In her essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh examines the ways in which white privilege affects everyday life. She explains that white privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets which she likens to an invisible knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks. McIntosh states that white privilege is not only a personal benefit, but also a societal benefit. She argues that white privilege is perpetuated through institutional racism and white supremacy. She outlines a number of examples of how white privilege affects daily life, such as access to better schools, jobs, housing, and health care. McIntosh concludes her essay by calling for white people to recognize the privilege they have, and to work to dismantle the systems that perpetuate it.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

This article is about Peggy McIntosh’s essay. For other uses, see white privilege.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” is a 1989 essay written by American feminist scholar and anti-racist activist Peggy McIntosh. It covers 50 examples, or hidden benefits, from McIntosh’s perspective, of the privilege white people experience in everyday life.

Themes

  • “Invisible” factors. McIntosh describes “invisible systems” at work, as well as the main theme of an “invisible bundle of unearned assets”, examined in the form of a metaphor schoolbag.
  • The essay presents 50 of McIntosh’s insights into experience white privilege, listed numerically. These were described as “small perks white Americans enjoy every day”.

Reception

the atlantic wrote that the intention behind the essay was to inspire “self-reflection, increasing your capacity for empathy and compassion”. It was described by addiction as one of the most authoritative texts on the subject of white privilege, and The Harvard Gazette they called it a “breakthrough paper” and the most important of McIntosh’s academic career. He was cited as responsible for integrating the discussion of white privilege, becoming a “basic of discussions about prejudice” in society. In 2018, artwork and studies inspired by the essay became popular in social justice social media sections such as Tumblr.

Influence on education

The essay has become one of the leading teaching resources in the study of white privilege in North America. In 2016, some New York City Public Schools assigned reading to high school students. In 2017, a high school in caledon, ontario discussed the essay as part of an 11th grade anthropology class. Conor Friedersdorf recommended including writing in college curricula. The essay inspired “Privilege Walks”, workshops and similar activities to help students concretely identify their privileges, although McIntosh herself dismissed the walks as “too simple for complex experiences related to power and privilege” and therefore as “counterproductive”. “.

References

External Links


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