I found “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh to be very interesting and very relative to what we spoke about in class on Tuesday. McIntosh emphasizes the immense amount of privilege that whites are given as well as the various daily effects that accompany them. Often these effects are not even considered to be privileges to those who experience them. Rather they are taken for granted as the norm when in actuality not all groups of people are able to experience them.
This privilege is due to a social system in place that keeps whites as the privileged group and non-white races as the oppressed group. McIntosh explains that many see racism or sexism only in actual individual acts however racism is immersed in an “invisible system” that gives whites dominance. Thus, like Johnson and McIntosh I believe that racism, sexism and other forms of oppression are due to the system that we live in and interact with. Still, as people we are all active participants in continuing this societal status quo. Changes need to be made, and it must be understood that the changes need to be made to this underlying power structure.
I also liked that McIntosh explained that often, bad behavior or activity is blamed on an individual’s race or gender. For instance, she gives the example, “I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color”. This statement is very interesting; in psychology classes I have consistently learned that people often attribute some negative behavior to that person rather than the situation or some other factor. Thus, when a bad behavior is observed people may see it as a reflection of ones race or gender because that is what they associate the behavior with, when it fact there are other underlying explanations. This is another example of how stereotypical thinking is employed in daily life when making judgments about people and their actions. Underlying all of this is the system in which these stereotypes thrive, the system itself needs to be fixed if we are to live in a more just and equal society.