On the day I was born, I received unearned privileges not available to everyone. Equally true, my life has been difficult because of unearned privileges available to men but not to me.
I was born White and Female. This complicates everything: gender and race; gender and politics; gender and academia; gender and the church; gender and role expectations; gender and power; gender and social events. Sometimes I’m welcomed with open arms even though I often experience something less than full welcome into the fold of privilege.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about white male privilege. I’ve spent considerably less time thinking about my white privilege. It’s easy to say I was born white, so it isn’t my fault. Which, of course, it is not.
Yet I know I’ve been the recipient of privileges friends and strangers of color do not receive. Many privileges are invisible to me. They’re the climate in which I live. I don’t need to think about them when I get up in the morning, or when I appear in a check-out line. More to the point, I count on them daily.
Today the USA is roiling, internally and externally, from a wound that has festered from the beginning. The assumption and reality of white privilege.
Here’s what I’m doing to clarify for myself what my white privilege looks like. Not yours. For me, this includes awareness of male privilege. Sometimes white male privilege only; sometimes all males.
For starters, I’ve located a website offering free material as well as formal leadership training (not free). I found two downloadable papers that will help me personally. Not simply with self-understanding, but with ideas about how I might change my daily habits as well as personal assumptions and goals.
Dr. Peggy McIntosh is the author of the papers and founder of The National SEED Project. In each paper she describes unpacking her own privilege. The papers include end notes in which she clarifies issues that arise when people begin to talk about privilege.
If you’re interested in knowing more, here are links to the website and two free downloadable papers.
- National SEED Project
- “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (free download, click on paper title, following opening paragraph)
- “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” by Peggy McIntosh (free download, click on paper title, following opening paragraph)
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 August 2017
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