O'Reilly's recent spiel reminded me of a paper I read back in 2002 by Peggy McIntosh - "White Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies." In it she acknowledges the phenomenon of white privilege and racism in her own life and how her denial of its existence had served to protect it from being fully recognized, acknowledged, lessened or ended.
Her journey toward "working on herself" began by first identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege on her own life by compiling a list of some 50+ special circumstances and conditions which, according to her, "I did not earn, but which I have been made to feel are mine by birth, by citizenship and by virtue of being a conscientious, law-abiding, 'normal' person of good will."
Here's an excerpt from her list:
- I can turn on the the television or open the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
- I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
- I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
- I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
- 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 my oblivion.
- I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
- My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
- I can worry about racism without being seen as as self-interested or self-seeking.
- I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
- I can choose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.