white privilege wears many hats

Does white privilege apply even to “broke white people”? From TheFeministBreeder.com, here’s a quick yet insightful discussion of white privilege from the pov of a white woman who “came from the kind of Poor that people don’t want to believe still exists in this country.” Author Gina Crosley-Corcoran begins,

Have you ever spent a frigid northern Illinois winter without heat or running water? I have. At twelve years old, were you making ramen noodles in a coffee maker with water you fetched from a public bathroom? I was. Have you ever lived in a camper year round and used a random relative’s apartment as your mailing address? We did. Did you attend so many different elementary schools that you can only remember a quarter of their names? Welcome to my childhood.

So when that feminist told me I had ‘white privilege’, I told her that my white skin didn’t do shit to prevent me from experiencing poverty. Then, like any good , educated feminist would, she directed me to Peggy McIntosh‘s 1988 now-famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”

Read and respond to Crosely-Corcoran’s piece here.

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6 thoughts on “white privilege wears many hats

  1. Well except for the fact that a “White” race doesn’t exist.

    Google “Irish Need Not Apply” and look at the racism against the Irish at the turn of last Century. The Irish are about as “White” as you can get.

    “White” isn’t a race. “White” is racially irrelevant. Italians and Greeks have darker skin than Arabs. Italians and Greeks are “White” while Arabs are “Brown”.

    While being of a racially identified group can be a disadvantage, being of a racially unidentified group is not “privilege”

    • Tasha says:

      While there is certainly room to question “white” as an encompassing color/race, most scholars would argue with the assertion that those with light skin lack a race altogether, and they’d certainly argue with the assertion that “white” cannot at any time be considered a race. If there are varying skintones within the white race, one can see that this is obviously true of all perceived “races.” In indicating a race, one is not claiming to have a super-specific skin color, but to identify with an ethnic heritage.

      And yes, of course people with white(-ish) skin have faced discrimination both in the past and currently. I know of no worthwhile writers who would claim otherwise. However, this fails to alter the situation of POCs in anglo/american countries, who experience a disadvantage as the result of their skin color. They experience this to a degree – and with a consistency – that is not comparable to those who are able to identify as white/anglo/american. The list presented by Peggy McIntosh (and quoted by the above-linked author) is rather inescapable, except in cases of class – as the author rightly points out.
      In short, we can argue about skin tones and call attention to ways in which people groups have been horrendously treated… Nevertheless the truth is that, if one’s skin can be construed as “white,” one experiences undeniable advantages in America and other countries. If one’s skin cannot be construed as “white,” one does not have access to these advantages to anything like the same degree.

      • This is now just a question of where we place the bar? What do we consider Par? What is normal?

        Is race not being a factor in hiring a privilege or is having your race considered in hiring a disadvantage?

        Is not having race be an issue with the police a privilege or is being racially profiled a disadvantage?

        Do we need to have “Whites” treated more like “blacks” and get profiled by the police, turned down from jobs, and treated with hostility by the neighbors? Or should we treat “Blacks” more like “Whites” and not consider race at all in these situations?

        There where only 2 or 3 points in the list of “White Privileges” that do not fall into the category of “Whites don’t face this disadvantage”

        While we should certainly address and attempt to fix the disadvantages that minority groups face, attempting to frame these disadvantages as “White Privilege” only muddies the issue.

      • Tasha says:

        If you read the linked article and the attached essay, most of your questions are answered. McIntosh asserts that the things that figure as “white privileges” are generally unearned advantages and opportunities – (generally unrequested) – for subtle domination.
        The things white people are able to take for granted should, in McIntosh’s pov, be accessible for all people — regardless of color. So no, we don’t want the currently-privileged to take up the disadvantages that POCs currently experience; we want rather to eliminate discrimination based on color… And also eliminate the notion of “advantage” so that the (positive) things that currently function as “advantages” for some become instead the norm for all humans.

        Both McIntosh and Crosley-Corcoran would, I think, agree that class, sex, and gender play significant roles in any discussion of advantage and disadvantage, which is why intersectionality is so vastly important in any discussion such as this one. That said, I don’t think white privilege muddies the issue; it’s very much a part of it. The fact that privilege – in all its forms – is deeply complicated doesn’t give us license to simplify it by deciding for ourselves that “only 2-3 points” apply, and that this # isn’t sufficient for inquiry. White people experience privileges that POCs don’t, and this is perpetuated by our blindness to it. There is likely work we can do to change this for the better of all of us, if we take the time to look honestly into it.

        This is only threatening if we’re concerned we’ll lose something if we question the fairness of the status quo. After all, the goal is that, on the other side of inquiry and discussion, all humans are being treated better. So if we look honestly into our privilege, and if we listen honestly to others’ experiences, we may lose a sense of being privileged — but we won’t lose.

      • “The things white people are able to take for granted should, in McIntosh’s pov, be accessible for all people — regardless of color.”

        So these things are not unearned benefits, they are not “White Privilege” they are not things we should take away from whites. Having these benefits is par, normal. Not having these things is a disadvantage for POC, we need to make these things true for POC, remove the disadvantage, not make them untrue for whites, removing “Privilege”

      • Tasha says:

        I think at this point you’ve perhaps misunderstood the concept of removing white privilege. Removal of privilege does not involve the removal of the experiences of being treated fairly and humanely; rather, “removal of white privilege” involves removing such experiences as privileges. If everyone has the same experience, that experience is no longer a privilege. It is in this sense that white privilege(s) should be done away with.

        Too, you seem quite concerned that something will be “taken away from whites” if white privilege is closely examined and critiqued… And I’d argue that this concern is a sign you’ve misunderstood the privileges whites often experience. The fear that, for instance, you’ll no longer be able to see your own race represented every time you turn on the TV is an indication that you’re attached to that experience and unwilling to see it change. You’re willing to have others see their races represented, but you seem afraid someone will take away all the whites from your own viewing experience. 🙂 This of course seems silly when phrased this way, but it’s worth noting: if others are to have the experience of seeing their races more commonly represented (whether in politics, marketing, gaming, what have you), then whites must by necessity be represented less commonly. Thus if progress is made, some whites may feel that they are “losing ground” – BUT, only if they feel entitled to an experience that’s been an unearned privilege – not an entitlement – all along.

        So to be clear, in situations like this, my quote from earlier is inaccurate insofar as it fails to acknowledge that it’s impossible in every circumstance to simply give everyone the “privileges” heretofore experienced primarily by whites. Instead, serious inquiry will require whites to rethink what we see as the “norm,” and will likely affect our experience.
        However, such changes in white experience are not negative. They will be felt as negative only if one chooses to see equality (the elimination of privilege) as a personal loss. As many wise writers have said: when equality is enacted, those with privilege often feel it as a loss.

        But to clarify yet again, my earlier comment that “what whites take for granted should be extended to all humans” DOES definitely apply to such privileges as being regarded as a person as opposed to an “other,” being regarded as a human being rather than a representation of one’s race, being judged by one’s character rather than one’s appearance… these “privileges” should of course be extended to all, and thus eliminated as “privileges.”

        Still, it should be noted that depending upon one’s history, class, and social experience, this too may be experienced as a loss. (For ex, someone might say, “Hey, I used to be able to easily take a leadership role in social situations, but now I can’t because the playing field is leveled,” or, “I used to get immediate attention from a clerk while POCs waited in line, but now I have to wait in line too because everyone’s treated the same.”) Of course, such losses are, imho, Good.

        Thanks for the exchanges today!

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