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White Privilege

Unit 4

Tamara Berg

on 8 September 2016

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Transcript of White Privilege

White Privilege
“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group.” –

Peggy McIntosh, 1988
"Racism is when you have laws set up, systematically put in a way to keep people from advancing, to stop the advancement of a people.

Black people have never had the power to enforce racism, and so this is something that white America is going to have to work out themselves. If they decide they want to stop it, curtail it, or to do the right thing ... then it will be done, but not until then."

Spike Lee, interview, 1990
“The pressure to avoid recognizing white privilege is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is 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)
“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)
“Disapproving of the system won't be enough to change them.

I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitude. But a "white" skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate but cannot end, these problems.” (McIntosh)
“To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions.

The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tools here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these subject taboo.” (McIntosh)
What is it like to grow up white in our culture?
What is it like to grow up as a girl of color?
20/20: Racism in America
What would you do?
Racism = Prejudice + Power
“Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.”

--Barry Switzer, head football coach at the University of Oklahoma and for the Dallas Cowboys

is inequality based on systems of inequality and privilege that are so deeply embedded in our society that those who benefit are often blind to those very systems of inequality and privilege.
Structural inequality
The Institutional Dimension of Oppression
structured through social institutions

The Symbolic/Societal/Cultural Dimension of
reflect wide-spread, socially-sanctioned ideologies used to justify relations of domination and subordination

The Individual Dimension of Oppression
whether we believe it ("see it") or not, we all live within institutions that reproduce class, race, and gender oppression.

We all have the choice to see and challenge these dimensions of oppression if we want a just and fair world for all.

[adapted from http://ws405.blogspot.com/2011/01/understanding-oppression.html]
Institutional: Policies, laws, rules, norms and customs enacted by organizations and social institutions that disadvantage some social groups and advantage other social groups.

These institutions include religion, government, education, law, the media, and the health care system (intentional and unintentional).
Institutional Unintentional:

· Students celebrate Christmas in school, but not other winter religious holidays

· A town hall building does not have an entrance that is accessible to people using wheelchairs

Institutional Intentional:

· A state adopts a law prohibiting the adoption by lesbian and gay people

· An employment agency steers Black People toward low-paying, domestic, or custodial positions

Symbolic/Societal/Cultural: Social norms, roles, rituals, language, music and art that reflect and reinforce the belief that one social group is superior to another (Intentional and unintentional).

Standards of beauty for women are based on white norms: blond, fine hair, blue eyes, and fair/light skin


A belief in individual merit and hard work being rewarded by economic success leads to an assumption that poor people are lazy and undeserving


English is designated as the “official” language in the United States

European Culture is assumed to be superior to other cultures

Individual: Attitudes and actions that reflect prejudice against a social group (intentional and unintentional).
Individual Unintentional:

· A high school teacher assumes all her students are interested in dating classmates of the “opposite” gender

· A teacher who prides himself on being fair to all his students calls on boys to answer questions three times more often than he calls on girls

Individual Intentional:

· Someone uses racial slurs to refer to Black and Puerto Rican People

· A Parents asks to have her child moved out of a transgender teacher’s classroom

If we want to work to end structural inequality, we must critique and analyze the institutionalization of the very racial and ethnic categories that are mistaken as natural--and pure.

Race and ethnicity are social constructions that are co-constituted with gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, and other identity vectors"

--Heather Montes Ireland
But because structural inequality is built into our culture, it's hard to identify if you are not regularly being limited or harmed by such inequality. People often need to work to see it.
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