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Multiracial Ministries: Speech Review

"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," by Peggy McIntosh

By Jenna R. Recupero

"I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group."--Peggy McIntosh

The two key themes in this speech are privilege and power, both acknowledged and unrecognized, and the advantages and disadvantages of racial identity.

Privilege and power are often seen as things that are given rather than earned. I think everyone, regardless of race, is entitled to a sense of both privilege and power. However, based on my reading of this speech, I find it is entirely more complicated for people of color to gain acknowledgement of their identity in the same sense that white people have that acknowledgement.

McIntosh states that white people are, for the most part, unassuming about their power and privilege in the world. The particular challenge for white men is finding a racial identity and being comfortable with the advantages that come with being both white and male. Both white men and men of color can experience discrimination because of their skin color and gender. Men must balance awareness of male privilege as well as their racial identity and the role it plays in their lives. The racial identity of a white male or white female seems to be hidden, underlying, and almost secretive. "White" people have been placed on a pedestal for a long time, leading to stereotypes about other races that perpetuate the inequality.

McIntosh listed 50 ways in which being white gave her some sort of advantage in the world. As a white woman, I take most of those 50 points for granted; I don't even notice them most of the time. Reading through the list and recognizing that most of them are truthful is almost embarrassing. Racial identity is easily acknowledged for a person of color; skin color quickly defines who they are. It is harder to find a single racial identity for white people because of the many ethnicities and cultures rolled into the "white" racial context. Though there are advantages to being white that are clearly stated throughout this article, those advantages are mostly unacknowledged or stereotypical, helping to promote continued inequality.

Jenna Recupero is pursuing her master's degree in the organization and leadership program at the University of San Francisco.

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