Summary: For a lot of people, the notion of a white privilege is a difficult one to grasp. As sociologist Peggy McIntosh argues in "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," white privilege is akin to an invisible package of unearned assets that whites can count on cashing in each day. As just one example, McIntosh notes that she "can go shopping alone most of the time," well assured she "will not be followed or harassed." Despite plenty of empirical evidence attesting to the existence of white privilege, many people—white people, in particular—are unable to recognize it in their daily lives. This invisibility appears to be by design, and indeed, unearned privileges are powerful and persistent precisely because whites are socialized not to see them. Yet failing to acknowledge unearned privilege is failing to acknowledge the existence of institutionalized racism, and what is not acknowledged stands little chance of being fixed. In the above clip, author and educator Joy DeGruy recounts a story about a time she went shopping with her sister-in-law, who happens to be light-skinned and often "passes" as a white woman. While enduring a blatant instance of discrimination from a suspicious store clerk, DeGruy recalls that her sister-in-law stepped forward and confronted the clerk. In other words, she went further than simply recognizing her own white privilege, and in this case, she used it to call out an act of discrimination and highlight the injustice for onlookers. Note that this clip might work well with a number of other clips on The Sociological Cinema, which similarly take up the concept of white privilege (here, here, and here).
Submitted By: Lester Andrist