Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Problem of Privilege by Eric Stoller

The Problem of Privilege

1: White Privilege #1 - I can speak of my own experiences regarding diversity and be seen as unique or vulnerable when I am in a room full of white people.
White Privilege #2 — I am never asked if I am from the United States or if I just moved here. It is assumed that I am a citizen because of my skin color.
2: In privilege # 6, McIntosh writes about the lies that are spread via our educational system. One way that I believe that I can give up the privilege of ethnocentric education is to read history books that accurately portray the history of marginalized groups. I can also pass on these books to friends and family members as potential sources of re-education. Howard Zinn and Ronald Takaki are excellent sources of accurately written historical texts. I think I am working towards giving up privilege #6 and in some ways, beginning to share or extend new information to other white folks.
I am currently choosing to not align myself with the first privilege that McIntosh writes about. This privilege is the privilege of “arranging to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.” I am working on developing networks of friends who are of color, LGBT, and any other members of oppressed groups. I’m doing this to be a better person and to do what I can to lead by example. I think white folks need to see and hear white men talk about diversity.
I currently identify as an anti-racist, a feminist, and an ally. These identities are causing me to give up the 21st privilege. This privilege is one that I am struggling with giving up because I am unsure what it will mean to my psyche. The idea of coming home after “meetings of organizations I belong to, and feeling isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared,” is not a pleasant thing. This feeling of isolation has already started to happen on a limited scale. It is a new experience for me in my efforts to subvert the dominant paradigm. I feel like the system wants me back and that my punishment is going to be isolation. Fortunately, I have an excellent support system of folks whose views align with my own.
3: I believe that it is accurate to call something a privilege that is imposed upon a person by our social structure, that they do not want and can’t get rid of. McIntosh makes it very clear in her article that it is important to distinguish unearned privileges which are part of unearned advantages. It is important to discuss privileges that are unearned; because within that discussion comes the reality that institutionalized oppression creates unearned advantages for some, while simultaneously disadvantaging someone else. Unearned privilege comes from institutional power.
4: The second we truly realize that we are privileged means that we also realize that our privileges come at the expense of someone else and that these privileges do damage to those who are privileged. Systems of oppression like racism, sexism, and heterosexism could not exist if heterosexual white men gave up their privileges and to do that, they would have to give up their power. If temporarily able-bodied folks realize that they benefit from the institutionalized oppression of persons who are disabled then all TABs would be forced to create new institutions that create systems where buildings would be accessible and technology would be usable for all people regardless of visual or motor impairments