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  • Writer's pictureNicola Graham

White Privilege and my Daily Life

As we ended the last blog on White Privilege and left our Magical Knapsacks behind, I challenged you to identify how your privilege affects your daily life and contemplate on how to lessen it. I want to continue on this path and look at some actual ways we white folk walk through the world on a daily basis, using our white advantage, known or unknown.

In Peggy McIntosh’s essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” that we discussed in the last post, McIntosh creates a list of 50 of these daily conditions that white people enjoy, merely from the color of their skin. Called the Daily Effects of white privilege, McIntosh identifies situations attached to skin-color privilege that she believes the Black community cannot count on as those of us with white skin can. I highly recommend you read this essay, available online, but also to look at the full list of 50 Effects.

I pulled 12 of these effects that really spoke to me and are ones in which I personally have been ignorant of in my own unearned privilege. They made me think again of Emanu’s cartoon, see previous blog, and how clear my life course has been of really difficult hurdles.

12 Examples of the Daily Effects of White Privilege:

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 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.

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

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

5. 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 which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

6. I did not have to be educated as a child to be aware of systemic racism for my own daily physical protection.

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

8. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

9. 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.

10. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children's magazines featuring people of my race.

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

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

To be honest, this list terrifies me. It really makes me wonder how the fuck I’ve been so ignorant, so oblivious, for so long. I have taken advantage of my white privileged magical knapsacked life, at the expense of others, and am appalled. The system might have wanted me to stay oblivious, but I have pulled back the curtain on the great and powerful white man oz and he’s actually just a scared, little, small-minded, power-hungry prick. So, I’m getting in my very COLOR-full balloon of accountability and looking over the landscape of my life with newfound horror, knowledge, curiosity, passion, and a deep calling to change the way I walk around daily.

These examples from McIntosh are just a few ways we white folk have been enjoying unearned privilege, but I hope they help you to identify your own privilege more and see how you can continue to decrease it on a daily basis. We can be outraged and we can be horrified but we can no longer be ignorant. We have to step up and challenge ourselves to do better.

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