Needing a change of scenery, I ended up moving to Oregon for grad school. It was there that I read in a multicultural education class (you know, the sort of class that I guess has been outlawed in the state of Arizona) Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. For a lengthier list of white privilege’s daily effects and other useful handouts, click here. It wasn’t difficult to recognize the obvious link between racism and underprivileged status. What McIntosh helped me recognize was that being white (to say nothing of being male, able-bodied, heterosexual, and so on) gave me undue advantages, that there were so many things I can and do take for granted in a white supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist society. This includes the benefit of not having to deal with the psychological and physiological impact racism can have on people. You can read a bit about that here. Imagine standing at the starting line for a 200-yard dash. Now, think of racism as people of color being forced to start 100 yards behind the starting line. And think of white privilege as allowing the white folks to start 100 yards in front of the starting line. If you’re a gamer, which I am not, you might appreciate this analogy.
If you’re still unsure if you buy into this whole overprivilege thing, I urge you to read the works of Tim Wise. I’d start with White Like Me and then read Speaking Treason Fluently. You can also listen to one of his talks via YouTube or his website. He does such an excellent job of detailing examples of white privilege, and addressing the arguments put forth by white privilege deniers. Here are 3 examples: #1, #2 and #3.
For two more short pieces on white privilege, I recommend Shining the Light on White by Sharon Martinas, and a recent article by Joyce Clark Hicks. Though I don’t envision devoting many future posts to white (over)privilege, per se, it helped lay a path toward my reclamation of humanity, or resistance to dehumanization. If an overprivileged person fails to recognize his or her overprivilege, believing merit alone rules the day, that person may not fully accept the importance of thinking globally and acting locally. Future posts will certainly be devoted to discussing why that maxim is so important.