Women’s Studies Journal
October 15, 2001
I am one of the white privileged. Like Ms. McIntosh, the author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” there are many points in my life where I do not realize how privileged I am. If I do not get a job or a house that I want, I will never have to worry that it is because of my white face; I will even be able to buy Band-Aids “in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin,” something that I can honestly say that I have never even thought about (359). Hair care products, concealer for my zits, neighbors who will speak to me on the street—I never have to worry that these will not be available for me. It scares me that I have not thought about this, because “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege”; it scares me that I will never know whose face will be denied just because mine is not (358). I know that even though I am not aware of all of the advantages that I have simply because I am white, the race that is so neutral that it is not even a race.
Another issue that surprised me was one of Tatum’s points in “Defining Racism: Can We Talk?” that “we are exposed to misinformation about people different from ourselves” (301). It is true that until college, where most people live within the same area, my black friends did not live within walking distance of my house. I was a little taken aback by the example she discussed; the children did not know what a Native American was, and could not even picture an Indian without feathers. They said that “their number one source of information” was Peter Pan, and therefore even things that I assumed were harmless entertainment contain stereotypical images and have a lasting impression (304). How many times have I seen a movie with a Black, Native American, or Asian heroine? Whose fault is this? I remember walking up and down the rows of toys in Wal-Mart, noticing that the standard of beauty, Barbie, was well represented, and then there were Barbie’s friends, a token Asian doll, and a Black doll, who were named exotically, taking up three or four spaces out of fifty Blonde, blue-eyed Barbie dolls. What does that do to a child when she cannot find a toy that looks like her? (not that I look like Barbie by any means!)
She also points out the different types of racism vs. prejudice, and I agree that that the omissions and stereotypes are just as strong a form of prejudice as blatant opposition, because it is as if you do not even exist at all unless you are a majority. In “Codes of Conduct,” Su discusses this issue because “To suggest that [she] looked different from [her] friends….was simply not done,” even though she was Asian and most of her friends were white (308). To deny her the ability to recognize and appreciate her differences is to deny her of an important part of herself. As she states, “reality is what everyone says it is,” and everyone said that she was the same as they were, without giving her an opportunity to explore and discuss the things about herself that were not the same (308). It erases who she is and gives her no foundation upon which to face the world.
“I am not your Princess,” is an attack, and Chrystos faces the people who stereotype her because of her race, and she wants them to see her “human weakness,” much like Castro’s “Take a Closer Look (310).” Chrystos wants people to see that she is a person and not some mythological figure in a storybook. She just wants to be left alone, and it is not as if she wants to deny her culture, but she does not feel as if it is her responsibility to educate people about it. It should be the majority’s job to educate themselves about other cultures, and be respectful of those cultures. In the United States, being white is so mainstream, it is almost like there IS no white culture.