Privilege in class, gender and race

As we have written from the beginning, men and women of every class background are good people and deserving of respect. It’s rare than anyone tries to be thoughtless or to injure another person. And, when it happens the act often occurs because the perpetrator is trying to protect someone else.

Some acts of abuse spring from seeing others as different and therefore not deserving, or numbness to the experience of others. The U.S. in particular holds a culture of “individualism,” as if each of us has made our own way, and owe nothing to good fortune and the hard work of others. An example: those who reached the verdant, golden shores of Southern California tried to shut the door on those who followed as “underserving” and “taking my share of the wealth.” 

Owning and middle class people are particularly susceptible to a sense of privilege, or a “sense of entitlement.” Peggy Macintosh explores the blindness of privilege in her 1988 essay, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies." (McIntosh, 1988. Working Paper #189, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02181.) I have attached a link to the essay, which is widely available on the web, and encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. She examines her own behavior—good and bad—as a white woman in relation to women of color. Then, she looks at the unaware behavior of white men in relation to white women.

When you have reviewed the essay, discuss and write your comments to this page. We will keep an ongoing dialog on privilege, entitlement and how we manage them in ourselves.

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