White Racial Identity Essay

3111 words - 12 pages

Prior to beginning my readings on white racial identity, I did not pay much attention to my white race. If someone had asked me to describe my appearance I would have said short blond hair, blue eyes, average stature, etc. One of the last things I would have noted was the color of my skin. Growing up in overwhelmingly white communities, I never thought to use the color of my skin to differentiate myself from others. Over the course of this dialogue I have learned that my white racial identity is one of the most defining aspects of my appearance in this society. There is a certain level of privilege that I am afforded based solely on the color of my skin. According to Peggy McIntosh, “White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks” (71). All these objects listed by McIntosh are things I have access to and certainly take for granted. Due to a history of non-white racial oppression, which transformed into decades of racial discrimination that still lingers today, the white race has dominated our society in terms of resources and prosperity. The ideas of wealth, higher-level education and ambition to succeed are all traits commonly linked to people of the white race that collectively define privilege. The aspect of privilege can also produce disadvantages for people of the white race as well. In the book Promoting Diversity and Justice, the author D. Goodman notes that people of advantage groups develop a sense of superiority, which will sometimes lead them to wonder if, “their achievements were based on privilege or merit” (107). Along with a diminished sense of accomplishment, the cost of oppression to people of the white racial identity can also lead to issues of a distorted view of oneself, isolation from diversity and guilt.

The institutional and cultural influences that generate these ideas of privilege and oppression are derived from the cycle of socialization. Before children are even able to comprehend what race is, the cycle of socialization is already shaping their views on society and social identities. Bobbie Harro illustrates the cycle of socialization by stating, “the socialization process is pervasive, consistent, circular, self-perpetuating and often invisible” (41). This makes the cycle extremely influential for the creation of our social identities in our society. In my personal experience, I vividly remember my parents taking extra precautious in poor black communities when I was younger to ensure my safety. Although their only intention was to promote my wellbeing, indirectly they established the notion that poor black people are dangerous. Obviously it’s erroneous to claim all black people are dangerous, but this is evidence of the beginning stages of the cycle of socialization taking action.

Before taking this class I was clearly aware of my multiple social identities,...

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