t any left.  I would be willing to bet there are, at any time, more tourists of the Jewish faith visiting Poland than permanent residents or citizens who are Jewish.  

        Unfortunately, irregardless of the above, we do have a lot of rather disgusting anti-Semitic graffiti and, of course, the semi-evolved simians who regularly attend football matches here will shout any half-formed insult, obscenity or grossly insensitive thing that happens to drift into their, for lack of a better word, brains.

        • Cefeida says:

          It’s all washed out now, but in quite a few cases the ‘Jews’ insult football fans yell out dates back to the mid-thirties, just before the 2nd war, when tensions between Poles and minorities were at an all-time high. One party proposed the passing of a bill which would ban non-Poles from participating in various areas considered to be representative of the country. Football teams were such an area. The Aryan Article never passed, but, unfortunately, some sports clubs did embrace it. 

          Those which did not, and which, as a consequence, did not ban Jews from playing, were accordingly ‘insulted’ by the opposing team.

      • Cefeida says:

        Football supporters are not really the best sample to base your opinion of a nation on. To put it mildly.

    • Phoenix Lomax says:

      It’s bad all over for the Roma- here in the US, where we’re pretty well an unknown quantity in most areas, a lot of us pretend to be Hispanic to lessen the personal danger a bit from people who don’t really know anything about us the Hunchback of Notre Dame didn’t teach them. I’ve heard it said the Roma are one of the last ethnicities it’s permissible to actively hate and persecute, and as a proudly Romani individual I haven’t seen a lot to contradict that.

    • Maeg says:

      Talking the talk is just as important as walking the walk.  By that, I mean speak out when you see the discrimination and bigotry happen; talk to your friends, your family, your neighbors about it; advocate for those not as privileged online and in person.  Most importantly, spend as much time as you can talking to as many different kinds of people as you can about their lives and experiences.  The more people talk about it and think about it, the quicker you  won’t be in the minority of people who actually get it.

    • thefugitivesaint says:

      “Just out of curiosity:  what are white people, who are already well aware of both the obvious and subtle advantages of being white are, supposed to do about it?  I mean those that are white middle class folks, not politicians, lawyers, etc”

      Resist, condemn, and refuse “white privilege.” A discussion related to how one “does that” can be found here although there are certainly more radical and engaged suggestions elsewhere

      • xunker says:

        “Resist, condemn, and refuse ‘white privilege.’”

        That’s certainly one way, but it’s a rather pessimistic and “glass-half-empty” approach.  I understand what you’re saying (and linking) though it gives the vibe that equal human rights is a zero-sum-game and that for someone to gain someone else has to lose.

        Remember that the concept of “privilege” is relative:  is lack of discrimination a form a privilege, or is the lack of privilege a form of discrimination?

        Since “human rights” is not a finite quantity I would prefer instead to raise everyone up to my standard of “white privilege” (where sustainable): we could achieve a modicum of “equality” by, say, having everyone regardless of ethnicity be harassed by the police without cause or we could raise the standard that no one will be unduly harassed because of trait X. Which form of “equality” is most ultimately more preferable?

        • C W says:

          “I would prefer instead to raise everyone up to my standard of ‘white privilege’ ”

          Privilege is necessarily exclusive. You’re talking about economic status and class, to make this society more egalitarian, you have to first acknowledge and address privilege.

          “Which form of “equality” is most ultimately more preferable?”False dichotomy, obviously.

          • xunker says:

            “Privilege is necessarily exclusive.”

            Why?

            Also, “false dichotomy” doesn’t mean what you think it means.

  10. Navin_Johnson says:

    Even a lot of the most ‘liberal’ white people do NOT want to hear about the reality of white privilege.  Inb4 the shitstorm.

  11. tlwest says:

    In the United States, there are many privileges that I get, simply for being white, that are denied to people with different skin tones. That’s racism.

    You are incorrect.  Many of the privileges you obtain for being white are simply the result of being the majority, both in appearance and in culture.  No matter how people around you treat you, a person in a racial or cultural minority you will be subject to:

    • NOT be able to turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of their race widely represented.

    • NOT be told about their national heritage or about “civilization,” and NOT be shown that people of their color made it what it is.

    • WILL be asked to speak for all the people of their racial group.

    These are all real effects, but they will occur to any minority anywhere, regardless of how the minority is treated.  They are outcomes of being a minority, not racism.

    I add this comment because attributing every ill to racism diminishes the importance of this document, which beautifully illustrates the privilege that we the majority can take for granted, thus helping us understand the challenges that minorities face on a daily basis.  As well, the poster claiming every privilege the result racism, it trivializes the very real racism that *does* occur in the lives of minorities.

    • wysinwyg says:

      I think you’re wrong in assuming that the concept of privilege and “very real racism” have nothing to do with each other.  You’ve heard of “driving while black”?  How about the sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack?  There’s no bright dividing line between subtle institutional racism and overt racism, it forms a continuum.  Pointing out the subtle forms of racism HELPS fight the more overt forms of racism, it doesn’t “trivialize” it.

      • tlwest says:

        “Driving while black” and sentencing disparities are examples of real racism.

        There’s no bright dividing line between subtle institutional racism and overt racism, it forms a continuum.

        Agreed.

        Pointing out the subtle forms of racism HELPS fight the more overt forms of racism, it doesn’t “trivialize” it.

        Agreed again.  The examples I gave in my initial post are not, in my opinion,  examples of racism.  They are all things I might feel if I was living in foreign country, even if there was no racism against me.  Those are examples of the challenges facing members of a minority.

        By making *everything* a question of racism, it makes it far too easy dismiss the real racism that actually occurs.  It also means that those who feel they are not racists feel no need to accommodate the experiences of minorities (in either the racial or cultural sense).

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      These are all real effects, but they will occur to any minority anywhere, regardless of how the minority is treated.  They are outcomes of being a minority, not racism.

      Really?  How do you answer for white/European looking people dominating tv/movies in places where they are the minority.   See Mexico f/e

      Blacks not being allowed to mingle with whites on tv. Was that racism, or just because they weren’t the largest population in the U.S.?

      Shouldn’t whites represent a larger percentage of the prison population given their majority status?

      • Your last point, the percentage of the prison population, may be the most visible effect of racism here in Canada, where the First Peoples fill our jails.
        And historically, much of the privileged acts were set in place when the whites were the minority in the continent .

      • tlwest says:

        Really?  How do you answer for white/European looking people dominating tv/movies in places where they are the minority.   See Mexico f/e

        Pro-white racism.

        Blacks not being allowed to mingle with whites on tv. Was that racism, or just because they weren’t the largest population in the U.S.?

        Racism.

        Shouldn’t whites represent a larger percentage of the prison population given their majority status?

        Racism augmenting socio-economic differences fundamentally caused by slavery and racism.

        I don’t see how any of these examples of racism address my point.  *Many* aspects of privilege are a matter of racism.  Some aspects of privilege are a matter of majority (or more properly, being the dominant culture).

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          I don’t see how any of these examples of racism address my point.

          Then it appears that your privilege is preventing you from seeing the obvious.

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          Well, you’re willfully ignoring the obvious.  All those easily found examples run counter to your simple majority vs minority argument. In case you’re confused: Your argument does not stand up to simple scrutiny.

      • Maeg says:

        Another data point for the ‘whitewashing’ of popular media:  Women in India bleaching their skin to appear lighter of complexion.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      As well, the poster claiming every privilege the result racism, it trivializes the very real racism that *does* occur in the lives of minorities.

      As opposed to all the constantly imagined racism…

      • tlwest says:

        Personally, I find that in my experience, over-stating one’s claim (especially when there is abundant factual substance to one’s claim) damages one’s arguments.

        You spend all your time trying to defend the the weak claims at the same time as casting suspicion on all of one’s claims by those in the middle.

        I can make a *far* stronger case that in order to make black children feel that they are member of the cultural mainstream, we need to incorporate aspects of black (including African) history into the curriculum than than a case that that systemic widespread racism on the part of teachers and board members is conspiring to intentionally prevent children from being exposed to black influences upon the history of our country.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      They are outcomes of being a minority, not racism.

      Nice try, but utterly wrong. Google ‘Rhodesia’ or ‘history of apartheid in South Africa’.

      • tlwest says:

        A good point.  Let me define majority as culturally dominant (in SA’s case, by massive oppression and racism).

        To put it another way, if I was a white minority in an Asian country, I would expect to suffer all three points I mentioned in the original article.  But I would not be suffering from racism.

        Again, being part of the majority (or dominant culture) enables all sorts of privileges.  But *some* of those privileges are not necessarily a product of racism.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Again, being part of the majority (or dominant culture) enables all sorts of privileges. But *some* of those privileges are not necessarily a product of racism.

          You have moved the bar. Do you think that minority white governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean were not founded on the economics and philosophy of institutionalized racism?

        • Jonathan Roberts says:

          I’ve been to a number of countries, but I’ve found my privilege as a white male is most obvious in South East Asia. I once went to the wedding of a co-worker who I barely knew. I was late as I had to teach an evening class, but my wife and another (white) female friend were there on time. While they were put on a normal table, I was welcomed personally by the bride’s parents and seated at the family table. A similar thing happened when my male co-workers arrived a short time later. The reception practically stopped while a table was prepared and food was brought to them.

          Although usually it’s not as obvious as that, I’ve found it quite telling to see how openly jobs are given out based on ethnicity too. While it’s easy for me or any other white person (including some Eastern Europeans, for example, who sometimes speak quite basic English) to get a job,  Filipinos or Asian/African Americans will find it very hard, even if they are university educated and have English as their first language.

          On the other hand, when I lived in Spain I was often asked to answer for my compatriots. I’m not sure if I’d consider that racism though, as it was mostly questions about why English people didn’t want to learn anything about the Spanish culture or language, why they couldn’t drink a normal amount of alcohol, why their food was so terrible, etc. etc.

          • chgoliz says:

            I’m confused: the white men were shown extra attention and the white women were not….so this means the observed privilege was due to “ethnicity” and not gender?

    • Many of the privileges you obtain for being white are simply the result of being the majority, both in appearance and in culture.

      If I understand correctly, your argument is that society reflects the majority, and this is why, for example, minorities cannot see themselves on TV. This is demonstrably not true. Women and minority races are vastly disproportionately under-represented on television and in movies. If your argument was true, we would expect to see proportional representation, and we don’t. The reality is that cultural values shape what is presented in popular media, and they have nothing to do with numerical majority.

      • tlwest says:

        If your argument was true, we would expect to see proportional representation, and we don’t.

        No, I would not expect that, any more than I would expect a congress that is 60% Democrat and 40% Republican to have 60% of the laws written by Democrats and 40% by Republicans.

        In most system, both economic and social, the majority (well, more properly, dominant) have disproportionately higher influence (often vastly disproportionate).  This doesn’t require racism – only an attempt to court the largest or economically dominant market.

        Let me make it clear – for society’s sake, I think these privileges need to be addressed.  But if you approach from a broken premise, the odds of rectifying the social problem fall tremendously. 

        By claiming these problems are a result of racism, it enables organizations to enact anti-racism policies and then ignore the fact that the problem persists.  I would propose that with regards to the problems I mentioned, instead of searching for the racism and making little progress, we deal with the actual, real problems.

        In other words, I don’t care if you could use magic to *prove* that there is no racism in our school’s curriculum or that it’s simple economics and viewer preferences that cause minorities to be under-represented in media.  For society’s sake, these need to be addressed.

        By claiming all privilege a product of racism, the original poster implied that if a privilege wasn’t a product of racism, then it’s okay.  I’m not okay with that.

        Edited for clarity

    • YanquiFrank says:

      I don’t think the claim was made that this is racism — the claim was instead that these are forms of privilege that us white people enjoy, and that if you want to understand what life is like for minorities, think about these issues.  it becomes racist if you never realize the alienation and difference that minorities experience, and just assume that they enjoy the same level playing field you enjoy.

      • tlwest says:

        The original poster states pretty unequivocally that all the examples of privilege are a result of racism.  I’d claim that all the examples *are* an example of privilege, but some are a matter of being part of the dominant culture/race rather than racism.

        As such, they are more effectively dealt with as matters that society is better directly addressing, than one’s that will magically go away if we can fix racism.

        • Cefeida says:

          You’re getting pretty beat up for this but I understand what you’re saying, and I think most people here are having a knee-jerk reaction to someone who doesn’t seem to completely agree with an article widely recognised as an excellent source on the realities of racism. (If you criticise this, it’s because you have privilege and don’t understand racism!)

          Although the sad results of racism and being a minority are often the same,  I feel it’s important to recognise the difference, simply because it helps us figure out the correct approach to each issue. The sensitivity required to deal with a minority is NOT the same sensitivity required to deal with an oppressed individual. Not on a personal level. 

          For me this means, for example, that while I have to assume that my minority neighbours suffer from racist acts against them, I cannot let that be the sole prism I view them through- it immediately builds a wall between us, a wall on top of which I sit, pitying, privileged, and unable to make real human contact. On the other hand, the knowledge that they are a minority, far from home, with limited options of socialising, and with a skin colour that makes them stand out like sore thumbs is a useful guideline for sensitivity- it makes me better aware of this ‘knapsack’ mentioned in the original article. 

          Most importantly,  realising that I have certain privileges because I am in a majority disallows me to claim that since I am not racist, my behaviour towards minorities is always adequately sensitive to their situation. 

          That’s the point of the original article, and the last paragraph in Maggie’s post, isn’t it- that we should recognise what our privileges are, where they come from,  be conscious of the fact that people living alongside us do not have them, and instead of merely accepting it and moving on, make it part of our life to fight for equality, especially in those areas where we, as a majority, tend to overlook inequality.

  12. lamb says:

    a black guy living a life where racism simply doesn’t come into the equation most days of the year

    The entire point of the article is that such a person can’t exist. Racism and race pervades everything we do. It’s only the dominant group (i.e., white people) that can have the luxury to believe otherwise and that’s because the system is working to our advantage.

    • Richard Dagenais says:

      Life isn’t fair. This problem transcends race. How much you let it affect you is as much part of the equation as how much people show bias toward you.

      • lamb says:

        … No?

        I’ll grant you, life isn’t fair. That said, expecting minority groups to just quietly tolerate everything from petty indignities to systemic discrimination is frankly horrifying.

        The solution here isn’t for members of minority groups to suck it up and deal with their transparently unfair lot with steely, long-suffering resolve. It’s for members of the majority (i.e., white people) to suck less — to be aware of their privilege and do everything in their power to monitor and correct their own behaviour.

        To read articles like these and understand that, yes, this applies to you, too.

        Trying to dump the weight of the responsibility on the minorities being discriminated against in the first place is a stupefying privileged thing to do. I’m just saying.

        • dainel says:

          This is because in the USA, the minorities are also poorer. In some places, the minorities are the richer group. In those places (think South Africa), it would be clearer which of the issues are because of racism, which are because rich people get preferential treatment.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            Amazing how slavery and institutionalized racism can make it hard for generations to accumulate wealth and get ahead.

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        Ah, the classic “race is an artificial construct” angle amirite?

        In arguments about race, it takes a slightly different form, generally in white people telling People of Colour that they’re “seeing race where none exists”. You, on the other hand, are “colour blind” and we live in “post-racial” times. It’s them who are making everything about race and their experience of racism in their daily lives is simply imagined. If only they could let it go, the whole world would live in post-racial harmony!

        • Maeg says:

          Anthropologically, race IS an artificial construct, a way for people to divide each other into categories of ethnicity, while we are all of one race: human.  

          Just because it’s artificial, however, does not make it any less real.  “Race” is a shoddy term for it, but it’s the one our society has glommed on, and it’s here to stay.
          Sorry, I’m being pedantic.  Time to sleep.

          • Guest says:

            You seem hung up on the difference between racism and bigotry. They’re different words for a reason, and they’re used interchangeably by lazy people. 

        • Guest says:

          ah the classic “I’ve heard this before you twit” Amirite?

          You know, the problem isn’t really bigotry, IT’S ASSUMED SUPERIORITY.

          See what I did there?

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            I see what you *tried* to do there. It speaks volumes that the argument you’re defending is such a cliche that somebody finally decided to just catalog and collect all the typical ones.

          • C W says:

            “You know, the problem isn’t really bigotry, IT’S ASSUMED SUPERIORITY. ”

            No, it’s bigotry + power.

      • tlwest says:

        This problem transcends race.

        Indeed, you are quite right.  So let’s address them in rough proportion to how much they affect people.

        How odd, race and racism is by far the largest component to this problem.  Perhaps it would make sense to spend a proportionately larger amount of time addressing it?

        How much you let it affect you is as much part of the equation as how much people show bias toward you.

        True, but irrelevant.  Just because someone tolerates beatings in no way lowers our responsibility to put an end to them.  I’d be careful about appearing that you’d prefer the victims of racism to suffer silently rather than make the effort to address the actual problem.

      • C W says:

        “Life isn’t fair.”

        Fair isn’t an equal concept, and that must be acknowledged. Saying “life isn’t fair” is not an acknowledgment that life is more fair for you in many ways.

  13. Mike The Bard says:

    I think everyone needs to spend some time as a minority.  Racial, religious, cultural, whatever.  It definitely changes your perspective.

    • Mujokan says:

      I’ve done that, but only in Japan, China and Malaysia, where being white is not much of a disadvantage.

    • Jim Nelson says:

      Amen. Lived in Texas in school, worked at a shop where I was the only guy who didn’t speak Spanish. Eye-opening experience, let me tell you. And what I gained from that experience has made me not fit in with most white people…

      • Jaye Thompson says:

        I visited a small town in Puerto Rico, where although there was some English spoken, the major language was Spanish. I spoke some broken Spanish at the beginning of the trip, mostly things I learned of a CD like, “Where are my gloves?” (Let me tell you how useful that was in PR in June…)

        I’ll never forget the embarrassment of not speaking the language, the confusion of hearing voices all around me and having no idea what they were saying. One thing I remember sharply was not knowing how to say “Excuse me” when I passed closely to someone, so I could be polite. I learned a lot more Spanish while I was there (including ‘Con permiso‘), but the
        most illuminating part of the experience was being the racial/lingual minority.

        I list one of my greatest achievements as, by the end of the trip, confusing a man selling me pincho by not understanding what he was saying. He turned to my friend and asked what was wrong, since I obviously spoke Spanish (well, enough to get through the first part, but not to answer the question of whether I wanted my pincho on a plate or in aluminum foil). I remember the triumph of Fitting In; if my skin tone was still lighter than most (I also had a tan by the time I was ending my trip), it was only my eye color that gave me away. Even there, I was lucky, as most considered blue eyes exotic rather than unattractive.

        I don’t equate my experience with those who suffer racism or bigotry on a daily basis, but I certainly have a better understanding of the subtlety of it and a helluva lot more empathy.

  14. Genre Slur says:

    I spent three weeks in rural Jamaica last year. Given this discussion I realize how weird the place is. All the different ‘groupings’ at play IE (town/country, African, Chinese, Native, Indian, maroon/metis, tourist/local…) threw me off. Big business versus small business seemed to be the power dynamic most at play. But what do I know? I was only there long enough for a glimpse. Hope to return for a longer touch. Anyone else experience unusual power dynamics in cultures not completely anglo-americanized?

    • John McCarthy says:

      Before the unification of Vietnam there was a sizable and wealthy Chinese minority.  In 1975 the North invaded the South and unified the country.  The Chinese were pretty much despised so a large part of the subsequent refugee crisis and “boat people” were Chinese getting out.  Chinese folks in Vietnam nowadays are still treated like crap.  

  15. aeon says:

    It is easier to see white privileges for the privilege they are when you have lost some of them. I married outside of my race and knowingly lost these immediately: 

    2. 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.
    3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

    Then later on:

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

    ..became an issue.

    But some of the later points seem to speak more about US culture and it’s race relations, rather than just about white privilege in general. Having lived in China for a while, I’d also point out that much of the privilege described is merely from being part of a majority — a position that allows one to be unthinking in a way that might be construed as racist, without actually intending ill on the individual on the receiving end. 

  16. Palomino says:

    First, check out this map by race in Los Angeles. Blue=Black. 

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4981441877/in/photostream/
    Now check out current (4 hours) gas price listing, look under “Area”. 

    http://www.californiagasprices.com/ 

    Gas should be cheap in L.A.! But gas is more than a dollar cheaper in it’s neighboring towns. Pump and refine in L.A.; charge the people who have to live with it, one dollar more. 

    I have family in L.A. and I know first hand the taxes made from gas doesn’t go to the upkeep of roads, they are deplorable. 

    I  can’t figure out why there hasn’t been any more  riots. In the meantime, I have no problem excusing  their anger, we have no right to take that away too. 

    • awjt says:

      I zoomed in on LA in the gas map in that link.  If there were a delta of a dollar, there would be a range of green to red.  All I see is freakin red in LA.  Red all over and maybe a splash of dark orange.  Hey, I’m not saying that’s it’s shangri-LA, but this gas price conspiracy thing doesn’t hold water the way you described it.

  17. psychothumbs says:

    Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack does a poor job of making the point it’s trying to make.  Pretty much every item on that list can be divided into two categories: things that would be true for everyone in a non-racist society, or things that are a logical consequence of a racial group being in the majority.  The first category is significant, but is just the inverse of the normal conception of racism, not an expression of privilege as the author claims.  As for the second category, so long as one race is a majority in a country, it’s hard to see how issues like most make-ups being designed for that race or it being easier for the majority race to surround themselves with fellow members of that race could be solved.

  18. pharmavixen says:

    It makes some good points, but does being in the majority make white people ipso facto racists? As a white person, I feel our day of reckoning is coming, and it doesn’t matter whether or not we hate ourselves.

  19. Pansee Atta says:

    (Privilege check: I am a female member of a visible minority)

    I actually have only one point of minor disagreement: I don’t think the following point is an example of discrimination or privilege:

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

    OF COURSE people of colour didn’t contribute as much to American (or Canadian) history. BECAUSE OF RACISM. Because obviously, there existed (and still exists) a system that allows people of European descent to reach their full potential, and prevents ”Others’ of all kinds from doing so. Duh.

    Obviously that lack doesn’t prove that minorities are less capable, it proves racism.

    If  there were just as many black leaders and thinkers and architects and scientists… then the status quo would be fine, there would be no battle against racism to fight. But there is. And history proves that.

    Obviously that inequality has to be discussed, engaged with critically and taken apart, but it still has to be the basis of fact that is taught.

    TL: DR, Historical revisionism does no one any good, ESPECIALLY minorities.

    For more info, fee Linda Nochlin’s amazing essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

    • tlwest says:

      While I agree with your point, the problem remains.  In order to feel included as part of mainstream society, I think it is necessary for most students to find something of themselves in their history classes.

      I don’t think you need to rewrite history, but in this matter, I think that disproportionately emphasizing the contributions of minorities (especially on non-racial issues) to American/Canadian history is a social necessity.

      As well, I think a greater emphasis on World history would be a huge help.  At least in Ontario, it’s mostly Canadian history for n grades.  A study of world (as opposed to European) history with disproportionate representation from areas where students may have historical roots would be a huge step in allowing many more students to feel their past represented at school.

      • Cefeida says:

        I was about to reply but you said it right. I would add this: The amount of harm that is done to future generations simply by NOT making it perfectly clear to schoolchildren that the history of the Western world was forged by white men because women and non-whites were NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY is staggering.

        Just saying it in so many words during a history lesson would spark a new  awareness of the terrible power of discrimination in young minds. I know I never figured it out when I was a kid- for a long time I just thought boys really were smarter than girls. All the evidence pointed to the fact.

  20. tubacat says:

    Thanks for posting/trying, Maggie. This is an important article, one that we have all of our student teachers read (most of them are from privileged families). Like several of the posters here, some have a really hard time accepting or seeing the fact that they are granted all kinds of credit, trust and privilege, not because of anything they have done, but simply because they are white in America. Our goal in having the students read the article is not to make them feel guilty – they are not responsible for being born into privilege, any more than a child in the ghetto is responsible for being born poor. The goal, as someone said, is to help increase empathy and provide a basis for acting against racism and denial of privilege, when it occurs…

    Want to learn more? Read anything by Tim Wise http://www.timwise.org/category/essays/

  21. hazz says:

    Doesn’t all this obsession with privilege and offence make your big American brains tired? No wonder the US is run by and for the worst and the wealthiest, everyone with a tendency towards thought  is sucked into an irresistable vortex of second-guessing, apology, and hesitation, while the levers of power in government and finance are taken by instinctive opportunists.
    Wealth is power. The bread-winner has power over the stay-at-home. The employer has power over the employee. The owner has power over the manager. The lender has power over the borrower. The rich have power over the poor. There can be no fair distribution of power without fair distribution of wealth. Yes, gender and race are used to help maintain existing power structures, but they’ve got nothing on law and economics.
     
    Change the law, change the power structure. Use the law to redistribute wealth and you redistribute power. Gender and race fall by the wayside.
     

    • Guest says:

      “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —”

    • C W says:

      “Doesn’t all this obsession with privilege and offence make your big American brains tired? No wonder the US is run by and for the worst and the wealthiest, everyone with a tendency towards thought  is sucked into an irresistable vortex of second-guessing, apology, and hesitation, while the levers of power in government and finance are taken by instinctive opportunists. ”

      The US is run by and for the worst BECAUSE of people with little brains that can’t handle a honest discussion of power.

      “Change the law, change the power structure. ”

      …which we can’t do if people can’t acknowledge the existing structures of privilege and wealth. Your argument is vague and unclear.

  22. Steve Pan says:

    The points made in McIntosh’s work are pretty easy to grasp if you aren’t an insufferable autist

    • blueelm says:

      Or clearly, if you do not try to apply them to sexism where they very clearly apply to women but in our heavily sexist society the “what about men” contingent can always be counted on to start crying and crying. 

      Much like the “white man’s burden” that.

      People make me sick. I’m going to bed.

    • hypnosifl says:

      Is it really necessary to use “autist” in this derogatory way? Autists are not necessarily insensitive or non-empathetic (see here and here), though they often (though not always) have trouble reading the subtle verbal and body-language cues that give people an immediate intuitive sense of each other’s emotions/intentions. Think of yourself as a (presumably) normal empathetic person trying to communicate with an alien species with unfamiliar body language and other nuances of communication, your empathy would then have to be more conscious and cognitive and less intuitive, but it doesn’t mean you’d be lacking in concern for them if they spelled out their problems in a way you could understand.

      • Guest says:

        “but it doesn’t mean you’d be lacking in concern for them if they spelled out their problems in a way you could understand”

        Agreed. In that specific case his asshat is what gives you the hint that he’d be lacking in concern.

    • Stephen Rice says:

      I’m going to choose to take this as a joke because otherwise it just proves everything in McIntosh’s piece.

  23. lozhuf says:

    Louis CK knows the score: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY (predictable link is predictable, yet still classic)

  24. Guest says:

    That’s a nice checklist, but I have this sign on my wall. NO IRISH NEED APPLY. Just sayin’

  25. John McCarthy says:

    When I decided to enter this comment thread, I knew that it would be entertaining.  But this has exceeded my very high expectations.  This is gold.

  26. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I hate the way people assign their racist ideas and viewpoints to me just because I’m of WASP descent.

    Edit: Maggie, thank you for sharing the “Invisible Knapsack” paper. Although I don’t agree with everything in it, I do agree that it’s well worth reading. I should not have made my first comment without mentioning this – sorry!

  27. Mike Ellis says:

    Very interesting article. However I do believe that it suggests the perspective of someone who hasn’t traveled much. I have lived in other countries and I can say without reservation that the racism that exists in America is prevalent in just about all counties in the world. It isn’t always as obvious as it is hear. The prejudice you will experience as a white person in african or middle eastern countries, especially if you are female, is different than the prejudice you will experience in South American countries like Brazil or Argentina. However, I can say that having traveled around the world, how you dress is more indicative of how you will be treated than the color of your skin.

    Even in this county I have experienced prejudice as a white person, but not by minorities. I was living in Colorado in the 80′s and at the time I was in a rock band. I was used to wearing my hair very long and wearing kind of raggety leather and denim. In short I was sporting a look that screamed poor white trash and I was frequently called that to my face by other white people. Now, decades later I wear much more expensive and upscale clothes. I am not talking Armani suites but I typically wear suites that are in the hundreds of dollars. When I am dressed for business I have never experienced the same kind of negative reaction that I did when I was dress like I was poor.

    Now when I was singing in the rock band in the 80′s, I felt that I was unfairly being discriminated against because of my style of dress, in fact I was frequently pulled over by police officers because of the way I dressed. Are there people in this country who are racist? Absolutely. Are they themselves of all races? Absolutely. However, there is no effective remedy for it. If I am discriminated against because of my form of dress or the fact that I am male or white then that seems to be ok because my gender and my race are in the majority. I don’t buy that prejudice is invisible to me because of my gender or race. I am an individual and I judge others as individuals. Am I prejudicial? Yes many times I am, but my prejudices are not based on race or gender. If fact all people are prejudicial in one form or another, we just don’t recognize those prejudices as being a problem like racism or sexism.

    • clpolk says:

      And you can be a black man in those same clothes and get stopped on the street by cops and questioned, and you can be a well dressed black man in a respected profession and wind up getting arrested because a neighbor saw you on your own front porch letting yourself into your own home.

      Asserting that racism is really classicsm only works on other white people fanatically devoted to denying reality. When are you and the rest of your well meaning but ignorant friends going to pay attention to things that actually happen to black people every day?

    • eyebeam says:

      I know you mean well, and your anecdote is instructive (been there, done that).

      You got pulled over when driving because of your poor white trash looks. If you were black, you would have been more likely to have been arrested, or received a beating.

      Someone looked at you and thought “poor white trash”. Then he thought again, “at least he’s white.”

  28. Nytespryte says:

    I think a big problem with many of the comments in this thread comes from equating the term privilege with benefit.

    Normally these are synonyms but in this context privilege means something more specific.

    Privilege is a benefit that you receive for being a member of a group that holds more power in your society.  You get the benefit because someone who is in some way like yourself (however superficially) affected the society at a higher level.

    In some situations you may receive a benefit from being in an unprivileged group but this is because someone at a higher level who is unlike yourself made a decision that affected you.  It still emphasizes you lower position.

    If members of your group are considered less intelligent or in control of your emotions you may not be held to the same high standards as the privileged group. There are going to be cases where this really does save your ass but it’s still an insult and will still usually hold you back.

    Personally I get allowances for being female that I need b/c I’ve got problems with social anxiety.  Most of the time, however it’s clear that people are cutting me slack because I’m female, not because I have a valid psychological problem.

    It is not hard for a man to break into a female dominated field b/c women wield power in that field.  It’s hard because the field has been devalued for being a female field and both women and men in a patriarchy might attack someone for “lowering” themselves and not behaving like they are expected to.  The unprivileged group might also hold up the status quo, but again this is not asserting power it’s holding up the status quo set by the power group.

    I’ve always sympathized with the fact that men are much more restricted in what they wear, but again it’s not fair to call it female privileged.  Women did not set those standards from some power position.  It’s still more controlled by patriarchal tendencies.  Women’s clothing is considered more frivolous and less important by the society.  That just happens to result in a bit more freedom.  Although dressing nice for a man still cost much less than for a women.  The restrictiveness comes with some price fixing, making it easier for the privileged group to get ahead.

    Women getting the kids in court and getting to stay home is always the funniest one to bring up though.  That is a direct result of a women’s place is in the home thinking.  Yes women benefit from it sometimes but it does not come from their power by a long shot.

    And yes ciswomen are privileged with respect to trans women.  But that is cis privilege not female privilege.  Likewise a gay man may still have some male privilege but will not be treated as well as a straight man because of hetero privilege.  I have certainly seen my gay male friends benefit from male privilege though.  It’s not totally negated.  Just like women can receive racial privilege and still face gender prejudice.

  29. lamb says:

    Seriously, dude. The ability to copy/paste does not a cogent rebuttal of your detractors’ arguments make. If you want to engage on this topic, engage with the initial commenters on your post! Don’t just post this over and over in the hopes of fooling people into believing  that everyone agrees with you.

  30. clpolk says:

    It’s just his way of sticking his fingers in his ears and yelling LA LA LA LA. 

  31. Genre Slur says:

    I missed what the Guest typed. What was it like?

  32. Antinous / Moderator says:

    I think that it was just a double post.  Disqus has been EXTRA broken today.

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