02 April 2011

White Privilege, Revisited

A reader, who was also born and raised in the South, but does not have a transracial family, commented on my original "White Privilege" post via a link I posted on Facebook. The points she brought up made me realize that I did not explain myself as well as I hoped. Here's what she said:
"I don't know, [Peach], my Walmart has a whole aisle with both sides of the aisle filled with black care products and a section of lots of black skin make-up. My white child wore Scooby Doo, Transformers, Cars and neon colored bandaids. I see both sides of those debates. I think they look different depending on which race's perspective you choose to view it from (and maybe where you live). As a mother of a multirace family you probably look at both sides with a new sensitivity..."
I did mention make-up and band-aids. I got caught up in thinking about things that would affect my daughter growing up as a little girl and teenager. I meant to focus on adult white privilege more. I did post the link "50 Examples of White Privilege of Daily Life", but I should have pointed out a few things from that list. The author of the post that contains this list is not the original author of the list or the original author of the explanation that goes with the list, so I feel safe in bringing parts of it to my blog to share. The original author is Peggy McIntosh, and the list and comments quoted are from her essay "White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack". Peggy McIntosh observes,

"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... As a white person I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of it's corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at a disadvantage."

She also says, "I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in every day, but about which I was 'meant' to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks. Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable."

She decides, "to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life... As far as I can see, my African-American co-workers, friends and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact...cannot count on most of these conditions."

"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." If you do not believe there are black people who helped form our nation see THIS POST, or THIS POST, or just plain look it up.

"7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence to their race." For help with supplementing your children's American history lessons CLICK HERE.

"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." Maybe not in every part of the country, but I know for a fact that this still happens today. If two people, one white and one black, identically dressed, tried to pay with a check, you can bet they would be treated, if not considered, differently.

"12. I can swear, dress in secondhand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or illiteracy of my race." I have seen this proven firsthand.

"14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race." This one was an ah-ha moment for me. Never realized this act shows racism, but it totally does. I am guilty.

"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." I never realized this one either. I always just assumed all black people liked to relate to their African heritage. Interesting.

"20. I can easily buy postcards, posters, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race." Key word here is "easily", as in as easily as white people can.

"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." This brings to mind me being a little girl and hearing white adults judge black people, and never thinking about how black people knew these things were being said about them, and never thinking about how that made them feel.

Have any of the white privileges on her list touched you? If so, which number and why?

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  1. I was in the mall with my daughter when she was under two. She's biracial and was in her stroller. We were in the Disney store and she had her Mickey doll in her buggy. I went straight to an employee and told them that we had it so they wouldn't think we were stealing it. The thing was well loved there was no mistaking it for new.
    We were then followed the rest of our time in the store which of course made me leave quickly.
    Hard to tell if it was race related or not but it's hard not to think it is.

  2. Yeah, it's always gonna be in our minds, huh?


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