Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Perspective time again, kids.

This is from a piece by white writer Peggy McIntosh. Someone was good enough to post it on a message board where I spend an unhealthy amount of time, and since I never come across cool stuff like this myself I'm going to nick it.

"...After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don't see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about it existence."

The first 25 items listed are:

1) I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2) If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area that I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3) I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4) I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5) I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6) When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7) I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8) If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9) I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.

10) Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

11) I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12) I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13) I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14) I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15) I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16) I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color, who constitute the worlds' majority, without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17) I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18) I can be sure that if I ask to talk to "the person in charge" I will be facing a person of my race.

19) If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

20) I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race.

21) I can go home from most meetings or organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22) I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23) I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

24) I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25) If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

Now, let's all us white middle-class types go away and have a bit of a think, eh? And while we're at it, let's look at what we've been writing lately and and ask if it was even remotely near as useful.

Or we could just sit around and whine about our own problems a bit more. Whatever.

(I hate you.)

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