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Black 15-year-old wins essay contest on white privilege in affluent Connecticut town

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Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, introduced the concept of privilege into academic discussions of equity, discussions that had previously focused exclusively on the deficits experienced by marginalized groups. Nearly two decades later, these two pieces remain among the most easily accessible learning tools to help European Americans quickly begin to grasp the realities of institutional racism and white privilege and their own roles within those systems.

The paper contains a list of forty-six ways in which McIntosh, a white professor, benefits from unearned white privilege, enjoying daily, institutional advantages denied her colleagues of color. McIntosh draws parallels between her experience of white privilege and the ways her male colleagues benefit from institutional sexism, and discusses the ways in which white people are systematically trained to ignore the system of privilege from which they benefit.

As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see the corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage…Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism does not affect them because they are not people of color: I used the McIntosh article as the basis for an exercise in our faculty intensive.

I made a list of twenty-three of the privileges McIntosh could take for granted that her colleagues of color could not. Participants sat in a circle and took turns reading the statements aloud. After each statement was read, we paused to allow reflection by the group.

The list was then passed to the next participant to read the next statement. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection. I paired the list-reading exercise with an exercise called The Encircled Circle, adapted from Brookfield and Preskill. In the textbook exercise, a small circle of chairs faces inwards, surrounded by a larger circle of chairs.

At the suggestion of one of our participants, however, we added an empty chair to serve as a revolving door to the inner circle; anyone who wished could occupy it briefly, add a short comment, and return to the outer circle. This modification encouraged participation in the inner circle and created fluidity between the two groups.

The discussions were animated. Some people spoke openly of the pain of experiencing institu- tional and other forms of racism and of watching their children or loved ones suffer from its impacts. Others expressed surprise and dismay at the ways in which they had themselves colluded with racism without thinking about it.

A white woman was horrified at the drain on energy, talent, health, and potential that results from racism. An Alaska Native professor observed that the list was missing the most significant challenge he experienced in dealing with racism on a daily basis: He told stories of Alaska Natives on the receiving end of rough treatment by store security guards, random attacks by complete strangers, and name-calling often being mistaken for individuals from other ethnic backgrounds, such as people of Arab or Asian descent.

This exercise allowed participants to reflect both emotionally and intellectually on the effects of white privilege and racism on our mutual lives and to begin to consider how such effects might also impact our teaching styles and our students.

I came from the kind of Poor that people don't want to believe still exists in this country. Have you ever spent a frigid northern Illinois winter without heat or running water? At twelve years old, were you making ramen noodles in a coffee maker with water you fetched from a public bathroom? Have you ever lived in a camper year round and used a random relative's apartment as your mailing address?

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 now-famous piece, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

After one reads McIntosh's powerful essay, it's impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of another skin color simple are not afforded. If you read through the rest of the list, you can see how white people and people of color experience the world in two very different ways. This is not said to make white people feel guilty about their privilege.

It's not your fault you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. BUT, whether you realize it or not, you DO benefit from it, and it IS your fault if you don't maintain awareness of that fact. I do understand McIntosh's essay may rub some people the wrong way. There are several points on the list that I felt spoke more to the author's status as a Middle Class person than a White Person.

And there are so many more points in the essay where the word "race" could be substituted for the word "class" which would ultimately paint a very different picture. That is why I had such a hard time identifying with this essay for so long. When I first wrote about White Privilege years ago, I demanded to know why this White Woman felt that my experiences were the same as hers when no, my family most certainly could not rent housing "in an area which we could afford and want to live.

The idea that any ol' white person can find a publisher for a piece is most certainly a symptom of class privilege. Having come from a family of people who didn't even graduate high school, who knew not a single academic or intellectual person, it would never occur to me to assume that I could be published. It is an absolute freak anomaly that I'm in graduate school considering not one person on either side of my family has a college degree.

And it took me until my thirties to ever believe that someone from my stock could achieve such a thing. Poverty colors nearly everything about your perspective on opportunities for advancement in life. Middle class, educated people assume that anyone can achieve their goals if they work hard enough.

Folks steeped in poverty rarely see a life past working at the gas station, making the rent on their trailer, and self-medicating with cigarettes and prescription drugs until they die of a heart attack.

I've just described one whole side of my family and the life I assumed I'd be living before I lucked out of it. I, maybe more than most people, can completely understand why broke white folks get pissed when the word "Privilege" is thrown around.


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Privilege, a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others, is a term most people learn at a very young age. Privilege is thought of as something that one earns, not something that is just a given in everyday life. White privilege is an advantage that white people have in society.

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Apr 04,  · Scroll down to read the full essay. The black year-old winner of an essay contest about white privilege says older residents of the well-to . White Privilege: Reflection Paper Race is obviously still a huge issue within the United States. Not only do we have racism against people of color, but white people are .