Peggy McIntosh on Male Priviledge

In discussing the worldviews and theologies of the powerful, and demonstrating how counterintuitive they are to Jesus' subversive ministry in Mark, Ched Myers introduces feminist scholar Peggy McIntosh, who writes: "I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was 'meant' to remain oblivious." (16)

Are you oblivious to your privilege? Am I? Do you even know what you have, that others don't? Do I? Do you recognize your culturally-inherited luxuries, or are they so numbingly prevalent that they've become a constant white noise?

McIntosh lists "special circumstances and conditions" that fall under our heading of social/cultural privilege:

  • I can arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time
  • If I should need to move I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing a dwelling in an area Ican afford and in which I would want to live
  • I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented
  • When I am told aboutour national heritage or about "civilization" I am shown that people of my color made it what it is
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race
  • Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability
  • 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 do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race
  • I am never asked to speak for all people of my racial group
  • I can remain oblivious to the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion
  • I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect I got it because of my race

These race-oriented bullets compliment well the gender-focus of D.A. Carson's poem "Male Privilege"...

Privilege is simple.
Going for a pleasant stroll after dark.
Not checking the back of your car as you get in,
sleeping soundly,
Speaking without interruption
and not remembering dreams of rape, that follow you all day,

that woke you crying,
and Privilege is not seeing your stripped, humiliated body

plastered in celebration
across every magazine rack.

It's the American Way to want to protect and fight for our privilege
- that's the "Dream." But it's the uniquely American Christian Way to pretend that privilege doesn't exist - to moan and wail and mourn the atrocities and injustices of the world, blind to the truth: we are the inheritors of the Empire. And we don't want any new taxes...


Irritable said...

Hey Peter -- if you're groovin' on Ched Myers, you apparently just missed an interesting conference:

Peter said...

Thanks for the link Irritable. I'd love to catch one of the JR conferences!

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