"Institutional Racism" and "White Skin Privilege": What Might be the Connections?



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Peggy McIntosh has written a lot about white skin privilege. She notes that most whites are taught not to recognize their white privileges (even though they carry those privileges around like an “invisible knapsack”), just as most men don't recognize the privileges they tend to accumulate as men in a male-centered society (such as being able to walk around a dark campus late at night without an escort or fear of meeting a stranger). She argues that the following are some of the privileges she has as a white person in our society:
(1) "If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live."
(2) "I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented."
(3) "I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to their existence of their race."
(4) "I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them."
(5) "I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group."
(6) "I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to 'the person in charge," I will be facing a person of my race."
(7) "If a traffic cop pulls me over, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my face."
(8) "I can easily buy books, postcard, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children's magazines featuring people of my race."
(9) What would you add?:

Both institutional racism and white skin privilege are reflected in this quote from Jonathan Kozol’s Amazing Grace (p. 164):


"Many of my white friends who live in New York City, I believe, would probably...say they have simply come to New York City, found a job, and found a home, and settled in to lead their lives within the city as it is. That is the great luxury of long-existing and accepted segregation in New York and almost every other major city of our nation nowadays. Nothing needs to be imposed on anyone [no discrimination needs to be done]. The evil is already set in stone. We just move in."



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