The “Invisible Knapsack” is a term coined by Peggy McIntosh in her 1988 essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Her short essay reflected on the unearned privileges that whites could count on each day, but about which they remained oblivious.
“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. I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
Whether it is white privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, Christian privilege, able-bodied privilege or any other privilege that we enjoy through no effort of our own, we all have a tendency to be blind to our own position of privilege. We easily recognize the privilege in groups that we don’t belong to and ways in which we ourselves are oppressed, but we don’t tend to recognize our own unearned privilege that saves us from facing certain obstacles, gives us certain guarantees and benefits, and works to the disadvantage and oppression of others. We like to think that our success is something that we have worked for and earned when things may have turned out much differently if we were born with a disability or in a different place, if we were a different race, a different sex or of a different sexual orientation.
This month’s synchroblog asks us to peek inside our own invisible knapsacks and discover what’s inside.
Here are some questions to get your creative juices flowing:
Do we take our unearned privileges for granted? How does unearned privileges hurt/harm others? Should we try to dismantle systems built upon unearned privileges? If so, what are some practical solutions to dismantling such systems? Are unearned privileges an obstacle to us putting other people’s interest above our own? Is our position of privilege impairing our ability to love others? How does unearned privilege impact educational systems, faith communities, neighborhoods, work places?
To participate in this month’s synchroblog simply add your post link in the comments section of this post by 10:00 pm EST, Tuesday, June 12th to be included in this month’s Synchroblog which officially takes place on Wednesday, June 13. The link list will go up on Wednesday, June 13th so you can add it to the end of your post.
We hope you can participate!