Unearned Privilege

Girl Standing with Backpack

White privilege is a heavy topic. Although my ECS110 class covered this topic and allowed me to feel much more comfortable speaking on this issue, I do not get a free pass from discussing thing and I am certainly not an expert. I am still exploring my white privilege in relation to the other forms of privilege in my life and in the relationships I have with those around me. I feel that acknowledging your privilege is the first step to productive change, but I have a long road ahead of me before privilege and systemic racism are factors of the past.

Girl Standing with Backpack
The eclectic Oneironaut Flickr via Compfight cc

Through Peggy Mcintosh’s insightful article “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” I learned that my privileges are “invisible packages of unearned assets”. This is an interesting way of looking at privilege. Thinking about it in a physical sense where there is in fact a backpack which has assets to aid me in life is an interesting concept that I can add to my growing arsenal of knowledge.

I also learned about a defense mechanism that many white people tend to use in conversation about white privilege. That is where it is interlocked with racism, sexism, and heterosexualism in order to ‘spread the target’ or ‘soften the blow’. As Peggy McIntosh states in her article since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same.” Which in turn makes them uncomparable in a discussion about white privilege.

Lastly the entire list that McIntosh was able to create opened my eyes to the privilege I have. The twenty-six scenarios she posses are only the tip of the privilege iceberg, yet they change the way I move about my everyday life. It has drawn attention to the unfair actions that society seems to constantly dismiss as optional. I am specifically astounded by the act of presenters who are asked to speak on behalf of their race. In this very class we applauded Anna-Leah King as she stood before us and generalized the genocide of her people for our learning experience.

This entire article leaves a coil of guilt in my stomach. I realize that guilt and shame was not the purpose, and that my time is better spent on finding solutions to the issue of white privilege, specifically my white privilege. The question I will be asking myself is how do I lessen the unearned assets in my invisible knapsack? How do I go about ridding myself of my privilege, and ending this unfair privilege for all white people? I find the solution problematic and uncertain. The direction that I need to be going in is vague and I am not sure where to begin this journey of shedding my privilege. I don’t wish to renounce my whiteness or pretend I don’t belong to my own race. I believe that ending the privilege is possible and needs to be obtained for the benefits of those who do not have this privilege and for those who do. White privilege is not about guilt, it is about action.


Author: Hayley Hodson

I have known I wanted to be a teacher my entire life. I never had a doubt in my mind of what I wanted to be in this world. Even though I was certain of the end goal, I never stopped to wonder what the journey to get to that point would look like. This blog is it. This blog is the messy middle where I transition from student to teacher. Every thought and belief I have and learn throughout my education is posted to this blog in order to document my journey in becoming a teacher. I invite you all to join me as I strive to become more than just a teacher, but also a kind and inclusive citizen.

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