Eth 125 Power and Privilege

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To me, the terms “invisible systems of privileges” and “unearned privileges” can mean many things. Upon reading the articles recommended for this essay, along with some other online resources, I would say that I have a much broader understanding of each term. While my first reaction would be to say that invisible systems of privileges are privileges that may be obvious, yet difficult to recognize. Likewise, “unearned privileges” seems simple enough to explain. My first reaction would be to call them privileges one does not deserve. However, realizing exactly what privileges are, and who has them, along who does not, is a bit more of a challenge. Privileges can describe a great many things such as; driving a car, having a cell phone, or even a paid day off from work. But upon reading some of the articles, I came away with a better understanding of how in-depth this term really is and can be. These privileges can even come down to how a person of color is treated versus a white person in such subtle settings as clothing stores or applying for housing.

Without a doubt, I would say that the people with the most unearned privileges are white males. According to the social-experiments conducted by Dan J. Spence and J. Arthur Fields at Southern Utah University, they discovered that white males were treated better by sales personnel of different businesses, as well as land-lords for housing than their black counterparts acting under the same conditions (Spence/Fields,1999). This study also suggested that men, in general, would be taken more seriously than women, especially in situations such as shopping for a vehicle or an apartment. I have seen this type of discrimination take place in person, where a female was treated differently than a male. When working for a landscaping company, I witnessed my employer, who was dealing with a disgruntled female customer, instruct her to go get her husband because he “would rather consult the man of the house since he would not be so emotional and irrational”. Needless to say, we lost the account, yet it was a testament to the fact that men have invisible privileges that women do not share. There was no evidence that the husband would have dealt with the problem at hand any more rationally than his wife. In fact, he was even more difficult to talk to that she was.

Dominate groups, to me would indicate groups within a society that have these unearned privileges, greater social-status, and much more power than their counterparts. In any society, there is a majority and a minority. In the past, this was determined sometimes exclusively on race alone, but I feel that as we move forward with race-relations and tolerance of our peers, another type of domination is more prevalent: class. Though our society will probably suffer from racial inequality and prejudice based on ethnicity for generations, I think that it is easier for dominate groups to discriminate based on social-status and wealth than it is for them to do the same based on race. When whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc, all find themselves in the same class, I feel that it is easier for them to find a common-ground and not let things beyond reasonable control (skin color, place of origin, ancestry) get in the way of forming a unity and establishing solidarity. Perhaps there is much work to be done before this becomes the norm, but I think that our society is moving slowly toward it.

Being oppressed means experiencing unwarranted and unjust suffering and mistreatment from the dominate groups. While oppression can be put upon many different groups of people, historically in America, blacks and women have suffered badly from it. The articles I read for the assignment covered blacks, and the information I retrieved on Peggy McIntosh also mentioned women as being victims of such behavior as well (McIntosh,1988), while the experiments conducted by Dan Spence and J. Arthur Fields mentioned gay males,...
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