The article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh stands out as a very innovative approach to seeing the problem of racial prejudices. While all the obvious forms of racism in the United States and Canada have been defeated, there is still a series of problems, rising from "mentality factors" which influence thinking and worldview of the people, living in these countries. If those factors are brought to light and dealt with, the problem of “conferred dominance” will be seriously challenged.
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Peggy McIntosh underlined some serious insights into the issue of “white advantage" in the American society. As it can be seen from the article, she compared the problem of racial privilege to that of male privilege, stating that they are somewhat similar in their nature. Then she listed a number of conditions showing advantages that people of the white race have or might have over the people of color. There are some very interesting among them such as the problem of representation of same-race people in various offices as expressed in point 9, the ability to criticize the government without being seen as a cultural outsider (point 17) and even the ‘tight’ to manifest bad character traits without having people attribute that to the bad morals of that particular race (point 12).
The above mentioned conditions and those, which have not been mentioned in this work, are very descriptive of the situation that dominates in the modern society. As many criticize affirmative action policies as ineffective and harmful to the society, saying that they often enforce employment of other races representatives at the quality expense, a statement made by Robert Jensen in his article "White Privilege Shapes the U.S." is very notable in this regard. He, among other things, said that while some complained that minority group representatives are mediocre as compared to the majority, after a substantially long period of time the percentage of mediocre minority representatives will be similar to that of the majority. He also added that second-rate white race candidates may “slide” through the system because of race and ideology solidarity (Jensen, 1998).
Peggy McIntosh made a very plain and strong statement when she said that skin color was an asset for any move a person wanted to make. In other words it means that a white race representative has an assumed advantage in almost every area because of his/her skin color. She goes on to develop a very important idea that “whiteness” creates protection from many forms of hostility, alienation and distress. While ideally many would argue that it is so, the idea that the author presented is in fact often confirmed by many life’s examples.
Another important idea presented by the author is "unearned entitlement”. Those are advantages that are taken for granted. Peggy McIntosh compares them to male supremacy and complains that few people are truly distressed by it. Those are basically advantages that were formed historically or set forth by the power of the majority. The issue is aggravated by the fact that the vast majority does not see the problem since it is constituted of the white majority population.
Zeus Leonardo in his essay “The Color of Supremacy: Beyond the Discourse of ‘White Privilege’” expresses his view of the “unearned entitlement” and the whole issue of white privilege. He thinks that racial advantages can be explained through primary history of exclusions and ideological practices (Leonardo, 2004, p. 3). He describes shrinking of freedoms for all to only white males in the course of American history development. What was originally put together by the “founding fathers” for all in the Constitution was greatly reduced to a smaller group due to the development of capitalism, instantaneous interests, economic necessity and many other factors.
Peggy McIntosh’s article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" is a very concise, realistic and unbiased assessment of the racial situation in the United States and Canada. It provides a unique opportunity to look at issues that are not on the surface or may not be seen at the first glance. However, it provides the right food for the mind.
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