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* * * Peggy Mc Intosh was born Elisabeth Vance Means in 1934.
But even though the lifetime of privilege Mc Intosh has experienced is almost certainly due to her wealth and not the colour of her skin, she nevertheless found a way to share this irksome burden with the illiterate children of Kentucky coal miners, the hopeless peasants of the Appalachians, poor single mothers struggling to make ends meet on welfare, and the vast majority of whites in the United States and throughout the world who never had the chance to attend Radcliffe or Harvard.
She simply reclassified her manifest economic advantage as racial privilege and then dumped this newly discovered original sin onto every person who happens to share her skin color.
This alone calls into question the seriousness and scholarly validity of the derivative works, since they are all the fruit of a poisonous tree.
But Mc Intosh’s hypothesis was eagerly embraced nonetheless, because it served a particular purpose—it helped to mainstream a bitter zero-sum politics of guilt and identity.
Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged.
They may say they will work to women’s statues, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s.
But it is for this very reason that it is important to subject Mc Intosh’s ideas to scrutiny.
So let us return to the source and to first principles and unpack Peggy Mc Intosh’s knapsack…
Her ‘experiential’ list enumerating the ways in which she benefits from being born with white skin simply confuses racial privilege with the financial advantages she has always been fortunate enough to enjoy. One is left to wonder why, given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin color, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work.
If she did take to the streets in support of some cause or other, she left no trace that I can see.