Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack

Posted on January 22, 2012. Filed under social-justice

Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack (PDF): If you see left-wing conspiracies everywhere, then best to stay far away from this essay. it’s a discussion about the generally unacknowledged racial privilege given to whites, written by a professor al Wellesley who has also examined the gender privileges given to me.

What she does here is explain a lot of the things that white people take for granted which people of other races cannot. I admit that some of it was eye-opening. Here’s a sample.

I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time. [...]

I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race. [...]

I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial. [...]

I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivious. [...]

I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race. [...]

I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin. [...]

I was playing around with a New York Times interactive tool on unemployment rates once. It let you slice-and-dice the current unemployment rate by various criteria. I limited it to males and then removed all other races except “Caucasian.” I found that current unemployment for white males was actually really, really low – I remember it being far lower than the healthy unemployment rate for the nation during the boom times.

My first thought: “Well, at least I’m safe.”

I will admit that white males enjoy a vast number of small, unspoken privileges. But this essay has a tone of conspiracy, like we’re actively working to keep it this way. I also object to the use of the word “oppress” and “oppressor.” That implies active force, in my mind. I don’t passively “oppress” someone, and – speaking for myself – I don’t actively do it either.

So, this one is a mixed bag. it’s absolutely eye-opening, and worth reading for that reason alone. I hope it affects my behavior in some subconscious way to make the world a better, more welcoming place. But, at the same time, it stands a general indictment of my race (and, through inference) my gender which I’m not prepared to accept.

If this writer is implying that I’m an active part of a racial conspiracy, she needs to provide a little more evidence of that.

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