Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

Some Thoughts on White Privilege

by Linda Back McKay, Becketwood Member

I don’t know anything about white privilege.  I’ve never studied it or anything. Of course, I was born into it, grew up with it and lived a good part of my life blissfully unaware of it. In light of recent tragedies, it might be beneficial for us white folks to take a long, hard look at what we enjoy, and quite possibly take for granted. Some of this might be difficult to face. Here is an excerpt from a much larger essay on the subject. What do YOU think?


From “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh:

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, my African American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

  1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
  3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
  6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
  9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  10. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
  13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
  14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
  17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
  18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
  19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
  20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
  21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
  22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
  23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
  25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
  26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match my skin.

Leave a Reply

  • joy nelson July 12, 2016, 4:46 pm

    WHAt a telling list! I’ve been on a recent “journey” becoming aware of these privileges also: major input has been:
    1) Small grp studies & follow-up on white privilege at my church, using the book, Uprooting Racism, by P. Kivel, as a basis.
    2) Getting to know members & their pastor, of a near-by AME church; hearing teaching from the pastor, also a prison chaplain. 3) Attending an on-going community forum on this topic, co-sponsored by Augsburg College. 4) Physically supporting Black Lives Matter. 5) Reading articles & recent book by Ta-Nehisi Coates (6/14 edition of The Atlantic” & “Letter to My Son”) 6) Little research on the proposal of reparations to African-AMericans (also appropriate for Native Americans).
    Our daughter’s African-American partner (in Minnetonka) experiences some disrespect at work he hasn’t before while living in the South.

  • michelle parson July 12, 2016, 5:21 pm

    I am not a member of Becketwood but am thinking of making this my future home. I appreciate the comments by Peggy. I visited the facility and thought I don’t see any people of color, I always wonder am I going to be able to be part of a community that doesn’t reflect me? Knowing that there are people that question being treated like a HUMAN BEING and not by the color of their skin must feel AWESOME! as the kids say. I’ve never felt that comfort to make a decision on just making a decision for my life……….it always start with “What if?”
    Thanks Peggy for questioning yourself and “Unpacking your Knapsack!”

    • Linda July 12, 2016, 10:53 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Michelle. At our marketing committee meeting today, we were discussing how to attract people of color to our community. There are a few who live here now, but as you observed, we are pretty white. Please know that we would love and welcome having a more diverse community. Most people come here because they have friends or family nearby — word of mouth advertising. So, it will start to happen and we hope it will be soon. Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  • Judy Wing July 12, 2016, 5:39 pm

    Linda, that is eye opening, things don’t think about, and beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I can’t even imagine what it is like for black Muslims in this country.

  • David Liddle July 13, 2016, 12:19 pm

    Thanks Linda. A good reminder for this white guy, and something I need to work on. Where do I start? Right here at Becketwood.

  • Carol Masters July 15, 2016, 8:07 pm

    Thanks for posting this important piece, Linda. Especially in this time of grief and violence, the need for compassion and understanding is critical.

  • Judy solmonson July 12, 2018, 4:41 pm

    So many advantages we have as white folks….thank you Linda for this reminder.