The Self and The Other

OCA study blog | Andrew Fitzgibbon

Reading point 2.3: white privilege

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh is  here – (current course link is dead). My thoughts on the essay:

  • The essay is a very interesting perspective on white privilege in that it is written by someone who is living that experience and immersed in it. It is very difficult to see something for what it is when we are in the thick of it and it has surrounded us every day of our lives.
  • When making my list of privileges as a photographer, I limited it only to those I felt were by virtue of photography. This is of course artificial. I photograph as I am, and as I am also conveys other privileges that support my work as a photographer (white middle-aged male). There are of course a few disadvantages, but they are far outweighed by the advantages.
  • McIntosh eloquently states:

‘I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.’

This is the difficult with privilege; we are not encouraged or educated to think of ourselves as privileged within a society that purports to be democratic and meritocratic. We have to think outside ourselves to see it.

  • The following comment has reshaped my understanding of the concept of privilege. McIntosh states, ‘”privilege” now seems to be misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically over empower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex’. That fact that it is also systematic emphasis the negativity, I expressed when compiling my list of privileges.

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