The Intersection of White Privilege and Structural Racism in American Society
Professor Akihiko Hirose
This paper will explore the concept of white privilege and its bindings to structural racism. White privilege refers to the societal advantages and benefits that white people receive due to their skin color, often unconsciously. Structural racism refers to the systematic ways in which racial inequality is embedded in institutions and policies. The paper will provide an example of how white privilege manifests not only, in the criminal justice system but in everyday life for all people in America. It will then discuss how this example relates to structural racism. Through this analysis, …show more content…
And not only are Black people the only ones seeing the effects of America's discrimination, but almost all races that land in America are seeing this racism when compared to white people. While many people acknowledge the existence of racism, there is often resistance to the concept of white privilege. White privilege refers to the advantages and benefits that white people receive due to their skin color, such as easier access to education, employment, housing, and healthcare among many other examples. These benefits are often unconsciously bestowed upon white people, which makes it difficult for them to acknowledge their existence. White privilege is not about individual experiences or choices, but rather about systemic advantages that have been built up over time and have yet to fall. This paper will explain the concept of white privilege and its binding to structural …show more content…
But in America, that is rarely the case. White privilege runs rampant in this part of the world even though we are all considered equals. White privilege is a concept that refers to the unearned advantages that individuals who are perceived as white receive in society due to their skin color. Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racist activist, introduced the concept of white privilege in her 1988 essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." She says that white privilege is "an invisible weightless knapsack of assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks." White privilege manifests in various forms in society, including but not limited to, easier access to education, housing, employment, and healthcare. It also includes the advantage of not experiencing racism and discrimination in the same ways as people of color, not having to worry about being targeted by the police, and not having to worry about being judged based on racial stereotypes. White privilege is not necessarily something that white individuals actively seek or intend to benefit from, but it is an intrinsic perk that they have over people of color in America. According to McIntosh, white privilege is often unseen to those who have it, and they may not even be aware of it until it is pointed out to
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In Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege”, she talks about how white privilege is “like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks” (1). What she meant by this, was that light-skinned/white people are at an automatic advantage over dark-skinned people, whom in turn, become the disadvantaged. She claims that being white protected her from danger and violence and freed her to do many things that she realized other people of color could not. She believes she can get away with doing more things and that more doors are open to her especially due to the color of her skin. When relating this to the movie, “The Hangover”, it is easy to point out these concepts of white privilege.
From the readings and the NPR podcast it gave me a lot to think about how I view race and specifically white privilege and how it affects the social constructs of our society. I believe that in order to understand white privilege you must know the role that race plays. Race is a social construct that was developed by people in order to distinguish between different groups based on physical characteristics but, also to maintain exclusiveness and social superiority (Conley, 2015, p. 344). In the second reading “Defining Racism” it acknowledges that even if someone is aware of their white privilege why would they want it give up because it plays in their favor. In Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” she argues that white people
America is a diverse melting pot of various ethnicities and heritages all blended together to create the American society. As beautiful as that is, America as a population is mired in fear of addressing issues such as white privilege which is the product of discrimination and racism. White privilege is viewed by those opposed to it that those who are privilege received unwarranted success as a result of status, luck and privilege rather than putting in hard work or using their brain to earn their success. The existence of discrimination from white privilege comes from the privilege attained by a certain as well as oppression and social prejudice facing certain other groups or races. Individuals who are privileged in one society seldomly are unaware of their privilege, not because of their own doing, but simply because it is very easy to be oblivious to the privilege when you have never seen its adverse effect from the other side.
There is one particular example that I can think of in my personal life that goes along with this theme of ‘white privilege.’ I attended Northeast Guilford High School, which is a primarily African American high school. Therefore, I was the minority. Right before I transitioned from middle school to high school, the district lines in my county were ‘redrawn’ and many of the black students who used to attend Eastern Guilford that lived in the lower income housing were now being sent to Northeast. It was almost as if they wanted to pull as many of the African American students into one school because they didn’t want those students of color to be attending the same school as the rich, white students.
Peggy McKintosh makes a sort of parallel between the power of privilege that men posses over women and how white people have a privilege over colored people. The parallel between these two examples is that they both have a side that is more privileged than the other but they seem to not notice that they have that privilege. Men grow up in a society where they are taught not to show that they have more power and privilege over women and it is the same way with white people. White people are not taught that they are oppressors against people of color. They just grew up and were taught to not recognize their privilege of just being born white.
White privilege is a form of embedded racism wherein “white” people are granted greater power, or access to resources as opposed to other races (Robbins et al. 2014: 99). White privilege is demonstrated in the case of Jennifer Cramblett, a white lesbian woman who decided to undergo artificial insemination. This resulted in a problematic situation as the sperm bank sent the wrong specimen to her (Mystal 2014). This was discovered well into her pregnancy, but she went ahead and delivered the baby. Two years after the baby girl was born, Cramblett decided to sue the sperm bank even after they gave her a refund because she was forced to make changes to accommodate her black child (Mystal 2014).
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, she notes that the whites in America are taught not to recognize their white privilege as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. Whites were also taught to see racism as something that puts people at a disadvantage rather than something that puts people at an advantage as well. Therefore, McIntosh decides to unpack her invisible knapsack and list 46 privileges she was granted because of her skin color. In Audre Lorde’s essay, she argues that feminists must critically examine their own use of dominant concepts. She also mentions that academic knowledge is based on an institution that has excluded people of colour.
Peggy McIntosh’s essay was the first to enlighten us on white privilege but many still have defined white privilege differently in the post-McIntosh era. White privilege in pre-1980’s is different than post-1980’s because of the foundation America was made on. In pre-1980’s white privilege was expected because African Americans were seen as 3/5 of a person when it came to voting and other categories. Being white in this time you were guaranteed citizenship, rights to vote, to own property and usually to have education. The post-1980’s time, McIntosh talks about how our hierarchies in society are interlocking and although some deny the truth of white privilege, it is alive.
In Peggy McIntosh’s’ essay, “White Privileges: The Invisible Knapsack”, she uses numerous diverse rhetorical strategies to persuade and engage her readers attention toward the claims she states about white privilege and racism. The essay points out that males and white people from birth have certain privileges, earned strengths, and unearned power. The author made good use of ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade her readers to understand and accept her claims about white privilege, and these claims she specifically stated, gradually expanded her thesis throughout her essay. McIntosh’s purpose in her essay is to identify the “invisible systems” that we have of male and white privilege in order to educate the public and readers about the masked favoritism or inequality to reestablish it.
Many people in the world don’t know about what white privilege is, and most of those who know know what it is debate on whether it exist or not. First off white privilege is a term that represents the privileges that comes along with having white skin. With many white people arguing that white privilege doesn 't exist many people of color believe it does. Most people of color believe that white people are always one level ahead of them, because of their privilege. First of all, like many people of color, I believe white privilege does exist, because I can see it all around me.
When someone hears the term “White Privilege”, immediately one would assume that it denotes a meaning that a specific race has ‘privilege’, or special treatment, that other races might not receive. However, the term “White Privilege” goes beyond what the eyes see, like Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racism activist, suggests, it is “an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious.” In other words, McIntosh is saying “White Privilege” is not entirely a status, special treatment, nor a certain standing in a social structure, but is instead, in its most inherent and intrinsic definition, a subtle but yet powerful phenomenon that subjugate us as social creatures to conform to its power of giving certain races advantages that are oblivious to our own knowledge.
The term white privilege has become a bad term, just like the word feminism. Society has found a way to distort and change the definition of terms like these to avoid the actual issue that the term is bringing up. By definition feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, but the word has come to carry a negative connotation (Webster). Many who believe in the principle would not call themselves feminists or participate in trying to reach equality to avoid that connotation placed on them. Their silence only aids the continuation of inequality between men and women.
White people constantly desire to be the dominant group in the United States, so they fear that one day, minorities will become the majority group. In order to maintain their place at the top of society, they must obscure white privilege by denying the existence of white supremacy. Without ideas of white superiority, White people may lose power and no longer be the dominant group in society. This country was founded on beliefs of freedom and equality, yet minority groups exist who are underrepresented in society due to racism and feelings of white supremacy. Over time, white supremacy has certainly dialed down with the emergence of the civil rights movement and more mindful individuals; however, it is still prevalent in modern America since racial discrimination is still an