Power and Privilege

“White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (1988)


Both Module 3 films (the trailer March Point and film Fraser River) allude to the feelings of marginalization and powerlessness that is the backdrop to the lives of many Aboriginal youth. I was reminded of the article “White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack” written in 1988 by Peggy McIntosh, a white American woman. Her work as an educator in women’s studies brought her to a recognition that while those with power and privilege may recognize people who are disadvantaged, they often do not recognize themselves as advantaged. McIntosh suggests that whites are carefully taught not to recognize white advantage, but are taught “to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow “them” to be more like “us.”

In the article McIntosh lists 50 “daily effects of white privilege.” Reading this list as a Canadian white woman living in multicultural Toronto in 2010, I think that too much of it is still accurate.


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