I'm a student at a local community college, in New Jersey. In my Intro to Sociology class we read an article called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." And when I first saw the title, I was kind of like, oh gosh, a can of worms is about to be opened.
So I read the article, and I was kind of like, wait, what!? And read it again! And then a third time.
Basically the article stated that just as men have "unacknowledged privileges", and they unconsciously oppress women, white people have "unspoken" privileges [such as the ability to go shopping alone without the fear of being followed or harassed because of their race, and the ability to get legal or medical help without their race working against them] that black people [and other minorities] don't have. And even better - the article mentions that white people are taught that these "privileges" are normal, and that nothing is wrong with them.
I was a bit surprised to find that it was a very astute article, considering it was written by a white woman, who had never personally experienced the racism that is prevalent in our society.
After the class finished reading the article, we were broken into groups of 5, and told to discuss and answer certain questions. The questions given to my group were:
What is the difference between racism and white privilege? and React to the idea that disadvantage for one group in a society implies privilege for another.
Okay. That was easy enough for me. I jotted my answers down quickly and then turned to discuss them with my group, but someone started speaking before I had the chance.
[Note 1: My answer to the first question: "A very basic definition of racism is the belief that certain groups of people should be treated differently based on their race. White privilege is the idea that white people are given certain special treatments and "privileges" because of their race. There really is no difference between the two terms, white privilege is just another form of racism."]
[Note 2: I am the only person in my class who is even partially black. Everyone else in the class is white. And yes, it is necessary for me to mention this.]
The woman who spoke is in her early 40s, married, with kids. She gave definitions for both racism and white privilege, and then declared that they are two completely different things. She then went on to say that she went to a high school which was primarily black, and because of that she was treated differently based on the fact that she's white, and therefore she doesn't believe that white people have any privileges, or that black people are oppressed.
(I mean, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, because most people do tend to base their opinions on one experience. But to think that racism doesn't exist just because you personally haven't experienced it? That's completely ridiculous.)
I honestly didn't even know how to react to that, so I did something completely out of character... I kept my mouth shut. I didn't even comment at all. I just kind of shook my head and completely avoided making eye contact with anyone in my group.
So then my teacher initiates a discussion between the entire class about our answers, and every single person agreed that there is a difference between "racism" and "white privileges" - which is not only completely wrong, but it also proves Peggy Macintosh's paper to be absolutely correct!
I'm in shock, really. I have trouble accepting the fact that people are so naive and narrow-minded about this. America was built on - and thrives on - diversity, or at least that's what everyone here claims. Why can't people just accept the fact that yes, people are different - they look different, they have different beliefs and morals, and different ideas and thought processes, but that their race doesn't make them superior or inferior.
It just irks me that just because I'm half black, people treat me differently. They automatically assume things about me based on something that isn't even really true. Just because my skin is brown, doesn't mean I'm "black." I'm half white, and I've grown up in a white family. They think, oh! she has brown skin, she must be black, poor, and speak and write improperly. Like the guidance counselor at Brookdale who didn't even look at my file when I walked in - instead he looked at me - at the color of my skin, and the braids in my hair - and asked if I finished all of my basic skills classes... and even when I informed him that no, I'm not taking any basic skills classes, that I'm in trigonometry, he asked me if I have trouble writing properly in my English class. What!? That shit would *not* have been said to a kid who has white skin. And I'm tired of people saying things like, "oh, you're just using your race as an excuse" or "you're exaggerating - people don't focus on race like that anymore."
Ugh. Just wake up already. Take a look around you. Try actually thinking about what I'm saying here. Don't just brush off my opinion because you don't want to face the fact that you're in the wrong.
I think I'm done ranting now. Here's a link to the article, if any of you are interested in reading it: http:// mmcisaac . faculty . asu . edu / emc598ge /