“White Privilege and Male Privilege”
I view Peggy McIntosh’s classic article “White Privilege and Male Privilege” one of the single most important essays you’ll ever read. It’s brilliant, controversial, incredibly perceptive and bold. Though it is a little outdated, it is still relevant and necessary. I teach it in all my classes and I get a multitude of reactions from my students – dismay, denial, anger, shame, a feeling of blame, confusion, validation, curiosity and hope. The purpose of this reading isn’t to make white people feel bad, it is to make all of us aware and responsive to the ideology that breeds racism, sexism, classism, etc. Most of us aren’t aware of it because we are on the side of advantage. If we are to be critical thinkers and agents of positive change (in other words, Feminist thinkers) then we need to be aware of the disadvantages suffered by many living in the same system – the system of power and privilege.
For our discussion on privilege and power, I want you to think critically and reflectively on Mcintosh’s article and the film White Like Me by Tim Wise. I first want you to create your own list of advantages and disadvantages and then share some of your findings and insights with your classmates. It will be helpful to look at the Identity Wheel, Social Group Membership and Privilege and Diversity Profile which I’ll link here. Some things to consider when sharing: What were some of the advantages/disadvantages that you listed? Where do they come from? Are any on Mcintosh’s list of unearned assets? Could you add any to Mcintosh’s list? When have you noticed your advantages/disadvantages? When have you suffered some form of discrimination (sexism, racism, classism, etc., because of your disadvantages? Also, I would like for you to discuss the issue of “white denial”. What is it and how do you think it is prevalent in our society today?