blueandgold saidHow is privilege measured or determined? Is it a feeling, a force, a trend? Can it be proven? I know this is kind of a big talking point in certain circles right now and an curious what the consensus is.
There are several studies but can really anything be proven? Did Bill Clinton have sexual relations with that women if he never understands the words "Sexual Relations". "I can only have sexual relations with my wife, as we are in a marriage relationship. My secretary just blew me under a table, but we're not related." (Joke)
I found a pretty good way to explain it but, alas this is the internet, some will cry foul.
"t's impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of another skin color simple are not afforded. For example:
"I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented."
"When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is."
"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."
"I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time."
This is not said to make white people feel guilty about their privilege. It's not your fault you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. BUT, whether you realize it or not, you DO benefit from it, and it IS your fault if you don't maintain awareness of that fact.
I do understand McIntosh's essay may rub some people the wrong way. There are several points on the list that I felt spoke more to the author's status as a Middle Class person than a White Person. For example:
"If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live."
"I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me."
"I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed."
"If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege."
But luckily my college education introduced me to a more nuanced concept of Privilege; the term Intersectionality. The concept of Intersectionality recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways and definitely not privileged in others. There are many different types of privilege, not just skin color privilege, that impact the way people can move through the world or are discriminated against. These are all things you are born into, not things you earned, that afford you opportunities others may not have. For example:
Citizenship - Simply being born in this country affords you certain privileges non-citizens will never access.
Class - Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.
Sexual Orientation - By being born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that non-straight folks have to fight the Supreme Court for.
Sex - By being born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying you'll be raped and that a defense attorney will then blame it on what you were wearing.
Ability - By being born able bodied, you probably don't have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs.
Gender - By being born cisgendered, you aren't worried that the restroom or locker room you use will invoke public outrage.
As you can see, belonging to one or more category of Privilege, especially being a Straight White Middle Class Able-Bodied Male, can be like winning a lottery you didn't even know you were playing. But this is not to imply that any form of privilege is exactly the same as another or that people lacking in one area of privilege understand what it's like to be lacking in other areas. Race discrimination is not equal to Sex Discrimination and so forth.
And listen, recognizing Privilege doesn't mean suffering guilt or shame for your lot in life. Nobody's saying that Straight White Middle Class Able-Bodied Males are all a bunch of assholes who don't work hard for what they have. Recognizing Privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted (if they ever can experience them at all.)
I know now that I AM Privileged in many ways. I am Privileged as a natural born white citizen. I am privileged as a cis-gendered woman. I am privileged as an able-bodied person. I am privileged that my first language is also our national language, and that I was born with an intellect and ambition that pulled me out of the poverty I was otherwise destined for. I was privileged to be able to marry my way "up" by partnering with a Privileged middle-class educated male who fully expected me to earn a college degree."
Or a great Essay about the topic: