Thursday, February 4, 2016

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
By:  Peggy McIntosh

February 4, 2016

As Peggy McIntosh says, "I was taught to see racism only individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."  Every child is taught about racism and what it means.  But, does a "white" parent teach their "white" child that we are a race also?  Many white people go unannounced as to where the racism is performed.  Many white people are the ones isolating black people or Spanish people out of areas where there is a high population of white people.  Why do we do this?

McIntosh talks about "white privilege" and the disturbance of it.  A lot of white people don't understand that white people have a say over black people or that white people have inevitable white power over other races.

"I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege... White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks" (McIntosh). 

White people have privileges that are unacknowledged and in which white people do not know of.  If a white person was to speak at a conference in front of a minority of blacks; whatever the white person says will be more acknowledged than of what the black person announces.  White children are taught in school "that blacks are bad, Hispanics are dangerous." Well, the "white" teachers are who are enforcing this kind of behavior, and in result the white children will grow up thinking that "blacks are bad, Hispanics are dangerous."  

"If these things are true, this not such a free country; one's life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own" (McIntosh). 

White privilege is "valued" in the United States.  An everyday person can look around that see white people everywhere - earlier presidents, teachers, people of the government.  Many people believe that just because someone is black or of a different race it limits their opportunity in the world; yes, it is true in some cases- which is completely depressing.  Many children grow up in multicultural schools; and because of this the students who are of the minority feel like they are not as good as the "white privileged" children.  

"Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism doesn't affect them because they are not people of color, they do not see 'whiteness' as a racial identity" (McIntosh). 

White people are oblivious to their privileges that are unacknowledged. Such as: a white person can shop by themselves without feeling harassed, white people can find other people to help them through problems, white people have a better success rate in schools and in finding a job. Black people are likely to be questioned and/or have harder time in a "white man's" world.  

McIntosh and Grinner relate in many aspects of work.  Grinner talks about the "Whiteness" and how it is one symbol of the United States.  Some areas that go unannounced when it comes to whiteness are:  "nude" colored band aids, white wedding dresses, pure/good, the face of our leaders.  White privilege is throughout the whole country even if people do not recognize it.   In some ways whiteness seems more harsh than what most people would aspect.  

Questions/Comments/Points to share:
Can you think of ways whiteness is privileged in the United States or around this world?  Whiteness is sometimes taken for granted due to its beginning in the United States formed by the Founding Fathers.  Have you ever been part of a time where you felt like the "leader" because there were other races around you?  If children weren't taught in school to feel like white was better than every other race, the world would be completely different. Can you even imagine that?  


  1. McIntosh clearly relates to the SCWAAMP (Grinner) activity we did in class, especially the W for "whiteness". McIntosh also talks a little about the M for "maleness". A simple thing like band aids takes on the aspect of "whiteness" because they are nude in color. You do not realize that "whiteness" is all around you until you start thinking about it and making lists and then realizing wow, society has made being white an advantage.

  2. I agree with Ariana as well as you that Scwaamp played a part in this article, not directly but we could all see these words pooping up and making a point. I enjoyed the first quote you used that said white privilege is like a secret knapsack filled with passport, codes etc.. I think the quote really made me realize and opened up many others to the thought that as whites, so may not even realize they have privilege, yet everyday people of color know they are not privileged but they have a disadvantage. All the quotes you picked out were great and caught my eye as well. You did a an awesome job translating the quotes and sharing your thoughts, I enjoyed reading it.

  3. I agree with all of you that SCWAAMP had a role in this article. You did a great job explaining the quotes that you picked. the last quote you picked also stood out to me while reading the article, it is like people are taught that race is only for those of a different color in the U.S. not that the white color they are is also a race.