Is it something that you must earn, or is it automatically given to you based upon your race? Perhaps, it could be something that someone else condones as right. In her narrative, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh gives some interesting points of the treatment that people with white skin can expect and take for granted, due to the privilege that they are granted by those that classify themselves as white. She further states, As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage ‘ The acknowledgment of white privilege has created a confrontation between communities of color and the white community. For us to understand our society, there must be recognition and accountability through integration of race and class into daily learning to educate our younger generations. For most of my younger years, I was known as a kid who did well in school and academics. As I reflect on the past, my first encounter with racism was in a classroom setting.
I remember being told that I was one of the good ones and not like the bad ones. I was meant to understand that I was different. Despite being a first-generation American born minority, because of my Middle-Eastern ethnic background I felt targeted in an environment that was predominantly white. I would later ask to myself, is it the color of my skin that you fear?I remember the way that kind of backhanded compliment stung me, but it had taken some time to understand why it bothered me so as I matured older. In truth though, I am good by America’s standards. The culture/traditions I was raised with, along with my complexion being dark and my name so foreign portrayed me negatively due to mass media and typical stereotypes for Muslims. For much of my life, I lived with the absence of a true identity. I could not define myself and that left me confused. I was ashamed of where my lineage had came from and avoided conversations pertaining to cultural influence. As many others have learnt, there is no amount of understanding that can shield you from bigotry in this country. Prior to my readings on white racial identity, the narrator did not pay much attention to her white race. If someone had asked her to describe her appearance, she would have said short blonde hair, blue eyes, average stature, etc. As for me, I would describe my appearance with black hair, brown eyes and other accommodating features that a Pakistani-American would manifest.
One of the last things I would have noted was the color of my skin. Growing up in overwhelmingly white communities as stated earlier, I never thought to use the color of my skin to differentiate myself from others. Over the course of Peggy McIntosh’s dialogue, I have learnt that her white racial identity is one of the most defining aspects of her appearance in this society. A character trait I would not normally possess. However her daily effects of white privilege, and her acknowledgement of those qualities gives her the power to inform and educate others to work towards a much better social justice. In further analysis, there is ignorance and prejudice, but there is also pain, suffering, and struggle. Privilege is a pretty simple concept. It’s essentially the absence of subconscious or not-overt discrimination. The important thing to remember is that privilege comes in many forms. It’s the idea that people don’t face oppression for one reason, but for many aspects, and that those different aspects make the oppression different. The point of using the term “white privilege” in place of “black discrimination” is so white people actually get involved in the conversation. Discrimination is an old term, and it got white people to stop explicitly segregating, but it didn’t get them to see their own place in all of this.
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