We have all heard of the absurd notion of “white privilege”, and may even have wondered when we could cash our alleged privilege in, but do we know where the idea originated? It was 1988 and Peggy McIntosh published White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, which lists fifty daily effects of “white privilege”. Below are enumerated only the ridiculous first five and my responses.
1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
Well, gee, Peggy, so can anyone else. This is a natural and instinctive separation that happens anywhere, everywhere. It has nothing to do with “whiteness” or “white privilege”. Humans naturally segregate. Nature is not politically correct.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
No one but life experience “trained” me to mistrust anyone. Of course I will avoid them; one would be stupid not to do so. Why do they mistrust you? Oh, we’re back to Nature and She does not care about your feelings or your skin color.
3. 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.
Really? Being able to afford a specific location and wanting to live there are two distinct issues; they do not sit hand in hand inside every white person’s wallet. I am white, but I do not want to live where I currently do, and yet? Here I sit in the midst of sprawling diversity. I want my privilege check and I want it now. If I get it, I will leave and be accused of white flight. If I move to a “multi-cultural” neighborhood, I am guilty of gentrification. Put down the pansies! You whites are making your neighbors look bad.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
Meaning the locations a lot of whites cannot afford? Sure, that is likely. And anywhere else? Most of us ignore our neighbors, whoever they are. Most of us are too busy to really care. I see people of every lazy color stop their car at the mailbox, pull into the driveway and then maybe the garage, and poof! They disappear. I guess that counts as neutral. What about the screaming matches in E-bonics I regularly hear? Is that neutral? It is certainly not pleasant.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
We can all choose to shop anywhere we please, whatever color we are. Why would anyone with any sense choose to shop in an area known to be questionable? There are times when I’ve had no sense and went to a place like Underground Atlanta. Harassed? Yes. Followed? Yes. Clearly, I was not wearing my white privilege shirt. On the flip side, there is a very posh mall here, Phipps Plaza, where I can’t afford a single thing though I’ve stopped once or twice while on a walk just to use their snazzy, marble bathrooms. Who did I see walking hither and thither? Mostly black women…with shopping bags. Well, that’s something. Perhaps those who mail out the white privilege checks sent mine to the wrong address.
Clearly, the notion of white privilege is nonsense. There are poor across the color spectrum, just as there are the wealthy and the in-between. If whites are indeed privileged, Ms. McIntosh will need better arguments than this to prove it.