In White Privilege, Peggy McIntosh discusses "Whiteness" as a race, while relating it to the power struggle between men and women. McIntosh begins the article by stating, "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group." She proceeds by noting the recurring theme of the dominant group, i.e. Men or White individuals, where they are willing to recognize that Women or Minorities are disadvantaged, yet they are unwilling to note that they are overprivileged. Furthering this concept, she notes how they are even more unwilling to sacrifice, or lessen, their own privilege in order to grant it to the diasadvantaged group.
McIntosh concludes in noting a "pattern of assumptions" in the "matrix of white privilege," that pattern being the ability to think of herself as "belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me." She notes that she could "freely disparge, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms," and that she could criticize the main culture based solely on the fact that she is a member of it. Yet, this membership did not require any effort to "earn" it, but was, rather, simply granted to her based on her "Whiteness."
In Microggressions in Everyday Life, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., and David Rivera, M.S. define "racial microaggressions" as "the brief and everyday slights, insults, indignities and denigrating messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned White people who are unaware of the hidden messages being communicated." The authors break down these microaggressions into three classifying categories: Microassaults, "conscious and intentional discriminatory actions;" microinsults, "verbal, nonverbal, and environmental communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity that demean a person's racial heritage or identity;" and microinvalidations, "communications that subtly exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of culture." The authors stress that, while the impacts of these "racial microaggressions" may seem insignificant, they have long-lasting, harmful effects that the authors hope to discuss further in future blogs.
Questions to consider:
1. How would Whites go about sacrificing their own privilege in order to increase that of colored people? Are university acceptance policies, such as the quotas that some schools place to admit at least 20% "colored" students, etc, successfully working to counter White privilege? Similar to the way in which some straight couples refuse to get married until all Americans are granted the same privilege, would refusing work or housing based on an assumed White privilege really work to change things racially?
2. How could Whites work to lessen "racial microaggressions" without being overly race-conscious while doing so? Wouldn't constantly worrying about race while interacting with an individual of another race be counter-productive?