White Privilege: The Invisible Knapsack
Peggy McIntosh | July 1989
In this work, McIntosh outlines “invisible systems” at work, as well as the main theme of an “invisible package of unearned assets”, examined in the form of a metaphorical knapsack. The essay features 50 of McIntosh’s insights into experiential white privilege, listed numerically. These have been described as “small benefits that white Americans enjoy every day”.
The Atlantic magazine has written that the intention behind the essay was to inspire “self-reflection, enhancing their capacity for empathy and compassion”. It has been described by Vice magazine as one of the most authoritative texts on the subject of white privilege, and The Harvard Gazette have called it a “groundbreaking article” and the most important of McIntosh’s academic career. It has been cited as responsible for the mainstreaming of discussion of white privilege, becoming a “staple of discussions about bias” in society.
I have privilege as a White person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice about it…
- I can go jogging (#AhmaudArbery).
- I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).
- I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).
- I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark).
- I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).
- I can play loud music (#JordanDavis).
- I can sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).
- I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
- I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).
- I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).
- I can go to church (#Charleston9).
- I can walk home with Skittles wearing a hoody (#TrayvonMartin).
- I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell).
- I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant).
- I can get a traffic ticket (#SandraBland).
- I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).
- I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).
- I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .
- I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).
- I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott). I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).
- I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).
- I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).
- I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).
- I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo).
- I can run (#WalterScott).
- I can breathe (#EricGarner).
- I can live (#FreddieGray).
- I can ask someone to put a leash on their dog when it is required in the public park we are in (#ChristianCooper).
- I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED. #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter