Educator: Time to unpack your invisible knapsack of privileges
Seattle Times, April 13, 2017
By Jerry Large
In the 1980s, Peggy McIntosh, Ph.D., former associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), authored a groundbreaking paper, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” which became a staple in discussions of racial bias and privilege. Earlier this month, she spoke at the University of Washington about the experiences that helped her and other white people think about their own racial biases more objectively.
At UW, she told the audience about the ignorance she faced in the 80s from male colleagues who opposed incorporating women’s narratives into liberal arts curriculum. She spoke of how she struggled with how to reconcile the fact that perfectly nice people were able to be sexist by looking through the framework of systemic and pervasive oppression. After hearing similar grievances from her Black women colleagues who vocalized the racism they faced while working with white women, McIntosh was at first resistant, but later realized the parallels between the sexism she suffered from and the racism she benefited from. She started thinking not just of how she was disadvantaged as a woman, but how she was privileged as a white woman. This framework inspired her to produce a concrete list of invisible privileges she experiences as a white person, which translates to corresponding disadvantages faced by people of color. Today, McIntosh continues her anti-oppression work as the founder of the National SEED Project, a program of WCW.