I ran across this article on privilege today, written by Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racist feminist. (Maybe I’m late to the table and you folks have already seen it?) Anyways, here were some of my favorite points that describe aspects of privilege:
- If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
- I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.
- I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely and positively represented.
- When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
- I can swear, or dress in secondhand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
- I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
- I can remain oblivious to 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 can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
- I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
- I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
While the list she created was specifically on white male privilege, what I found most interesting is how they could have easily been describing abled-bodied (nondisabled) privilege, heterosexual/cissexual privilege, and class privilege. She pointed out while society sometimes does talk about how racism and sexism disadvantages women and people of color, it doesn’t talk about how it gives others advantages (her words: “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.”)
Although sometimes I think people who identify with an oppressed group of people think they have an automatic free pass from recognizing privilege (i.e. disabled men who are racist, feminists who are ableist, etc….) and it’s wrong to casually say all forms of privilege are the same, it still amazes/bothers/frusterates/surprises me how, as individuals or communities, it is still difficult to recognize that the struggle is one that is shared.
But I guess that’s part of the oppression we face in the first place…