WOMEN OF COLOR.

WOMEN OF COLOR.

 

Two Types of Privilege

According to McIntosh, the first type of privilege is based on “unearned entitlements,” which are things of value that all people should have, such as feeling safe or working in a place where they are valued and accepted for what they have to offer. When an unearned entitlement is restricted to certain groups, however, it becomesPage 22 an “unearned advantage,” a form of privilege.

Sometimes it’s possible to do away with unearned advantages without anyone losing out. When a workplace changes so that everyone is valued, for example, the unearned entitlement is available to all and, as such, is no longer a form of privilege. In other cases, however, unearned advantage gives dominant groups a competitive edge they are reluctant to acknowledge, much less give up. This can be especially true of men and whites who lack the advantages of social class and know all too well how hard it is to improve their lives and hang on to what they’ve managed to achieve. This can blind them, however, to the fact that the cultural valuing of whiteness and maleness over color and femaleness loads the odds in their favor in most situations that involve evaluations of credibility or competence. To lose that advantage would greatly increase the amount of competition for white men, who are a shrinking minority of the U.S. population.

The second form of privilege, “conferred dominance,” goes a step further by giving one group power over another. The common pattern of men controlling conversations with women, for example, is grounded in a cultural assumption that men are superior and supposed to dominate women. An adolescent boy who appears too willing to defer to his mother risks being called a “mama’s boy,” in the same way that a husband who appears in any way controlled by his wife can be labeled “henpecked” (or worse). The counterpart for girls carries no such stigma: “Daddy’s girl” is not considered an insult in this culture, and there are no insulting terms for a wife who is under the control of her husband.

Conferred dominance also manifests itself in white privilege. In his book The Rage of a Privileged Class, for example, Ellis Cose tells the story of an African American lawyer, a partner in a large firm, who goes to the office one Saturday morning and is confronted by a recently hired young white attorney, who has never met the partner.

“Can I help you?” says the white man pointedly.

The partner shakes his head and tries to pass, but the white man steps in his way and repeats what is now a challenge to the man’s presence in the building: “Can I help you?” Only then does the partner reveal his identity to the young man, who in turn steps aside to let him pass. The white man has no reason to assume the right to control the older man standing before him, except the reason provided by the cultural assumption of white dominance, which can overridePage 23 any class advantage a person of color might have.19

The milder forms of unearned advantage are usually the first to change because they are the easiest for privileged groups to give up. In the decades leading up to the election of Barack Obama as president, for example, national surveys showed a steady decline in the percentage of whites holding racist attitudes toward blacks. This trend is reflected in diversity programs that focus on appreciating or tolerating differences—in other words, extending unearned entitlements to everyone instead of the dominant group alone.

It is much harder, however, to do something about power and the unequal distribution of wealth, income, and other resources and rewards. This is why issues of conferred dominance and the stronger forms of unearned advantage get much less attention, and why, when these issues are raised, they can provoke hostile defensiveness and denial. Perhaps more than any other factor, the reluctance to recognize the more serious and entrenched forms of privilege is why most diversity programs serve as little more than a distraction and produce limited and short-lived results.20

Privilege as Paradox

Aparadox of privilege is that even though it is received by and benefits individuals, access to it has nothing to do with who they are as people. Male privilege, for example, is more about male people than it is about male people, making me eligible when people assign me to that category, which they can do without knowing a single other thing about me.

This means that actually being male is not required in order to receive male privilege. The film, Shakespeare in Love, for example, is set in Elizabethan England, where acting on the stage was reserved for men. The character of Viola wants to act more than anything, and finally realizes her dream, not by changing her sex and becoming male but by masquerading as a man, which is all it takes. In similar ways, gays and lesbians can have access to heterosexual privilege if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation. And people with hidden disabilities such as epilepsy or learning disabilities can receive nondisabled privilege so long as they do not disclose their status.

You can also lose privilege if people think you don’t belong to a particular category. If I told everyone that I’m gay, for example, I would lose my access to heterosexual privilege (unless people refused to believe me), even though I would still be, in fact, heterosexualPage 24. As Charlotte Bunch put it, “If you don’t have a sense of what privilege is, I suggest that you go home and announce to everybody that you know—a roommate, your family, the people you work with—that you’re a queer. Try being queer for a week.”21

The paradoxical relationship between privilege and individuals has several consequences. First, doing something about issues of equity and justice takes more than changing people. As Harry Brod writes,

We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be “outside” the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way which challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which I therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and egalitarian my intentions.22

A second consequence is the paradoxical experience of being privileged without feeling privileged. This often results from how we use other people as standards of comparison—what sociologists call “reference groups”—to construct a sense of how good, bad, high, or low we are in the scheme of things. In doing this, we usually don’t look downward in the social hierarchy, but to people we identify as being on the same level as or higher than our own. This is why pointing out to someone who lives in poverty in the United States that they’re better off than many people in India doesn’t make them feel better, because they don’t use Indians as a reference group. Instead, they gauge how well they’re doing by comparing themselves with those who seem like them in key respects.

Since, for example, being white is valued in this society, whites tend to compare themselves with other whites, not with people of color. In the same way, men tend to use other men as a reference group. This means, however, that whites tend not to feel privileged by race in comparison with their reference group, because that group is also white. In the same way, men won’t feel privileged by gender in comparison with other men. A partial exception to this is the hierarchy between heterosexual and gay men, by which heterosexuals are more likely to consider themselves “real men” and therefore socially valued above gays. But even here, the mere fact of being identified as male is unlikely toPage 25 be experienced as a form of privilege, because gay men are also male.

A common exception to these patterns occurs for those privileged by gender or race but ranked low in terms of social class. To protect themselves from feeling and being seen as on the bottom of the ladder, they may go out of their way to compare themselves to women or people of color by emphasizing their supposed gender or racial superiority. This can appear as an exaggerated sense of manliness, for example, or as overt attempts to put women or people of color “in their place” by harassment, violence, or behavior that is openly contemptuous or demeaning.

A corollary to being privileged without knowing it is to be on the other side of privilege without feeling that. I sometimes hear women say something like, “I’ve never been oppressed as a woman,” as an assertion that male privilege does not exist. But this confuses the social position of woman and man as social categories with individual women’s subjective experience of belonging to one of those categories. The two are not the same.

For various reasons—including social class or family experience or being young—she may have avoided exposure to many of the consequences of being a female in a society that privileges maleness and manhood. Or she may have managed to overcome them to such a degree that she does not feel hampered. Or she may be engaging in denial. Or she may be unaware of how she is discriminated against—unaware, perhaps, that being a woman is one of the reasons her science professors ignore her in class.23 Or she may have so internalized her subordinate status that she doesn’t see it as a problem, thinking, perhaps, that women are ignored because they are not smart enough to say anything worth listening to.

Regardless of what her experience is based on, it is just that—her experience—and it doesn’t have to square with the larger social reality that everyone, including her, must deal with in one way or another. It is like living in a rainy climate and somehow avoiding being rained on yourself. It is still a rainy place to be, and the possibility of getting wet is something people have to deal with.

The Paradox That Privilege Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Happy

I often hear men and whites deny the existence of privilege by saying they don’t feel happy or fulfilled in their own lives, as if misery and privilege cannot go hand-in-hand. As we saw earlier, thisPage 26 rests in part on the failure to distinguish between social categories and individual people’s lives. Being identified as male and white, for example, doesn’t mean you’ll get into the college of your choice or land the job you’re qualified for or never be stopped (or shot) by police when you’ve done nothing wrong. But it does load the odds in your favor.

Another reason privilege and happiness don’t always go together is that privilege can exact a cost from those who have it. To have privilege is to participate in a system that confers advantage and dominance on some at the expense of others, which can cause pain and distress to those who benefit. Although white privilege, for example, comes at a huge cost to people of color, on some level white people often struggle with this knowledge. This is where all the guilt comes from and the lengths to which white people often go to avoid feeling and looking at it. In similar ways, male privilege exacts a cost as men compete with other men and strive to prove their manhood, so they can be counted among “real men” who are worthy of being set apart from—and above—women, a standard of control and power that most men are unable to meet. It should therefore come as no surprise that men or whites may feel unhappy and associate their unhappiness with the fact of being white or male.24

What Privilege Looks Like in Everyday Life

As Peggy McIntosh showed in her unpacking of the “invisible knapsack of white privilege,”25 privilege shows up in the details of everyday life in almost every social setting. Consider the examples below based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status.26 Most rely on quantitative data, such as income statistics or studies of bias in health care or housing or the criminal justice system. Some are based on qualitative data from the rich literature on privilege and oppression that records the experience of living in this society (see the “Resources” section at the end of the book).

As you read through the list, there are several things to keep in mind. Note that many of these examples of privilege—such as preferential treatment in the workplace—apply to multiple dominant groups, such as men, whites, and the nondisabled. This reflects the intersectional nature of privilege, by which each form has its own history and dynamics, and yet they are also connected to one another and have much in common. Also, consider how each example might vary depending on otherPage 27 characteristics a person has. How, for example, would preferential treatment for men in the workplace be affected by race or sexual orientation? Finally, remember that these examples describe how privilege loads the odds in favor of whole categories of people, which may not be true in every situation and for every individual, including you.

Here they are. Take your time.

1. Whites who are unarmed and have committed no crime are far less likely than comparable people of color to be shot by police, to be challenged without cause and asked to explain what they are doing, or subjected to search. Whites are also less likely to be arrested, tried, convicted, or sent to prison, regardless of the crime or circumstances. As a result, for example, although whites constitute eighty-five percent of those who use illegal drugs, less than half of those in prison on drug-use charges are white.27

2. Heterosexuals and whites can go out in public without having to worry about being attacked by hate groups. Men can assume they won’t be sexually harassed or assaulted just because they are male, and if they are victimized, they won’t be asked to explain their manner of dress or what they were doing there.

3. Those who are heterosexual, male, white, cisgender, and without disabilities can usually be confident that whether they are seen as qualified to be hired or promoted, or deserving to be fired from a job, will not depend on their status,* an aspect of themselves they cannot change.28 Nor do they run the risk of being reduced to a single aspect of their lives (as if being heterosexual, for example, sums up the kind of person they are). Instead, they can be viewed and treated as complex human beings. They also do not have to worry that their status will be used as a weapon against them, to undermine or discredit their achievements or power.

4. Although many superstar professional athletes are black, black players are generally held to higher standards than whites. It is easier for a “good but not great” white player to make a professional team, for example, than it is for a comparable black.29Similarly, in most professionsPage 28 and upper-level occupations, men are held to lower standards than women. Male lawyers, for example, are more likely to make partner than are comparably qualified women.30

5. Men, people without disabilities, and whites are more likely to be given opportunities to show what they can do at work, to be identified as candidates for promotion, to be mentored, to be given a second chance when they fail, and to be allowed to treat failure as a learning experience rather than as an indication of who they are based on their status.31

6. The standards used to evaluate men as men are consistent with the standards used to evaluate them in other roles, such as their occupation. Standards used to evaluate women as women are often different from those used to evaluate them in other roles. For example, a man can qualify both as a “real man” and as a successful and aggressive lawyer, while an aggressive woman lawyer may succeed as a lawyer but be judged as falling short as a woman.

7. Nondisabled people can ask for help without having to worry that people will assume they need help with everything, and can assume that they will get what they deserve without having to overcome stereotypes about their ability. They are less likely to be shuttled into dead-end, menial jobs, given inadequate job training, be paid less than they are worth regardless of their ability, and be separated from workers who are unlike themselves.

8. Men and whites are less likely to find themselves slotted into occupations identified with their status, as blacks are often slotted into support positions (community relations, custodial) or Asians into technical jobs (“techno-coolies”) or women into “caring” occupations such as daycare, nursing, secretarial, and social work.32

9. People who are heterosexual, male, white, cisgender, and without disabilities can assume that their status will not work against the likelihood that they’ll fit in at work, and that teammates will feel comfortable working with them.

10. Men, whites, and people without disabilities can succeed without others being surprised at their success due to their status.

11. People who are white, nondisabledPage 29, or male are more likely to be rewarded for working hard and “playing by the rules,” and are more likely to feel justified in complaining if they are not.

12. Whites are more likely than comparable blacks to have loan applications approved and less likely to be given the runaround during the application process, to be given poor information or have information withheld. During the economic collapse of 2008, they were also less likely to receive subprime mortgages than people of color and less likely to lose their homes through foreclosure.33

13. Nondisabled people, men, and whites are charged lower prices for new and used cars, and residential segregation gives whites access to higher-quality goods of all kinds at cheaper prices.34

14. When whites go shopping, they are more likely to be viewed as serious customers and not potential shoplifters or lacking the ability to make a purchase. When they try to cash a check or use a credit card, they are less likely to be hassled for additional identification and more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt.

15. White people are more likely to receive the best medical treatment that they can afford.35

16. People without disabilities and whites have greater access to quality education and health care. They are less likely to be singled out based on stereotypes that underestimate their abilities and to be put in special education classes that do not afford them the chance to develop to their full potential.36

17. Representation in government and the ruling circles of corporations, universities, and other organizations is disproportionately high for white, male, heterosexual, and nondisabled people.

18. Nondisabled people can go to polling places on election day knowing they will be able to exercise their rights as citizens with access to voting machines that allow them to vote in privacy and without the assistance of others. They can assume that when they need to travel, they will have access to buses, trains, airplanes, and other means of transportation and will be taken seriously and not treated as children.

19. Most whites and people without disabilities are not segregated into communities that isolate them from the best job opportunities, schools, and community services. Nor are nondisabledPage 30 people segregated into living situations such as nursing homes and special schools and sports programs that isolate them from the everyday activities of social life.

20. It is easier for heterosexuals, whites, and cisgender people to find a place to live where they don’t have to worry about neighbors disapproving of them based on negative cultural stereotypes.

21. Toxic waste dumps, industrial pollution, and nuclear waste are less likely to be located near neighborhoods and communities inhabited primarily by whites, a phenomenon known as environmental racism.37

22. People who are male, white, heterosexual, cisgender, or without disabilities can usually assume that national heroes, success models, and other figures held up for public admiration will share their status.

23. Heterosexuals, people without disabilities, men, cisgender people, and whites can turn on the television or go to the movies and be assured of seeing characters, news reports, and stories that reflect the reality of their lives, and can assume that people who share their status will be placed at the center of attention.38

24. Those who are white, cisgender, or nondisabled can choose whether to be self-conscious about their status, or to ignore it and regard themselves simply as human beings.

25. Whites, people without disabilities, and those who are cisgender do not have to deal with an endless and exhausting stream of attention to their status, which they can view as unremarkable to such an extent that they experience themselves as not even having one. As a cisgender white person, for example, I don’t have people coming up to me and treating me as if I were some exotic “other,” gushing about how “cool” or different I am, wanting to know where I’m “from” and can they touch my hair, asking if the name I give is my real name or what do my genitals look like. In similar ways, men do not have to deal with excessive attention to their physical appearance.

26. If men, whites, cisgender people and people without disabilities do poorly at something or make a mistake or commit a crime, they can generally assume that people will not attribute the failure to their status. Mass murderers, for example, are almost always white and male, but rarely is this fact identified as an important issue.

27. Men, whites, and peoplePage 31 without disabilities are more likely to control conversations and be allowed to get away with it and to have their ideas and contributions taken seriously, including those previously voiced in the same conversation by a person of color, a woman, or a person with a disability, who are then ignored or dismissed.39

28. Nondisabled people can assume they won’t be looked upon as odd or out of place or as not belonging, and that most buildings and other structures will not be designed in ways that limit their access. Cisgender people have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of their gender expression.40

29. Whites are not routinely confused with other whites, as if all whites look alike. They are more likely to be noticed for their individuality, and they may feel entitled to take offense whenever they are put in a category (such as “white”) rather than being perceived and treated as individuals without a race.41

30. Heterosexuals are free to reveal and live their intimate relationships openly—by referring to their partners by name, recounting experiences, going out in public together, displaying pictures on their desks at work—without being accused of flaunting their sexuality, or risking discrimination.

31. Heterosexuals and cisgender people can live in the comfort of knowing that other people’s assumptions about their sexual orientation are correct.

32. Nondisabled people can live secure in other people’s assumption that they are sexual beings capable of an active sex life, including the potential to have children and be parents.

Regardless of its form, privilege increases the odds of being accepted, included, and respected, of having things your own way, of being able to set the agenda in a social situation, and to determine rules and standards and how they are applied. Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgments about others and to have those judgments stick. It allows people to define reality and to have prevailing mainstream views fit their own experience. Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriouslyPage 32, who gets attention, who is accountable to whom and for what. And it grants a presumption of superiority and social permission to act on that presumption, without having to worry about being challenged or otherwise held to account.

Privilege bestows the freedom to move through your life without being marked in ways that decrease your life chances or detract from how you are seen and valued. As Paul Kivel writes, “In the United States, a person is considered a member of the lowest status group from which they have any heritage.”42 This means that if you can trace your lineage to several ethnic groups, the one that lowers your status is the one you’re most likely to be tagged with, as in, “she’s part Jewish” or “he’s part Vietnamese,” but rarely, “she’s part white.” In fact, as we saw earlier, having any black ancestry is still enough to be classified as entirely black in many people’s eyes. People are tagged with other labels that point to the lowest-status group they belong to, as in “woman doctor” or “black writer” but never “white lawyer” or “male senator.” Any category that lowers our status relative to other categories can be used in this way.43

It’s important to note that privilege operates not only within societies, but between them as well. The sex trafficking of girls and women is global, for example, and disproportionately harms those in nonindustrial societies, whose people are overwhelmingly of color, a phenomenon that reflects both male and white privilege. The inhabitants of white-dominated industrial societies are also primarily responsible for producing the conditions that have led to climate change, and yet are also the most protected from its most immediate and devastating consequences, a global example of environmental racism.44

If you are male or heterosexual or white or nondisabled and you find yourself shaking your head at these descriptions of privilege—“This isn’t true for me”—this might be a good time to revisit the paradoxes of privilege discussed earlier in this chapter.

Oppression: The Flip Side of Privilege

For every social category that is privileged, one or more others are oppressed in relation to it. As Marilyn Frye describes it, the concept of oppression points to social forces that tend to “press” on people and hold them down, to hem them in and block them in their pursuit of a good life. Just as privilege tends to open doors of opportunity, oppression tends to hold them shut.45

Like privilege, oppression results fromPage 33 the relationship between social categories, which makes it possible for individuals to vary in their personal experience of being oppressed. This also means, however, that in order to have the experience of being oppressed, it is necessary to belong to an oppressed category. In other words, men cannot be oppressed as men, just as whites cannot be oppressed as whites or heterosexuals as heterosexuals, because a group can be oppressed only if there exists another group with the power to oppress them. The negative side effects of privilege may feel oppressive, but to call this oppression distorts the nature of what is happening and why.

It ignores the fact that the costs of male privilege, for example, are far outweighed by the benefits, while the oppressive costs of being female are not outweighed by corresponding benefits. Misapplying the label of “oppression” also tempts us into making the false argument that if men and women are both oppressed because of gender, then one oppression cancels out the other and no privilege can be said to exist. So, when we try to label the pain that men feel because of gender (or that whites feel because of racism) whether we call it “oppression” or “pain” makes a huge difference in how we perceive the world and how it works.

The complexity of systems of privilege makes it possible, of course, for men to experience oppression if they also happen to be of color or gay or disabled or in a lower social class, but not simply because they are men. In the same way, whites can experience oppression for many reasons, but in a system of white privilege, it isn’t because they’re identified as white.

Note also that because oppression results from relations between categories, it is not possible to be oppressed by society itself. Living in a particular society can make people feel miserable, but that doesn’t qualify as oppression unless it arises from being on the losing end in a system of privilege. That cannot happen in relation to society as a whole, because a society isn’t something that can have privilege. Only people can belong to privileged categories in relation to people in categories that are not.

Finally, being in a privileged category that has an oppressive relationship with another category is not the same as being an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways. That the relationship between the social categories of male and female is one of privilege and oppression, for example, is a social fact. That does not, however, tell us how a particular man thinks or feels about particular women or behaves toward them. This can be a subtle distinction to hang on to, but hang on to it we must if we are goingPage 34 to maintain a clear idea of what oppression is and how it works in defense of privilege.

As we become more aware of how pervasive is the damage of privilege and oppression in people’s lives, it is easy to start feeling helpless and to wonder, “What can anyone do?” If you find yourself feeling that way now or later on, turn to Chapter 9, which is devoted to that question.

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this discussion, I would like you to select ONE theme or topic from the 2nd part of reading ″Privilege, Power and Difference,″ write a TWO part critical analysis using your readings from Colonize This! as they relate to Johnson′s concepts. For (up to) 10 POINTS: TITLE OF YOUR SUBJECT LINE: title of the theme 1. Introduction Your first 1-2 paragraphs should be OBJECTIVE. What is the topic from the reading you will discuss? What are the key points from the reading(s) related to that topic? Do not give a list of examples or a desсrіption of the reading but rather what is the theme of the reading, the concepts discussed and the way it is demonstrated. Be sure to CITE with (Author, pg#) for Direct Quotes, but use them sparingly. I want your words, however, do not plagiarize by coping words from your reading without citing. 2. Personal Reflections This section must be ONE FULL PARAGRAPH, including personal processing and reflections of this section of the course. How is it connected to your personal experience, knowledge base, social situation, or current event or issue? How does this reading make you feel, what are your thoughts, views, opinions? Presentation Organization, analysis (over regurgitation), grammar, spelling, writing mechanics References Proper in-text citations and works cited

WOMEN OF COLOR.

WOMEN OF COLOR 

WOMEN OF COLOR  Do you need help with WOMEN OF COLOR ? At Homework Geeks, we can take care of all your academic needs. we can write your papers, do your presentations, labs, discussion questions, and final exams too. WOMEN OF COLOR 

WOMEN OF COLOR.

WOMEN OF COLOR.

 

Two Types of Privilege

According to McIntosh, the first type of privilege is based on “unearned entitlements,” which are things of value that all people should have, such as feeling safe or working in a place where they are valued and accepted for what they have to offer. When an unearned entitlement is restricted to certain groups, however, it becomesPage 22 an “unearned advantage,” a form of privilege.

Sometimes it’s possible to do away with unearned advantages without anyone losing out. When a workplace changes so that everyone is valued, for example, the unearned entitlement is available to all and, as such, is no longer a form of privilege. In other cases, however, unearned advantage gives dominant groups a competitive edge they are reluctant to acknowledge, much less give up. This can be especially true of men and whites who lack the advantages of social class and know all too well how hard it is to improve their lives and hang on to what they’ve managed to achieve. This can blind them, however, to the fact that the cultural valuing of whiteness and maleness over color and femaleness loads the odds in their favor in most situations that involve evaluations of credibility or competence. To lose that advantage would greatly increase the amount of competition for white men, who are a shrinking minority of the U.S. population.

The second form of privilege, “conferred dominance,” goes a step further by giving one group power over another. The common pattern of men controlling conversations with women, for example, is grounded in a cultural assumption that men are superior and supposed to dominate women. An adolescent boy who appears too willing to defer to his mother risks being called a “mama’s boy,” in the same way that a husband who appears in any way controlled by his wife can be labeled “henpecked” (or worse). The counterpart for girls carries no such stigma: “Daddy’s girl” is not considered an insult in this culture, and there are no insulting terms for a wife who is under the control of her husband.

Conferred dominance also manifests itself in white privilege. In his book The Rage of a Privileged Class, for example, Ellis Cose tells the story of an African American lawyer, a partner in a large firm, who goes to the office one Saturday morning and is confronted by a recently hired young white attorney, who has never met the partner.

“Can I help you?” says the white man pointedly.

The partner shakes his head and tries to pass, but the white man steps in his way and repeats what is now a challenge to the man’s presence in the building: “Can I help you?” Only then does the partner reveal his identity to the young man, who in turn steps aside to let him pass. The white man has no reason to assume the right to control the older man standing before him, except the reason provided by the cultural assumption of white dominance, which can overridePage 23 any class advantage a person of color might have.19

The milder forms of unearned advantage are usually the first to change because they are the easiest for privileged groups to give up. In the decades leading up to the election of Barack Obama as president, for example, national surveys showed a steady decline in the percentage of whites holding racist attitudes toward blacks. This trend is reflected in diversity programs that focus on appreciating or tolerating differences—in other words, extending unearned entitlements to everyone instead of the dominant group alone.

It is much harder, however, to do something about power and the unequal distribution of wealth, income, and other resources and rewards. This is why issues of conferred dominance and the stronger forms of unearned advantage get much less attention, and why, when these issues are raised, they can provoke hostile defensiveness and denial. Perhaps more than any other factor, the reluctance to recognize the more serious and entrenched forms of privilege is why most diversity programs serve as little more than a distraction and produce limited and short-lived results.20

Privilege as Paradox

Aparadox of privilege is that even though it is received by and benefits individuals, access to it has nothing to do with who they are as people. Male privilege, for example, is more about male people than it is about male people, making me eligible when people assign me to that category, which they can do without knowing a single other thing about me.

This means that actually being male is not required in order to receive male privilege. The film, Shakespeare in Love, for example, is set in Elizabethan England, where acting on the stage was reserved for men. The character of Viola wants to act more than anything, and finally realizes her dream, not by changing her sex and becoming male but by masquerading as a man, which is all it takes. In similar ways, gays and lesbians can have access to heterosexual privilege if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation. And people with hidden disabilities such as epilepsy or learning disabilities can receive nondisabled privilege so long as they do not disclose their status.

You can also lose privilege if people think you don’t belong to a particular category. If I told everyone that I’m gay, for example, I would lose my access to heterosexual privilege (unless people refused to believe me), even though I would still be, in fact, heterosexualPage 24. As Charlotte Bunch put it, “If you don’t have a sense of what privilege is, I suggest that you go home and announce to everybody that you know—a roommate, your family, the people you work with—that you’re a queer. Try being queer for a week.”21

The paradoxical relationship between privilege and individuals has several consequences. First, doing something about issues of equity and justice takes more than changing people. As Harry Brod writes,

We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be “outside” the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way which challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which I therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and egalitarian my intentions.22

A second consequence is the paradoxical experience of being privileged without feeling privileged. This often results from how we use other people as standards of comparison—what sociologists call “reference groups”—to construct a sense of how good, bad, high, or low we are in the scheme of things. In doing this, we usually don’t look downward in the social hierarchy, but to people we identify as being on the same level as or higher than our own. This is why pointing out to someone who lives in poverty in the United States that they’re better off than many people in India doesn’t make them feel better, because they don’t use Indians as a reference group. Instead, they gauge how well they’re doing by comparing themselves with those who seem like them in key respects.

Since, for example, being white is valued in this society, whites tend to compare themselves with other whites, not with people of color. In the same way, men tend to use other men as a reference group. This means, however, that whites tend not to feel privileged by race in comparison with their reference group, because that group is also white. In the same way, men won’t feel privileged by gender in comparison with other men. A partial exception to this is the hierarchy between heterosexual and gay men, by which heterosexuals are more likely to consider themselves “real men” and therefore socially valued above gays. But even here, the mere fact of being identified as male is unlikely toPage 25 be experienced as a form of privilege, because gay men are also male.

A common exception to these patterns occurs for those privileged by gender or race but ranked low in terms of social class. To protect themselves from feeling and being seen as on the bottom of the ladder, they may go out of their way to compare themselves to women or people of color by emphasizing their supposed gender or racial superiority. This can appear as an exaggerated sense of manliness, for example, or as overt attempts to put women or people of color “in their place” by harassment, violence, or behavior that is openly contemptuous or demeaning.

A corollary to being privileged without knowing it is to be on the other side of privilege without feeling that. I sometimes hear women say something like, “I’ve never been oppressed as a woman,” as an assertion that male privilege does not exist. But this confuses the social position of woman and man as social categories with individual women’s subjective experience of belonging to one of those categories. The two are not the same.

For various reasons—including social class or family experience or being young—she may have avoided exposure to many of the consequences of being a female in a society that privileges maleness and manhood. Or she may have managed to overcome them to such a degree that she does not feel hampered. Or she may be engaging in denial. Or she may be unaware of how she is discriminated against—unaware, perhaps, that being a woman is one of the reasons her science professors ignore her in class.23 Or she may have so internalized her subordinate status that she doesn’t see it as a problem, thinking, perhaps, that women are ignored because they are not smart enough to say anything worth listening to.

Regardless of what her experience is based on, it is just that—her experience—and it doesn’t have to square with the larger social reality that everyone, including her, must deal with in one way or another. It is like living in a rainy climate and somehow avoiding being rained on yourself. It is still a rainy place to be, and the possibility of getting wet is something people have to deal with.

The Paradox That Privilege Doesn’t Necessarily Make You Happy

I often hear men and whites deny the existence of privilege by saying they don’t feel happy or fulfilled in their own lives, as if misery and privilege cannot go hand-in-hand. As we saw earlier, thisPage 26 rests in part on the failure to distinguish between social categories and individual people’s lives. Being identified as male and white, for example, doesn’t mean you’ll get into the college of your choice or land the job you’re qualified for or never be stopped (or shot) by police when you’ve done nothing wrong. But it does load the odds in your favor.

Another reason privilege and happiness don’t always go together is that privilege can exact a cost from those who have it. To have privilege is to participate in a system that confers advantage and dominance on some at the expense of others, which can cause pain and distress to those who benefit. Although white privilege, for example, comes at a huge cost to people of color, on some level white people often struggle with this knowledge. This is where all the guilt comes from and the lengths to which white people often go to avoid feeling and looking at it. In similar ways, male privilege exacts a cost as men compete with other men and strive to prove their manhood, so they can be counted among “real men” who are worthy of being set apart from—and above—women, a standard of control and power that most men are unable to meet. It should therefore come as no surprise that men or whites may feel unhappy and associate their unhappiness with the fact of being white or male.24

What Privilege Looks Like in Everyday Life

As Peggy McIntosh showed in her unpacking of the “invisible knapsack of white privilege,”25 privilege shows up in the details of everyday life in almost every social setting. Consider the examples below based on gender, race, sexual orientation, and disability status.26 Most rely on quantitative data, such as income statistics or studies of bias in health care or housing or the criminal justice system. Some are based on qualitative data from the rich literature on privilege and oppression that records the experience of living in this society (see the “Resources” section at the end of the book).

As you read through the list, there are several things to keep in mind. Note that many of these examples of privilege—such as preferential treatment in the workplace—apply to multiple dominant groups, such as men, whites, and the nondisabled. This reflects the intersectional nature of privilege, by which each form has its own history and dynamics, and yet they are also connected to one another and have much in common. Also, consider how each example might vary depending on otherPage 27 characteristics a person has. How, for example, would preferential treatment for men in the workplace be affected by race or sexual orientation? Finally, remember that these examples describe how privilege loads the odds in favor of whole categories of people, which may not be true in every situation and for every individual, including you.

Here they are. Take your time.

1. Whites who are unarmed and have committed no crime are far less likely than comparable people of color to be shot by police, to be challenged without cause and asked to explain what they are doing, or subjected to search. Whites are also less likely to be arrested, tried, convicted, or sent to prison, regardless of the crime or circumstances. As a result, for example, although whites constitute eighty-five percent of those who use illegal drugs, less than half of those in prison on drug-use charges are white.27

2. Heterosexuals and whites can go out in public without having to worry about being attacked by hate groups. Men can assume they won’t be sexually harassed or assaulted just because they are male, and if they are victimized, they won’t be asked to explain their manner of dress or what they were doing there.

3. Those who are heterosexual, male, white, cisgender, and without disabilities can usually be confident that whether they are seen as qualified to be hired or promoted, or deserving to be fired from a job, will not depend on their status,* an aspect of themselves they cannot change.28 Nor do they run the risk of being reduced to a single aspect of their lives (as if being heterosexual, for example, sums up the kind of person they are). Instead, they can be viewed and treated as complex human beings. They also do not have to worry that their status will be used as a weapon against them, to undermine or discredit their achievements or power.

4. Although many superstar professional athletes are black, black players are generally held to higher standards than whites. It is easier for a “good but not great” white player to make a professional team, for example, than it is for a comparable black.29Similarly, in most professionsPage 28 and upper-level occupations, men are held to lower standards than women. Male lawyers, for example, are more likely to make partner than are comparably qualified women.30

5. Men, people without disabilities, and whites are more likely to be given opportunities to show what they can do at work, to be identified as candidates for promotion, to be mentored, to be given a second chance when they fail, and to be allowed to treat failure as a learning experience rather than as an indication of who they are based on their status.31

6. The standards used to evaluate men as men are consistent with the standards used to evaluate them in other roles, such as their occupation. Standards used to evaluate women as women are often different from those used to evaluate them in other roles. For example, a man can qualify both as a “real man” and as a successful and aggressive lawyer, while an aggressive woman lawyer may succeed as a lawyer but be judged as falling short as a woman.

7. Nondisabled people can ask for help without having to worry that people will assume they need help with everything, and can assume that they will get what they deserve without having to overcome stereotypes about their ability. They are less likely to be shuttled into dead-end, menial jobs, given inadequate job training, be paid less than they are worth regardless of their ability, and be separated from workers who are unlike themselves.

8. Men and whites are less likely to find themselves slotted into occupations identified with their status, as blacks are often slotted into support positions (community relations, custodial) or Asians into technical jobs (“techno-coolies”) or women into “caring” occupations such as daycare, nursing, secretarial, and social work.32

9. People who are heterosexual, male, white, cisgender, and without disabilities can assume that their status will not work against the likelihood that they’ll fit in at work, and that teammates will feel comfortable working with them.

10. Men, whites, and people without disabilities can succeed without others being surprised at their success due to their status.

11. People who are white, nondisabledPage 29, or male are more likely to be rewarded for working hard and “playing by the rules,” and are more likely to feel justified in complaining if they are not.

12. Whites are more likely than comparable blacks to have loan applications approved and less likely to be given the runaround during the application process, to be given poor information or have information withheld. During the economic collapse of 2008, they were also less likely to receive subprime mortgages than people of color and less likely to lose their homes through foreclosure.33

13. Nondisabled people, men, and whites are charged lower prices for new and used cars, and residential segregation gives whites access to higher-quality goods of all kinds at cheaper prices.34

14. When whites go shopping, they are more likely to be viewed as serious customers and not potential shoplifters or lacking the ability to make a purchase. When they try to cash a check or use a credit card, they are less likely to be hassled for additional identification and more likely to be given the benefit of the doubt.

15. White people are more likely to receive the best medical treatment that they can afford.35

16. People without disabilities and whites have greater access to quality education and health care. They are less likely to be singled out based on stereotypes that underestimate their abilities and to be put in special education classes that do not afford them the chance to develop to their full potential.36

17. Representation in government and the ruling circles of corporations, universities, and other organizations is disproportionately high for white, male, heterosexual, and nondisabled people.

18. Nondisabled people can go to polling places on election day knowing they will be able to exercise their rights as citizens with access to voting machines that allow them to vote in privacy and without the assistance of others. They can assume that when they need to travel, they will have access to buses, trains, airplanes, and other means of transportation and will be taken seriously and not treated as children.

19. Most whites and people without disabilities are not segregated into communities that isolate them from the best job opportunities, schools, and community services. Nor are nondisabledPage 30 people segregated into living situations such as nursing homes and special schools and sports programs that isolate them from the everyday activities of social life.

20. It is easier for heterosexuals, whites, and cisgender people to find a place to live where they don’t have to worry about neighbors disapproving of them based on negative cultural stereotypes.

21. Toxic waste dumps, industrial pollution, and nuclear waste are less likely to be located near neighborhoods and communities inhabited primarily by whites, a phenomenon known as environmental racism.37

22. People who are male, white, heterosexual, cisgender, or without disabilities can usually assume that national heroes, success models, and other figures held up for public admiration will share their status.

23. Heterosexuals, people without disabilities, men, cisgender people, and whites can turn on the television or go to the movies and be assured of seeing characters, news reports, and stories that reflect the reality of their lives, and can assume that people who share their status will be placed at the center of attention.38

24. Those who are white, cisgender, or nondisabled can choose whether to be self-conscious about their status, or to ignore it and regard themselves simply as human beings.

25. Whites, people without disabilities, and those who are cisgender do not have to deal with an endless and exhausting stream of attention to their status, which they can view as unremarkable to such an extent that they experience themselves as not even having one. As a cisgender white person, for example, I don’t have people coming up to me and treating me as if I were some exotic “other,” gushing about how “cool” or different I am, wanting to know where I’m “from” and can they touch my hair, asking if the name I give is my real name or what do my genitals look like. In similar ways, men do not have to deal with excessive attention to their physical appearance.

26. If men, whites, cisgender people and people without disabilities do poorly at something or make a mistake or commit a crime, they can generally assume that people will not attribute the failure to their status. Mass murderers, for example, are almost always white and male, but rarely is this fact identified as an important issue.

27. Men, whites, and peoplePage 31 without disabilities are more likely to control conversations and be allowed to get away with it and to have their ideas and contributions taken seriously, including those previously voiced in the same conversation by a person of color, a woman, or a person with a disability, who are then ignored or dismissed.39

28. Nondisabled people can assume they won’t be looked upon as odd or out of place or as not belonging, and that most buildings and other structures will not be designed in ways that limit their access. Cisgender people have the ability to walk through the world and generally blend in, not being constantly stared or gawked at, whispered about, pointed at, or laughed at because of their gender expression.40

29. Whites are not routinely confused with other whites, as if all whites look alike. They are more likely to be noticed for their individuality, and they may feel entitled to take offense whenever they are put in a category (such as “white”) rather than being perceived and treated as individuals without a race.41

30. Heterosexuals are free to reveal and live their intimate relationships openly—by referring to their partners by name, recounting experiences, going out in public together, displaying pictures on their desks at work—without being accused of flaunting their sexuality, or risking discrimination.

31. Heterosexuals and cisgender people can live in the comfort of knowing that other people’s assumptions about their sexual orientation are correct.

32. Nondisabled people can live secure in other people’s assumption that they are sexual beings capable of an active sex life, including the potential to have children and be parents.

Regardless of its form, privilege increases the odds of being accepted, included, and respected, of having things your own way, of being able to set the agenda in a social situation, and to determine rules and standards and how they are applied. Privilege grants the cultural authority to make judgments about others and to have those judgments stick. It allows people to define reality and to have prevailing mainstream views fit their own experience. Privilege means being able to decide who gets taken seriouslyPage 32, who gets attention, who is accountable to whom and for what. And it grants a presumption of superiority and social permission to act on that presumption, without having to worry about being challenged or otherwise held to account.

Privilege bestows the freedom to move through your life without being marked in ways that decrease your life chances or detract from how you are seen and valued. As Paul Kivel writes, “In the United States, a person is considered a member of the lowest status group from which they have any heritage.”42 This means that if you can trace your lineage to several ethnic groups, the one that lowers your status is the one you’re most likely to be tagged with, as in, “she’s part Jewish” or “he’s part Vietnamese,” but rarely, “she’s part white.” In fact, as we saw earlier, having any black ancestry is still enough to be classified as entirely black in many people’s eyes. People are tagged with other labels that point to the lowest-status group they belong to, as in “woman doctor” or “black writer” but never “white lawyer” or “male senator.” Any category that lowers our status relative to other categories can be used in this way.43

It’s important to note that privilege operates not only within societies, but between them as well. The sex trafficking of girls and women is global, for example, and disproportionately harms those in nonindustrial societies, whose people are overwhelmingly of color, a phenomenon that reflects both male and white privilege. The inhabitants of white-dominated industrial societies are also primarily responsible for producing the conditions that have led to climate change, and yet are also the most protected from its most immediate and devastating consequences, a global example of environmental racism.44

If you are male or heterosexual or white or nondisabled and you find yourself shaking your head at these descriptions of privilege—“This isn’t true for me”—this might be a good time to revisit the paradoxes of privilege discussed earlier in this chapter.

Oppression: The Flip Side of Privilege

For every social category that is privileged, one or more others are oppressed in relation to it. As Marilyn Frye describes it, the concept of oppression points to social forces that tend to “press” on people and hold them down, to hem them in and block them in their pursuit of a good life. Just as privilege tends to open doors of opportunity, oppression tends to hold them shut.45

Like privilege, oppression results fromPage 33 the relationship between social categories, which makes it possible for individuals to vary in their personal experience of being oppressed. This also means, however, that in order to have the experience of being oppressed, it is necessary to belong to an oppressed category. In other words, men cannot be oppressed as men, just as whites cannot be oppressed as whites or heterosexuals as heterosexuals, because a group can be oppressed only if there exists another group with the power to oppress them. The negative side effects of privilege may feel oppressive, but to call this oppression distorts the nature of what is happening and why.

It ignores the fact that the costs of male privilege, for example, are far outweighed by the benefits, while the oppressive costs of being female are not outweighed by corresponding benefits. Misapplying the label of “oppression” also tempts us into making the false argument that if men and women are both oppressed because of gender, then one oppression cancels out the other and no privilege can be said to exist. So, when we try to label the pain that men feel because of gender (or that whites feel because of racism) whether we call it “oppression” or “pain” makes a huge difference in how we perceive the world and how it works.

The complexity of systems of privilege makes it possible, of course, for men to experience oppression if they also happen to be of color or gay or disabled or in a lower social class, but not simply because they are men. In the same way, whites can experience oppression for many reasons, but in a system of white privilege, it isn’t because they’re identified as white.

Note also that because oppression results from relations between categories, it is not possible to be oppressed by society itself. Living in a particular society can make people feel miserable, but that doesn’t qualify as oppression unless it arises from being on the losing end in a system of privilege. That cannot happen in relation to society as a whole, because a society isn’t something that can have privilege. Only people can belong to privileged categories in relation to people in categories that are not.

Finally, being in a privileged category that has an oppressive relationship with another category is not the same as being an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways. That the relationship between the social categories of male and female is one of privilege and oppression, for example, is a social fact. That does not, however, tell us how a particular man thinks or feels about particular women or behaves toward them. This can be a subtle distinction to hang on to, but hang on to it we must if we are goingPage 34 to maintain a clear idea of what oppression is and how it works in defense of privilege.

As we become more aware of how pervasive is the damage of privilege and oppression in people’s lives, it is easy to start feeling helpless and to wonder, “What can anyone do?” If you find yourself feeling that way now or later on, turn to Chapter 9, which is devoted to that question.

Type of paperEssay (Any Type)

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this discussion, I would like you to select ONE theme or topic from the 2nd part of reading ″Privilege, Power and Difference,″ write a TWO part critical analysis using your readings from Colonize This! as they relate to Johnson′s concepts. For (up to) 10 POINTS: TITLE OF YOUR SUBJECT LINE: title of the theme 1. Introduction Your first 1-2 paragraphs should be OBJECTIVE. What is the topic from the reading you will discuss? What are the key points from the reading(s) related to that topic? Do not give a list of examples or a desсrіption of the reading but rather what is the theme of the reading, the concepts discussed and the way it is demonstrated. Be sure to CITE with (Author, pg#) for Direct Quotes, but use them sparingly. I want your words, however, do not plagiarize by coping words from your reading without citing. 2. Personal Reflections This section must be ONE FULL PARAGRAPH, including personal processing and reflections of this section of the course. How is it connected to your personal experience, knowledge base, social situation, or current event or issue? How does this reading make you feel, what are your thoughts, views, opinions? Presentation Organization, analysis (over regurgitation), grammar, spelling, writing mechanics References Proper in-text citations and works cited

WOMEN OF COLOR.


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