WHITE PRIVILEGE-Why Our Government Can't Fix Racism
Deciding To Tell It The Way It Really Is - RACISM: Unraveling The Fear
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It's About the Content Of Our Character

WHITE PRIVILEGE-Why Our Government Can't Fix Racism

      Below is an excellent well written article by Peggy McIntosh. a white woman who stayed the course with courage, to Unpack the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege. This is a read well worth your time, if interested in such things. McIntosh's racial revelation underscores why racism can only be arrested, diminished or resolved by us, you and me - the "grass-roots" of our neighborhoods and the hard work of self-assessment.  
     Why racial prejudice and bigotry can't be fixed by the government? In the main, presently white men run the government and because racial prejudice and bigotry is intimately personal and emotional beyond the written words attributed civil laws. Racism is just another word for home grown "terriorism," i.e. the KKK without the sheets or masks. Racism spews fear to dominate for personal gain. Racism is painful and cruel as well as a crime against humanity. Prejudice and bigotry is an emotional - psychological commitment to IGNORANCE and devoid of character. A destructive activity against "We The People" and the Constitution of 
United States Government

Peggy McIntosh, Wellesley College Center for Women's Studies, Wellesley, MA.
"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of Meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."  

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
         - Peggy McIntosh

     Through work to bring materials from women's studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men's unwillingness to grant that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women's status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women's disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.           Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was similarly denied and protected.  As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. 
     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 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, visa, clothes, tools, and blank checks.
     Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable.  As we in women's studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, "Having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?"  
     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.  
     My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will.  My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow "them" to be more like "us."  
     Daily effects of white privilege: I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place, and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions. 

NOTE worthy below:  26 point list is honest and relevant, emotionally accurate, and an excellent example of Ethnic Minority Self Talk. Although a partial list yet, a powerful glimpse into the mental-mindset check list most ethnic minorities engage daily, for survival . 
Read and see with new eyes. __________________________________________________________

1. I can if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race      most of the time.   
 2.  If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or       purchasing housing in an area that 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.  
4.  I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed. 
5.  I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented. 
6.  When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is. 
7.  I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
8.  If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege. 
9.  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 that fit with my cultural traditions. into a hairdresser's shop and find some who can deal with my hair.
10.  Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability. 
11.  I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them. 
12.   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. 
13.   I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial. 
14.   I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race. 
15.   I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
16.   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. 

17.   I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider. 
18.  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.  
19.  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.
20.  I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race. 
21.  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. 
22.  I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect I got the job because of my race. 
23.  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. 
24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.  
25.  If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones. 
26.  I can choose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color that more or less match my skin.   ________   

     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 virtuesof their own.  
     In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege. I have listed conditions of daily experiences that I once took for granted.Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder.  I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy ofprivilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant, and destructive.
     I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person.  There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turf, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me. 
     I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.
     In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color.
     For this reason, the word "privilege" now seems to me misleading.  We 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 systematically to over-empower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one's race or sex. Earned strength, unearned power I want. then to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systemically.  
     Power from unearned privilege can look likestrength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. Butnot all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging.  Some, like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the normin a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerfulpeople, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.
     We might at least start by distinguishing between positiveadvantages, which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantage, which unless rejected will always reinforce our presenthierarchies. For example, the feeling that one belongs within thehuman circle, as Native Americans say,should not be seen as privilege for a few. Ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them. This paper results from a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally saw as attendant on being human being in the United States consisted in unearned advantage and conferred dominance.           
     I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we willbe like them or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance, and, if so, what we will do to lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism doesn't affect them because they are not people of color, they do not see "whiteness" as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.  
     Difficulties and dangers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. Since racism sexism and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same.  In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearnedadvantage that rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking, as the members of the Combahee River Collective pointed out in their "Black Feminist Statement" of 1977. 
     One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant group one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.  
        Disapproving of the systems won't be enough to change them. 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.
    To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these subject taboo. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.
     It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly, inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
     Although systemic change takes many decades,there are pressing questions for me and, I imagine, for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base. ###

9 Comments to WHITE PRIVILEGE-Why Our Government Can't Fix Racism:

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Sandra on Wednesday, January 07, 2015 3:18 AM
Oooh!I hear you loud and clear. My thoughts to share with you: Pittsburgh's Police Chief Cameron McLay, photo challenge to the 'silent white' voice. His challenge is courageous,speaks of his Integrity. Yet I wonder if such a decision was yours or mine, what would we do? My perspective so far, White (male) privilege is so permeated within self awareness, privilege is not recognized,thus he is unable to relate to what racism really is or consciously identify it when witnessed on a daily basis. the intellect holding the status quo for truth. Then feeling satisfied in truth, racism does not effect him or family. Therefore discussions on racism,the words pass each without touch or understanding, appearing an arrongant intellectual, refusing to see the reality that racism is a cruelty to human beings,effecting us all. We as a society must begin to see bigotry and racism as it effects human beings with real human emotions. Humanity is not a political stance right or left. ### Please revisit WHITE PRIVILEGE on this Blog. Check back Jan.15th Sandra

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