Privilege is a systematic structure that grants unearned advantage to a select few on the basis of their identity. Peggy McIntosh describes privilege as an “invisible package… of special provisions” — invisible because while we may not always be aware of our privilege, we do in fact benefit from it. Because identity is varied, privilege comes in many different forms (i.e. white privilege, Christian privilege, heteronormative privilege, and even American privilege.) No matter how much we deny it, we all consciously and unconsciously benefit from our identities.
Recently I engaged in a conversation about white rage and white privilege with two conservatives, former congressman Joe Walsh and John Nolte of Breitbart.com on HuffPost Live. In my closing remarks, I mentioned the idea of white privilege and the problems that arise from it. John replied that he was “offended” because I suggested that he is privileged and benefits from white privilege.
And a few days ago, I had a conversation with a fellow academic about black male privilege. He is of the belief that there is no sociological truth to the idea. We debated the issue back and forth for a long time. When I tried to remind him of the black male privilege checklist, a checklist developed by Jewel Woods that “reflect[s] aspects of Black men’s lives that we take for granted, which appear to be ‘double standards,’ but in fact are male privileges that come at the expense of women in general and African American women in particular,” he rejected them. The fact that I could not present black male privilege in charts or statistics made my argument fall on deaf ears.
Both of those conversations got me to thinking: Why do we fail, or at times even refuse, to acknowledge our privilege? Is it mere ignorance or is it something deeper?
Read the rest of the essay here: Why privilege is so hard to give up – Salon.com.