Stuff I read:
- McIntosh (1989): White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
- Antero Garcia: There are No Lessons for Alton or Philando
- The Gender Gap in Library Education
What I think:
I believe this post will be my final reading response. This is not to say that I will not write my reflections on materials I’ve read. Rather, next week’s work will involve completing the final phase of ILT5340 in which we, the students, will be writing and reflecting on our blogs and portfolios. It is a sad day because I like these weekly reading responses very much. Despite my current semi-fatigued state, I am confident that there will be plenty more excitement ahead. I’ve decided to use a much less restricting format for this post in that it will address a specific topic I encountered: privilege.
Now, let’s get to it. The theme of this weeks response is “fish in water”…no…”narratives and dominance”…no…something else more appropriate. There are sometimes no words to describe such injustice. The bottom line: My readings for this week were very enlightening on issues of privilege and awareness.
It’s a privilege: My main takeaway from reading the McIntosh article on “Privilege” was, simply put, that a lot of what happens to us in life is (unfortunately) due to luck. On a good day, I like to think that my “knapsack” was fairly visible to me as a white male. I grew up in California, was taught the importance of diversity and solidarity (I’d never cross a picket line), and attended a small liberal arts college that prides itself on opening minds via rigorous academic study. I’m also quite good at making excuses for myself!
It seems more apparent than ever that we are definitely not living in a pure meritocracy. I grew up believing that my hard work and moral intentions would take me all the way to my destination and (for obvious reasons of privilege) never thought there might be additional obstacles. However, it is impossible to ignore the hierarchies of race, gender, and class that come into play on a daily basis. For someone who isn’t white, getting stopped by a police officer inspires several (WELL FOUNDED) fears that they are in harm’s way. Women are underrepresented in several professions and are frequently victimized by physical violence and harmful societal expectations. How can I expect a millionaire to understand the inability to pay for college tuition (as another example)? I could go on forever.
The culprits of the social inequalities and dominance via privilege are revealed to be unawareness and defensiveness. A lack of awareness, much like other forms of bias, can run so deep that (being unaware) we often cannot see how it impacts our daily lives. By “unpacking the invisible knapsack”, we are developing cultural literacy. A sharp awareness of privilege and how it affords so many of us ease and currency is required in order to enact change. As for defensiveness, I think McIntosh spelled it out very effectively. People in positions of societal dominance often have a steadfast refusal to admit that some of their success is due to luck. Maybe not all of it, but a good chunk. With more awareness, we as a society would understand that we can and should do something about it!
The seemingly more important question is how to correct this injustice. In other words, what can people in positions of power do to empower the disenfranchised? Antero Garcia’s article provides an excellent accompaniment to the McIntosh piece. There are so many cases in which non-white children follow all the rules and are still met with horrific ends (I could link to about 20-plus articles from the past year, but a simple Google search would be enough for anyone to discover my point). In reading both articles, it seems to be the case that it is the responsibility of people in power to maintain a consistently high level of awareness and motivation for addressing social inequalities. Whether it is establishing a Women’s Studies department or teaching a classroom of inner-city students, we all share this responsibility.
My reading selection, an article on the gender gap in library education, furthered the points addressed by the other authors by providing an example of privilege within a specific profession. Despite being a primarily female area of academic, males tend to receive higher salaries as well as appointments to higher positions. Furthermore, there exists specific areas that are seen as being “for” one or another gender. The fact that these hierarchies exist within such a discipline is certainly a testament to the prevalence of male privilege.