Friday, November 5, 2010

Article Review 3: White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack.

McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School, 49 (2) 31-36.

       This article explores the very real fact that while those of a different race, sex, sexual orientation etc. are seen as disadvantaged, it is in a way the opposite - with the people in power such as white people, males, heterosexuals, etc. who are in fact over-privileged. Much of the resistance in overcoming these boundaries in obtaining true equality is for those in power to recognize that they are given privileges that others are not - such as male privilege over female disadvantage, because women are still not given the same consideration as men.  McIntosh proceeds to describe some incidents where this white privilege would be most noticeable, with things such as "I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider." Also, in more extreme cases, "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." White privilege has a very large impact on the way that white people see the world, especially when the issues start to change so that the situation is no longer a privilege as seen before - rather conferring dominance.
      One main issue of white privilege is the white group having power over another group because the white privilege simply confers dominance in the issues where white privilege undermines, or alienates another. This brings McIntosh's distinction between conferred dominance and earned strength. With an unearned entitlement, issues such as every human being is part of humanity are explored - showing that some privileges do not need to be earned. With the development of the research for this article, McIntosh found that many unearned advantages and conferred dominance issues such as male dominance and advantages over women are not seen as distressing by the one holding the power, in this case that would be the man. This is the situation for those who don't see racism or sexism as a problem because it does not affect them negatively or personally.
      "I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. [But] a 'white' skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems." This is a very important issue that McIntosh addresses because it shows that many white privileged people do not realize that they are over-privileged rather than just seeing others as underprivileged, and that many of these privileges are obtained through conferred dominance. This is even more tragic due to the fact that many things must be changed in order to fix this, but this will not happen without much resistance from the white privileged.
      The white privileged face a hard road to eradicating racism in the world, which is only compounded by their own resistance to change the status quo. This is, of course, because with the change they would lose their conferred dominance and with it their power over other races. The obliviousness to this issue is a large issue also because it affects everyone, including those who are clueless, and how future generations will be treated if something is not changed. The gender issue faces the same problems in which something has to be done by everyone in order to help create a better, more equal world.
      Gender and race are two very important topics that are still an issue in today's world. While the world has come a very far way in gaining equal rights and advantages for everyone, there are still problems with many of these people not truly being given equal rights. Much of these two issues could be solved through the acknowledgment of not only these issues still being a problem, but also the ability of those in power to give up their power.

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