Saturday, May 17, 2008

Class Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack

If you've read Peggy McIntosh's White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack, you'll know what the title of this post refers to. If not, it's a list of privileges that white folks have in U.S. culture. Google it if you want--I'd prefer to protect McIntosh's copyright.

The lovely woman over at Education & Social Class has posted a parallel list from a social class perspective created by the wonderful folks over at Class Action.

I won't post the whole list here--you'll have to go to Jayne's site for that (and I'd strongly suggest you do so, and add your own suggestions there). If you have additions, please send them to privilege at classism dot org. Here are my additions and questions.

Suggested Additions to Class Privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack

a. My ignorance of cultural references, intellectual concepts or academic knowledge are not attributed to my social class.

b. My favorite foods are often served in expensive restaurants where I live.

c. My cultural habits and likes are viewed as appropriate and healthy and are not attributed to my social class by my peers when they deem my habits and likes as unhealthy or inappropriate.

d. The way I talk at home (my grammar and pronunciation and diction) is considered business standard.

There should be an addition about technology, but I couldn't come up with a statement that was exclusive because of social class, other than being always up-to-date technologically. Some not-so-middle-class people I know are up-to-date. Does anyone have a suggestion about a technology indication of class?

On Jayne's blog, I also posted a question about #18 on the list. Can anyone answer this question? Here's what I said:

About #18, that one is very interesting. It doesn’t necessarily get at your social class, but at the social class of your friends relative to you. I *do* worry about whether my friends can afford the things I can afford–I live an owning class life and almost none of my friends can match that. But I grew up working class–does someone who grew up owning class or middle class not worry if they have friends with different means?

Let Jayne know what your suggestions are!


Su said...

I thought number 18 was interesting, too. But after thinking about it a bit, I began to wonder whether "asking people out for an evening" wasn't a middle-class thing. I grew up middle-class, with parents who grew up working class/poor, and most of my extended family were and are still working class. They don't tend to "ask people out." They ask people over.

Jeanne said...

Apt observation Su. My family did the same thing--when we went "out," it was just us (and not often at that). You made me realize that I probably think about people with less financial privilege than me because I've been less privileged myself. So it is probably a poor or working class thing to think of those who have less means than you do.

I just couldn't fathom a lack of compassion--but if you haven't experienced it yourself, how can you understand what poverty is like.

Jane said...

Wow. I've never been called "lovely" in the blogosphere before!

That's an excellent point about asking people "over" rather than "out", even while middle class people made still invite people "out" and not realize how difficult it may be for some people to find a way to say "no" while saving face.

The Class Action folks should get some really interesting responses to their first cut at this...


Allison said...

I imagine technology could be about what purpose it serves. Why are you using it? Who are you trying to reach? There are probably differences between types of technology used, say, construction or factory technology, versus things like blackberries. And price is another aspect of it. Those who can readily afford something might feel that it is optional while for someone else it might be a marker of success.

Allison said...

Things I thought applied with a racial lens as well:

"3. When I, or my children, are taught about history, people from my social class are represented in the books."

Never was taught about Korean history or culture in school. People of different races/cultures are not represented, and if they are, not usually from their own perspective.

"6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization”, I am shown that people of my class made it what it is."

Isn't there a book entitled, How the Quakers Invented America? Ha!

"8. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my class."

"9. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my class."

Jeanne said...


I hope to see what Class Action ends up with for a list!


I'm assuming you've seen the list Class Action based their list on?

Many of these things can also be seen as white privilege. I think race and class has been s
o conflated in our culture, it's hard to parse it out sometimes and have it be distinct. But I think that makes the case that, in spite of what the media pundits are saying these days during the election, working class whites and people of color have a lot more in common than not, and should have shared interests.

By the way, I'm testing out an interest group idea this weekend at Northern Yearly Meeting. I'll blog about it when I get back.

Amazingly, I have wifi access here at the Lion's Camp in Rosholt, Wisconsin, but no cell signal. Go figure.

:-) Jeanne