White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Backpack Essay Sample
Type of paper: Essay
Topic: People, White, Race, Social Issues, Racism, Color, Discrimination, African American
In her article on racism Peggy McIntosh puts forward new and profound views on the phenomenon of “white privilege” over colored people. While comparing racism with sex discrimination, she finds out that the essence of the privilege of white men is the same as the privilege of males: roughly speaking, every social unit is aware of the existence of such discrimination, however, people desperately pretend that they do not notice it. According to the author, the greatest disadvantage of the fight against racism is that white people are taught not to pay attention to so-called “disadvantages” of the colored people instead of being taught that all races are equal and have the same package of advantages and disadvantages. This initial idea of the dissimilitude between people of the different races hinders the development of racial equality.
Peggy McIntosh illustrates the social construction of racism through the list of situations which white person is faced in his everyday life and in which he can feel his dominance and privilege; most of such situations are connected with the fact that white people are the major group of society (that makes people of color consider themselves as minority and, in turns, disadvantaged) and that this major group is not afraid of mingling in society or being abused, harassed or neglected. The author mentions several usual actions, which are harmless and innocuous for white people, but at the same time they can be dangerous for people of another color - for example, shopping, moving to another place, talking about policy and government or even asking for a medical help are such rights (among plenty of another ones) that might be restricted for the people of color. And if white people are free to use all package of rights and advantages without any doubt (they do not even notice or think about these privileges – they take them for granted), people of other races might be oppressed somehow and might not receive necessary assistance because of racial stereotypes and prejudices. Therefore, the social construction of racism is based on the white people’s willingness to be lenient with people of color and their subconscious reluctance to acknowledge the equality of all races.
Another thought-provoking idea of the phenomenon of racism that is presented by Peggy McIntosh is based on how whites are taught to distinguish racism and discriminatory behavior. The author writes “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”; thus, racism is considered to be single acts of discrimination rather than a system of white people’s thinking. It is never demonstrated as a way of how whites see themselves – advantaged and privileged, but only as direct insults and abuses towards the colored people. That is why it becomes extremely hard to get rid of the racial prejudice – regardless of the efforts that white people make in order to be tolerant of people of another color they continue to feel themselves instinctively as a dominant part of society.
In order to achieve racial equality, the necessary steps to reduce the status of white people a bit while simultaneously increasing the status of people of color must be taken. This position can be explained with the help of two arguments. First of all, the process of giving people of color the same rights and status as whites have has been lasting for more than a hundred years, however, the racial issue is still on the surface, and the world still has not overcome racial stereotypes and prejudices. Secondly, by the phrase “we must raise people of color to the level of white people” society continues to proclaim that white race is dominant, while any other race is worse and needs to be bring up to the high level of the dominant race’s development. Moreover, if society is ready to reduce the status of white people and meet all races in the middle, it will make white people feel that they have already crossed the line in the issue of self-appraisal and self-perception. Thereby, whites can finally understand that they are not the dominant race and that every single person on Earth deserves a full life.