Marking the (presumed) unmarked

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Marking the (presumed) unmarked a critique and reconceptualization of the rhetorical construct of privilege
Elliott, Kimberly C
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Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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ix, 135 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Privileges and immunities ( lcsh )
Social structure ( lcsh )
Social classes ( lcsh )
Privileges and immunities ( fast )
Social classes ( fast )
Social structure ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 115-135).
General Note:
Department of Communication
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kimberly C. Elliott.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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63803196 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L48 2005m E54 ( lcc )


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MARKING THE (PRESUMED) UNMARKED: A CRITIQUE AND RECONCEPTUALIZA TION OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCT OF PRIVILEGE by Kimberly C. Elliott B. B.A., Sui Ross State University, 1990 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Communication 2005


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Kimberly C. Elliott has been approved by Barbara Walkosz 0,5"/!3/z.oos DATE


Elliott, Kimberly C. (M A., Communication) Marking the (Presumed) Unmarked: A Critique and Reconceptualization of the Rhetorical Construct of Privilege Thesis directed by Professor Sonja K. Foss ABSTRACT This study is an analysis of seven texts using a grounded-theory approach to discover how privilege is constructed rhetorically, focusing on the implicit assumptions concerning privilege. The analysis results are engaged to provide a holistic critique of the construct of privilege. The limitations of the construct of privilege are discussed and ways to address them are suggested in a proposed reconceptualization of the construct of privilege to help facilitate rhetors' goals toward creating a more just and/or equitable society by diminishing or eradicating privilege. This study is situated in the larger context of communication theory where it may contribute to an understanding of how rhetoric may yield unintended consequences as well as to an understanding of the utility of rhetorical analysis in helping to facilitate progressive social change. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate s thesis. I recommend its publication. Stgned SonjaK. Ill


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Because this thesis is a manifestation of my experience as a student at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, I wish to acknowledge the people who have created with me an extraordinary experience. I'll begin with Sonja K. Foss, about whom I keep a mental list of attributes and acts for which I am grateful. In her company and in response to her invitation, I began to envisage my interest in communication research a few short semesters ago. With the benefit of her incomparable and invitational counsel, instruction, and unwavering confidence in my ideas and work, I have flourished both academically and personally. I might claim to be indebted to Dr. Foss, but I much prefer her friendship-a context in which ledgers are both unnecessary and incongruous. I am grateful to Professors Omar Swartz, Brenda J. Allen, and Barbara Walkosz for engaging me in intriguing exchanges of ideas and abundant laughter both in and out of the classroom. I extend gratitude to Dr. Swartz for his compassionate and confident guidance during my student experience and specifically for encouraging me to elect to write a thesis in a program that does not require one. I wish to thank each member of my committee-Professors Walkosz, Swartz, and Foss-for their patient and indispensable help and guidance in my process of preparing this thesis.


Finally, I wish to acknowledge Sally Thee, my classmates, and the faculty members whose classes were not parts of my degree plan. All are contributors to my learning experience in the Department of Communication and co-creators of the community and culture from which I have benefited incalculably.


CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................. 1 Research Questions ........................................................................................... 5 Literature Review .............................................................................................. 7 Privilege ................................................................................................ 8 The Construct of Privilege .................................................................. 13 Method ............................................................................................................ 15 Data ..................................................................................................... 15 Method of Analysis ............................................................................. 18 Limitations of the Study .................................................................................. 21 Significance of the Study ................................................................................ 21 Outline of the Study .................................................................. ..................... 23 2. ANALYSIS OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCT OF PRIVILEGE .............. 25 Summaries and Analyses of the Texts ............................................................ 25 "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies" by Peggy Mcintosh in Working Paper No. 189 ................... 25 Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks ................................... 41 VI


"White Privilege Shapes the U.S." by Robert Jensen in Privilege: A Reader ............................................................................. 48 "Teaching about Being an Oppressor" by Steven P. Schacht in Privilege: A Reader ............................................................................. 50 "Challenging Privilege through Africentric Social Work Practice" by Mary E. Swigonski in Social Work ............................................... 55 "Heterosexual Identity and Heterosexism Recognizing Privilege to Reduce Prejudice" by Jane M. Simoni and Karina L. Walters in Journal of Homosexuality ............................................................... 58 "Christian Privilege: Breaking aSacred Taboo" by Lewis Z. Schlosser in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development. 61 Synthesis of the Analysis Results ................................................................... 65 3. A CRITIQUE OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCT OF PRIVILEGE ........... 71 Rhetors' Goal: Create a More Just and/or Equitable Society by Making Individuals Aware of Privilege ....................................................................... 71 People Already Know about and are Indifferent to Privilege ............. 72 The Construct of Privilege Claims and Fails to Distinguish Between Those Who are Privileged and Those Who are Not Privileged ..................................................................................... 72 The Construct of Privilege Does Not Indicate What Privilege Is ....... 82 Rhetors' Goal: Create a More Just and/or Equitable Society by VII


Reallocating or Abolishing Privilege .............................................................. 88 Awareness of a Problem Is Not Enough ............................................. 89 People Want Privilege ......................................................................... 89 Constructing Privilege as a Scarce Commodity Encourages Competition for It ............................................................................... 92 People Endeavor to and Want to Achieve .......................................... 94 Essentializing Privilege Makes It Seem Inevitable and Permanent ..................................................................... 99 Summary ....................................................................................................... 1 00 4. CONCLUSION: A RECONCEPTUALIZATION OF PRIVILEGE .................. 101 Proposed Changes to the Rhetorical Construct of Privilege ......................... 101 Assume Audiences are Aware of Privilege ...................................... 102 Refrain from Labeling Individuals Privileged: De-essentialize Privilege ................................................................... 102 Construct Privilege as Communication Processes ............................ 105 Suggest that Changes to and Replacement of Processes are Ways to Rectify Privilege ................................................................. 105 Bifurcate Privilege into the Conditions of Being Comfortable and Unfair Advantage ....................................................................... 106 Construct Privilege as Impermanent.. ............................................... 106 Vlll


Assume that Privilege is Abundant/Not Scarce ................ ............... 107 Validate Achievement in the Construct of Privilege ........................ 109 Distinguish Privilege from and Define its Relationships to Power, Oppression, Discrimination, Prejudice, and Dominance ...... 109 Conclusion ... ...................... ............................................................. ............ Ill NOTES .... ................................................................................................................. 115 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................................................. .129 lX


CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION From an essentialist perspective, individuals may be born privileged. From a rhetorical perspective, privilege is a construct that serves rhetors' varied purposes to greater and lesser degrees. The etymology of privilege suggests that it pertains to one or few individuals. The twelfth-century word is derived from the Latin privus, meaning private, and lex, meaning law. The word traditionally refers to a right or immunity granted by an authority (e.g., governmental or religious) to an individual or an elite group. 1 Accordingly, "the privileged few" remains a familiar phrase and notion. As an early American dictionary suggests, English usage of privilege has allowed for a privilege of the many as well as of the few since at least the early nineteenth century. The first usage of privilege listed in Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is "a particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or society, beyond the common advantages of other citizens A privilege may be a particular right granted by law or held by custom, or it may be an exemption from some burden to which others are subject."2 Webster's 1828 definition suggests changes in the notion of privilege allowing that a privilege may be granted and therefore explicit but it need not be; privilege


may be customary and therefore implicit. This definition retains the expectation that a privilege, however initiated, is "particular and peculiar," two words Webster defines similarly in the same text as adjectives meaning distinct, not general, and singular. 3 Particular and peculiar, then, as qualities of a privilege, render it readily identifiable and limited in its scope. These are qualities that an advantage or benefit granted by a law or other edict may be expected to have; however, an advantage or benefit "held by custom" preswnably is not confined to the particular or defined by any enduring authority. Although Webster's 1828 definition makes no such suggestion, a privilege thus conceived necessarily is mutable and made particular and peculiar only by its particular and peculiar manifestations. More than 150 years later, Peggy Mcintosh, a U.S. sociologist, reconceptualized privilege in a way that negated its formerly conceived qualities of particularity and peculiarity and their incwnbent singularity. Indeed, privilege had discarded its singularity so decisively that it no longer was preceded by the article a, which properly precedes only a singular noun. Neither had it become plural; Mcintosh did not conceptualize pluralized "privileges." Instead, the reconceptualized privilege was common and ordinary-two words offered as antonyms for singular by the Princeton Language Institute. 4 Many theorists credit Mcintosh with conceptualizing the privilege of dominant identity groups in her 1988 essay, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's 2


Studies."5 For Mcintosh, privilege is advantage that accrues to dominant and often majority identity groups in varieties such as male privilege, white privilege and heterosexual privilege.6 In this construct, the many have privilege, while the few do not. Thus, many individuals who are unlikely to be counted among the traditionally conceptualized privileged few now may be included in notions of the privileged by virtue of their social identities. Discourse that assigns a label to a dominant identity group by others or without the group's consent is a rhetorical strategy that disrupts the expectation that dominant identity groups label or abstain from labeling not only themselves but also others. Most often, dominant identity groups are expected to label others and to refrain from labeling themselves, making members of the dominant groups "unmarked" while others are "marked." Rosenblum and Travis explain that stigma attaches to one who is marked and that this stigma often is used to discount a marked individual's accomplishments. They write, "those in marked statuses appear to always be operating from an 'agenda,' or 'special interest,' while those in unmarked statuses can appear to be agenda-free: 'women/black/gay/Hispanic politicians' are presumed to have special interests that 'politicians' do not."7 As Rosenblum and Travis suggest, dominant identity groups are presumed unmarked. In other words, a male/white/heterosexual politician may be called simply a politician. As a corollary, politician is assumed to mean a male/white/heterosexual politician. To label such a person and/or his 3


male/white/heterosexual counterparts privileged is to mark individuals and groups otherwise considered unmarked. Thus, labeling members of dominant identity groups privileged is a rhetorical strategy that departs from common discourse by marking the presumed unmarked. By theorizing white privilege and heterosexual privilege, Mcintosh marks many of the unmarked and provides a framework for marking members of other dominant identity groups. Mcintosh explains that she wants others to see their privilege, as she sees her own white privilege, so that they may join her in working to diminish or to end privilege. After "unveiling" the "hidden" white privilege, she asks her readers, "what will we do with such knowledge?" She urges us to "redesign social systems" and to use "arbitrarily-awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base."8 Privilege: A Reader is a 2003 compilation of scholarly essays about privilege dedicated to Mcintosh and explicit in its role as an explication of her work. In the book's introduction, co-editor Michael Kimmel articulates a rationale for researching privilege quite similar to Mcintosh's: We need to see how we are stakeholders in the understanding of structural inequality, how the dynamics that create inequality for some also benefit others. Privilege needs to be made visible .... Ultimately, we believe that examining the arenas in which we are privileged as well as those in which we are not privileged will enable us to understand our society more fully and engage us in the long historical process of change. 9 4


As Kimmel's introduction illustrates, after more than 15 years of Mcintosh inspired discourse on privilege, scholars continue to sustain the dialogue for the original purpose-to effect social change by rendering privilege visible. This suggests that privilege remains "invisible," the same condition in which Mcintosh found and described it. Although Mcintosh cautions readers that the kind of social change she envisions "takes many decades," she describes making privilege visible as only the first step in an extended process. 10 Even so, the ongoing thoughtful and extensive dialogue seems still to endeavor toward accomplishing that first step. Perhaps additional similar discourse will render privilege visible and thus facilitate the next step or other steps, whatever they may be. Alternatively, some features of the discourse itself may be inhibiting such progress. Although research interrogating the rhetorical strategies employed in such discourse can offer insight into, among other things, how such strategies function, researchers seem not to have studied the rhetorical construct of privilege. In the absence of such research, discourse that relies upon the uninterrogated rhetorical construct accepts implicitly its underlying assumptions. Research Questions Unlike other research on privilege, this study is not an inquiry into what privilege is or an effort to help others see privilege; rather, this study is an inquiry into how people talk about privilege. By engaging literature emanating from the 5


former type of research, such as the essays compiled in Privilege: A Reader, I analyze and critique the rhetorical construct of privilege. This research is intended to offer insight into how privilege is constructed rhetorically-the constructed qualities and performances of privilege and the assumptions underlying the construct. Thus, my first research question is: RQ I: How is privilege constructed rhetorically? An understanding of how privilege is constructed rhetorically will facilitate evaluation of its suitability as a rhetorical option for helping rhetors to achieve their goals. In this instance, making privilege visible to advance social change is what theorists endeavor to do with their rhetoric and with their research. Both their research and their rhetoric (which may not exclude each other) are reliant upon and contributors to the rhetorical construct of privilege. Accordingly, the construct of privilege is foundational to their rhetorical strategies for achieving their goals. Even so, the selection and use of a rhetorical strategy for a particular purpose is not assurance that the strategy serves that purpose. Thus, my second research question is: RQ 2: In what ways is the rhetorical construct of privilege suitable and/or unsuitable for serving rhetors' interim goal of making privilege visible and rhetors' ultimate goal of facilitating progressive social change? A third purpose for this research is to learn what other goals may be served by the rhetorical construct of privilege. For this purpose, other goals are defined as those 6


facilitated by the rhetorical construct of privilege that rhetors do not articulate, whether such goals are implicit or unintentional. Such an inquiry is intended to provide further insight into the social implications of how privilege is constructed rhetorically. Thus, my third research question is: RQ 3: What goals may be served by the rhetorical construct of privilege other than making privilege visible and facilitating progressive social change? Literature Review The research questions are informed by two primary areas of scholarship: literature about privilege and literature about the construct of privilege. Research about privilege almost uniformly shares goals consistent with those of social justice scholarship. Because its principle concern is social equality, research about privilege is not the province of any one discipline; the literature arises from across disciplines. This type of research may be described succinctly as that which interrogates and/or describes social inequality in terms of privilege. Research about the construct of privilege also may be concerned primarily with social equality. Its distinction from research about privilege, however, is its acknowledgment that individuals construct their notions of privilege rhetorically. It neither denies nor asserts what privilege is separate from constructed notions of privilege; rather, it acknowledges and addresses the construct of privilege. 7


Privilege Privilege is a key concept in some prominent historical discussions about social inequality. For example, eighteenthand nineteenth-century feminist theorists John Stuart Mill and Mary Wollstonecraft and socialist theorists August Bebel, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen introduced notions of privilege to argue that genderand class-based social inequalities should be eradicated. In "The Subjection of Women," Mill calls for "a principle of perfect equality [between men and women], admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other."11 Wollstonecraft describes the privileges afforded men as "hereditary power" in "Observations on the State of Degradation to which Woman is Reduced by Various Causes." 12 According to Shulamith Firestone, Bebel, Fourier, and Owen each posited ideal societies in which class privilege would not exist. 13 Even so, volumes of ensuing literature describing social inequalities did so in vocabularies that place little reliance upon the notion of privilege. For example, by the early 1980s, feminist literature had theorized male domination, male supremacy, male normalization, male power, sexism, oppression, and discrimination without substantially developing an explicit notion of male privilege. Similarly, racial inequality was theorized most often in terms of white supremacy, discrimination, oppression, and domination. The relative absence of terms such as male privilege and white privilege in the literature prior to Mcintosh's 1988 essay does not indicate that no one had thought of 8


such notions in those tenns. Rather, the infrequency of such tenninology in the literature may reflect some other phenomena-for example, the preferences of individuals empowered at the time to influence or detennine what was published. Prior to the publication of Mcintosh's essay, male privilege, for instance, had been named, if not substantially theorized, in the literature. By the late 1970s, notions of privilege were articulated sporadically as key concepts in social movement discourse. For example, in 1979, social work scholars John F. Longres and Robert H. Bailey asserted that privilege "enjoyed by males at the expense of females" is "the very essence of sexism in this society." Although they attribute "the idea of male privilege" to three other theorists in their literature review, none of the three excerpts from others' work includes the tenn male privilege. 14 My reading of one of the three cited articles confinns that the author makes no explicit mention of male privilege. 15 Even so, Longres and Bailey credit its author with discussing "the issue of institutionalized male privilege." 16 This attribution suggests that Longres and Bailey were theorizing male privilege by finding other scholars' descriptions of phenomena that Longres and Bailey considered to be the phenomena with which they were dealing that were labeled differently. In short, scholars were writing about privilege infrequently and perhaps without a theoretical framework for doing so. In 1988, Mcintosh provided such a framework, as almost all ensuing literature in which privilege is a key tenn indicates. Mcintosh was inspired by the notion of 9


male privilege to consider the likelihood that she was both privileged as a white person and unaware of her own privilege. She became attentive to and recorded the manifestations of what she called white privilege in her own daily life in a list that she later included in her essay, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies." Mcintosh reconceptualized privilege in a richly detailed personal narrative as systems of advantage accruing to all members of majority and/or dominant social identity groups-primarily to men and white people-rather than to only select and elite members of society or to only individuals outside her own identity groups. Mcintosh theorized her own privilege from inside her own racial identity. Her view and description of privilege from the inside necessarily yielded a different description from others offered from outside social identity groups, for example, women's perspectives on male privilege. While Mcintosh was not the first theorist to suggest that a majority and/or dominant identity group is privileged, she articulated a description of her experience of such privilege in a way that is almost singularly foundational to subsequent scholarship across disciplines. For many scholars, privilege is what Mcintosh says it is. Voluminous ensuing essays and arguments spring from "the tradition" 17 of Mcintosh's notion of privilege both to explicate her constructs ofwhite and male privilege and to conceptualize other types of privilege such as Christian privilege and American privilege.18 For example, B. Deutsch's19 essay "The Male Privilege 10


Checklist" is subtitled "An Unabashed Imitation of an Article by Peggy Mcintosh" and is comprised, similar to a part of Mcintosh's essay, of the author's own perceived manifestations ofprivilege.20 Similarly, Devon W. Carbado evokes Mcintosh to theorize male heterosexual privilege. Quoting Mcintosh, he writes, "men must begin to understand that male privilege is 'an invisible package of unearned assets that men can count on cashing each day. "'21 In other words, men must begin to understand that male privilege is what Mcintosh says it is. Literature not explicitly modeling Mcintosh's essay but still reliant upon her construct of privilege abounds across disciplines and outside the academy, with particular emphasis on white privilege. Such research arises from whiteness studies, psychology, sociology, communication, education, queer studies, American Indian studies, American studies, philosophy, women's studies, business, and other perspectives. Privilege is interrogated rigorously from a philosophical perspective under the rubric of whiteness studies in Yancy's edited text, What White Looks Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question. Although Mcintosh's notion of white privilege is foundational to many arguments in this collection of essays as it is elsewhere, Yancy's contributing authors do not tend to accept it at face value. Charles W. Mills, for example, dismisses the notion of white privilege entirely. He says "the currently more fashionable 'white privilege"' is just another name for white supremacy. 22 11


Scholars more frequently study some manifestation of privilege based upon the premise that privilege has an objective existence. For example, Ronald L. Jackson engages white research subjects to gain insight into their self-definitions, in part to determine whether they can be unaware of their white privilege. He writes, "if Peggy Mcintosh is correct in her assessment of privilege, then there are those who are not aware of their privilege."23 That his subjects have white privilege clearly is an assumption in Jackson's research model. To define his subjects' privilege, Jackson cites Mcintosh. His research model is therefore dependent upon a presumed correspondence between the constructed notion of privilege and an objectively existent privilege. Although Jackson articulates in more detail his assumption that privilege exists objectively than do many other scholars concerned with privilege, others reveal the same assumption differently. Indeed, such an assumption is so prevalent that scholars rarely bother even to claim explicitly that privilege exists. Instead, the existence of privilege is presupposed in phrases such as my male privilege and students' class privilege. Such presuppositions assume further that all individuals have the same definition of privilege not because everyone has agreed to a single definition but because privilege simply is what it is. This perspective overlooks entirely the rhetorically constructed meaning of privilege. 12


The Construct of Privilege One significant feature of Mcintosh's rhetorical construction of privilege is that she does not acknowledge that she engages in such a process. Indeed, her essay does not suggest an awareness of rhetorical construction. Few scholars have departed from such an approach to privilege. The three theoretical engagements with the construct of privilege I have reviewed arise from three different disciplinary perspectives: philosophy, communication, and education. Lewis R. Gordon offers a critique ofthe notion of white privilege in consideration of its moral-philosophical implications. He says privilege is an improper label for the "features of contemporary societal life" such as safety, food, clothing, shelter, and education, which he identifies as human rights. For Gordon, a problem with the constructed notion of white privilege is that it condemns white people for having what all people should have and what no one should refuse. 24 This critique suggests that the notion of privilege might be constructed differently to avoid stigmatizing any fulfillment of human rights. Moreover, it implies that the construct of white privilege masks unfulfilled human rights among those not deemed privileged. Sonja K. Foss, William J. C. Waters, and Bernard J. Annada critique the rhetorical option of ascribing privilege to others from a communication perspective. They suggest that labeling others privileged reifies what is lacking in individuals' own experience and "keeps individuals from being able to see options and to allow 13


rhetoric to work in the world in different ways."25 This critique suggests that the notion of privilege may be constructed in ways that are potentially disempowering to individuals who consider others to be privileged. Cynthia Levine-Rasky engages the construct of white privilege from an education perspective in her analysis of what she calls "white privilege pedagogy." Levine-Rasky notes that introductory attempts to familiarize educators and students with whiteness usually inform participants only about white privilege-an unduly limited conception ofwhiteness. Levine-Rasky criticizes the construct of white privilege for its focus on who is privileged, rather than how privilege is enacted, and says that white privilege is an excessively broad term that improperly includes "the white working class, women, the disabled, and gays and lesbians."26 She thus presents a number of concerns about both the construct of privilege-by suggesting it is inaccurate and incomplete-and about rhetors' use of the term white privilege to describe whiteness, a more expansive notion not encompassed by the constructed meaning of white privilege. Collectively, the literature suggests that a significant amount of scholarship relies upon the rhetorical construct of privilege and that little inquiry has been made of the construct. The available critiques of the construct of privilege suggest that it may perform in some unintended ways and that rhetors may rely upon the construct of privilege to perform in ways that it does not. Perhaps most significant to this study, critics acknowledge the processes of rhetorical construction (even if by a different 14


name) and suggest or imply the potential for facilitating different results by constructing privilege differently. Method For this study, I selected seven texts for analysis that invoke privilege in a critical context. Such texts are concerned primarily with "challenging the norms, practices, relations, and structures that underwrite inequality and injustice. "27 Accordingly, the authors of such texts may be expected to share Mcintosh's ultimate goal of creating progressive social change, if not her interim goal of making privilege visible. Such a commonality ofrhetors' goals across multiple texts is fundamental to this research given that the rhetorical construct of privilege is to be analyzed, in part, to evaluate its suitability for facilitating these particular goals. From among the available texts that invoke privilege in a critical context, I selected seven texts for analysis by applying the following three criteria: (I) the centrality of the notion of privilege to the work; (2) the credibility of the particular work and/or the authors' other work; and (3) the aggregate representation of a variety of perspectives. Where the notion of privilege is more central to a text, the notion is developed in more detail through more references to privilege. Such a text thus provides more data for analysis than does one that makes little use of the notion of privilege. My selections do not require each text to be primarily about privilege; 15


rather, privilege is a key tenn in each selected text. The second criterion is intended to help ensure that my critique is of a credible construct of privilege or at least one whose sources are credible. The third criterion requires the selection of texts that address privilege ascribed to a variety of dominant social identity groups. By analyzing texts concerned with white privilege, class privilege, male privilege, Christian privilege, and heterosexual privilege, I will learn more about how privilege is constructed rhetorically by finding consistencies and divergences among these various constructs of privilege. Each of the selected texts is appropriate for this study according to all three of my criteria. The texts I have chosen to analyze according to these criteria are: ( 1) "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies"; (2) Where We Stand: Class Mailers; (3) "Teaching About Being an Oppressor"; (4) "White Privilege Shapes the U.S."; (5) "Challenging Privilege Through Africentric Social Work Practice"; (6) "Heterosexual Identity and Heterosexism: Recognizing Privilege to Reduce Prejudice"; and (7) "Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo." "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies" by Peggy Mcintosh is selected for this study for its foundational role in the ongoing dialogue about privilege. When other authors wish to define or describe privilege, they tend to do so by citing 16


Mcintosh's essay. Its ubiquity in the literature concerned with privilege suggests that no other text is as indispensable to this study as is the Mcintosh essay, Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks is selected for this study primarily for its use of class as a lens through which to view its key concepts, which include privilege. In this book, class privilege is invoked often, while other notions of privilege, such as white privilege and heterosexual privilege, are invoked occasionally. Hooks' perspective is of added interest for this study because she describes her experience of privilege from both inside and outside groups that she considers privileged. 28 "Teaching About Being an Oppressor" is an essay reprinted in Privilege: A Reader and written by Steven P. Schacht, a self-described white male and professor of sociology and women's studies.29 Schacht has published and spoken extensively about feminism, queer theory, and building alliances across differences. 30 In this essay, Schacht theorizes male privilege and describes his feminist pedagogy. "White Privilege Shapes the U.S." is an essay reprinted in Privilege: A Reader and written by Robert Jensen, a professor of journalism, prolific author of both scholarly and popular texts, and a self-described "activist in the feminist movement against sexual violence and the exploitation of the commercial sex industry."31 In this essay, Jensen explicates notions of white privilege through narrative. 17


"Challenging Privilege Through Africentric Social Work Practice" is an essay written by Mary E. Swigonski, a professor of social work and frequently published author in the areas of empowerment, cultural diversity, feminist theory, and lesbian and gay issues. 32 In this essay, S wigonski proposes a strategy for challenging a generalized privilege from an African American perspective. 33 "Heterosexual Identity and Heterosexism: Recognizing Privilege to Reduce Prejudice" is a research report written by Jane Simoni, a professor of clinical psychology, and Karina L. Walters, a professor of social work, women's studies, and American Indian studies. 34 In their research, the authors theorize heterosexual privilege and seek to assess the relationship between heterosexual subjects' awareness of their privilege and subjects' heterosexist attitudes. 35 "Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo" is written by Lewis Z. Schlosser, a professor of psychology whose research interests include issues of power and privilege, white antiracism, and religion and spirituality. 36 In this essay, Schlosser theorizes Christian privilege by using Mcintosh's notions of white privilege and male privilege as a framework. 37 Method of Analysis Data analysis in the study utilizes the grounded-theory approach, sometimes referred to as the constant-comparative method 38 With this method, emergent "theory is grounded in the relationships between data and the categories into which 18


they are coded. "39 The categories are unknown at the onset of such research and are discovered in the themes and patterns that the data suggest. This inductive method allows the framework for describing how privilege is constructed rhetorically to emerge from the research process. Such a framework facilitates a description appropriate for the particular scope, complexities and nuances of the research subject. The grounded-theory approach also permits any unique qualities of this study's data and analysis to underlie any emergent contribution to communication theory. I began my analysis of each text with a first reading to gain an understanding of it from the perspective of an ordinary reader. I assigned value to such a perspective based upon my assumption that readers are each author's intended audience. With this first reading, I recorded whatever questions and impressions occurred to me regarding the text, and I sought to answer particular questions for each text. For example, I noted each text's main point(s) and the author's/authors' stated objective( s ). In a second reading, I marked parts of each text relevant to the rhetorical construct of privilege. Specifically, all instances of the use of the word privilege were marked. Larger portions of each text also were marked if they were about privilege. For example, one section heading within "Teaching about Being an Oppressor" is "On Being Male and Over-privileged."40 The ensuing section warrants analysis beyond this second reading because it is a part of the author's way of constructing privilege. 19


With my third reading, I began to discover the assumptions underlying the rhetorical construction of privilege in the texts. Such assumptions offer insight into what rhetors believe privilege is-its essence-and how rhetors believe privilege performs-its agency. Rhetors' assumptions also suggest their own attitudes toward and relationships to privilege and how they believe privilege interacts with and is related to other constructs. Such insights address the research question, "how is privilege constructed rhetorically?" My interrogation was comprised of questions suggested by the data. Very simply, I read each item marked in my second reading, and I asked questions about it. I considered each sentence, paragraph, or essay separately, and I considered them in the aggregate I inquired of different claims' relationships to one another. I looked for often-repeated claims and their underlying assumptions-those occurring frequently-and particularly intense claims and their underlying assumptions. From the features of the rhetorical construct of privilege that occurred with significant frequency and intensity, themes and patterns emerged. By using the constant comparative method to continually measure these themes and patterns for their intensity and frequency while my analysis progressed, I developed them into categories suggested by the data for their utility in describing how privilege is constructed rhetorically. 20


Limitations of the Study Like any proposed research project, this study is limited by both its design and its resources. Because a qualitative research method has as its primary instrument the researcher, I am one such resource to this project. Accordingly, this study is limited by the particular skill, resourcefulness and utility of its researcher. Another limitation on the study is imposed by my assumptions and biases to the extent that they remain unmitigated through self-reflexive research. Because the construct critiqued in this paper is derived from the analysis of sample data (the texts selected), the critique may not be germane to privilege as it is constructed elsewhere. Regardless of what artifacts and acts are analyzed for a given rhetorical construct, such social constructs are by definition always subject to change given their continual renegotiation through communication processes. Accordingly, any description of a rhetorical construct offers at best a snapshot-a representation of limited scope that is seen through a particular lens at a particular place and time. Significance of the Study This study reveals that the ways people talk about privilege are rhetorical strategies not well suited for bringing about social change that rectifies privilege. lbis suggests that rhetors who engage notions of privilege toward hwnanistic ends are unlikely to achieve their goals by simply talking more often about privilege, addressing different audiences, or persevering for several more years to effect the 21


desired change. This study suggests that such rhetors may render their ways of talking about privilege more effective with some adjustments to their rhetorical strategies. In addition, as a methodical assessment of the suitability of a rhetorical strategy for facilitating rhetors' goals, this research contributes to communication theory further insight into how rhetoric works. Mcintosh's essay has inspired a cross-disciplinary, sustained dialogue about dominant groups' privilege. As previously noted, an interim goal of the dialogue is to make privilege visible. Its ultimate goal is to bring about social equality. Recent publications suggest that more than 15 years of dialogue have not achieved the interim goal-scholars continue to endeavor to make privilege visible. Such a duration may be appropriate for the consciousness-raising first step, but the rhetorical strategies being used to make privilege visible may not serve to transition rhetors to their next interim goal or even to articulate their next interim goal. If the process of change is stalled at its first step, an assessment of the rhetorical strategies causing it to stall is timely, as is offering a new strategy for helping it forge ahead. Communication scholars committed to facilitating progressive social change urge scholarship that "foregrounds the grammars that oppress or underwrite relationships of domination and then reconstructs those grammars."41 This study arises from a belief that such grammars may be found anywhere, even in the rhetoric of scholars seeking progressive social change. Rhetoric used in service to such goals, like all rhetoric, may serve purposes other than those intended, and it may serve 22


poorly some intended purposes. One contribution communication research can make is to encourage the use of rhetorical strategies effective for rhetors' particular purposes. Very simply, although the shoemaker's children famously have no shoes, I believe that the shoemaker's children ought to wear the very best shoes. Similarly, rhetoric that serves goals shared by many communication scholars ought to be the most effectively conceived rhetoric. No rhetors who speak for causes many communication scholars support need to use faith-based rhetoric-they may choose, instead, to use research-based rhetoric. This study thus makes a contribution to improving the rhetorical strategies used in service to progressive social change by offering insight into how one relevant rhetorical strategy works. Outline of the Study This study is organized as follows: Chapter One: Introduction This chapter contains a rationale for the study, the research questions, a literature review, a description of the research method, some limitations of the study, the significance of the study, and an outline of the study. Chapter Two: Analysis of the Rhetorical Construct of Privilege In this chapter, I analyze seven texts using a grounded-theory approach to discover how privilege is constructed rhetorically, focusing on the 23


implicit assumptions concerning privilege. I synthesize the analyses of the individual texts to note concurrence and divergence in the authors' various constructs of privilege. Chapter Three: A Critique of the Construct of Privilege In this chapter, I engage the results of the analysis to provide a holistic critique of the construct of privilege. Chapter Four: Conclusion: A Reconceptualization of Privilege In this chapter, I address the limitations of the construct of privilege and suggest ways to address them by proposing a reconceptualization of the construct of privilege to help facilitate rhetors' goals toward progressive social change. I conclude by situating this study in the larger context of communication theory, where it may contribute to an understanding of how rhetoric may yield unintended consequences as well as to an understanding ofthe utility of rhetorical analysis in helping to facilitate progressive social change. 24


CHAPTER TWO ANALYSIS OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCT OF PRIVILEGE In this chapter, I analyze the data to discover how privilege is constructed rhetorically, focusing on the implicit assumptions concerning privilege to address the research question, "how is privilege constructed rhetorically?" The research findings are presented in two sections. The first section offers a brief summary and detailed analysis of each text in which the significant assumptions underlying each author's rhetorical construct of privilege are identified and discussed. In the second section, I present a comparative analysis of the authors' assumptions underlying their constructs of privilege. Both those features of privilege about which the authors concur and divergences are noted, and disparate perspectives are identified for their potential to disrupt a cohesive construct of privilege. Summaries and Analyses of the Texts "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies" by Peggy Mcintosh in Working Paper No. 189 Mcintosh's essay is a 5,000-word personalized, confessional narrative that recounts the author's realization of, experience of, and reflection upon primarily her 25


own white privilege as juxtaposed with a presumed absence of the same privilege in the lives of her African American colleagues-presumably other university faculty members. The essay secondarily and briefly addresses heterosexual privilege. The author uses an already familiar notion of male privilege as a framework to describe white privilege and as the springboard from which she realizes that she, too, is privileged. The familiarity with male privilege is assumed to be shared by her audience-other white women engaged in women's studies. While Mcintosh's language choices indicate that she addresses a racially homogenous audience of her peers, this essay has been distributed to a much broader audience for more than 15 years via reprints and direct sales by its publisher. The larger audience notwithstanding, the intended audience is highly relevant to the author's way of constructing privilege. Mcintosh conceptualizes privilege in a way that is most apropos of her unique circumstances. She describes what privilege looks like from the perspective of a financially comfortable, heterosexual, educated, professional, intelligent, articulate white woman living in America in the mid to late 1980s. Mcintosh recognizes the context of her claims and cautions readers of their limited use by explaining that the ways she experiences white privilege are about her "life situation and its particular social and political frameworks."42 In later versions of her revised paper, she adds similar disclaimers to assert that her story is about her experience with her African American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances "in this particular time, place, and line ofwork."43 26


Despite the author's suggestion that her personalized experience is not a valid basis for forming generalizations, other theorists citing Mcintosh routinely disregard the suggestion. Mcintosh also draws sweeping generalizations from her own experience within this essay. In doing so, she presents her contextualized experience and ideas as an enduring and the most influential rhetorical construct of privilege in contemporary discourse. Mcintosh constructs privilege rhetorically with the following features: 1) Privilege is an object; 2) Privilege has agency; 3)Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity groups; 4) Privilege is unearned and unfair advantage; 5) Privilege is the condition of being comfortable; 6) Privilege is invisible; 7) Individuals are privileged without their consent or knowledge; 8) Privileged individuals are not at fault for being privileged or for not knowing they are privileged; 9) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination; 1 0) Privilege is the misallocation of scarce resources; and 11) Privilege impedes social justice. Privilege is an Object. Mcintosh constructs privilege as an object metaphorically by giving it the attributes and relationships of an object. Privilege exists, and it can be possessed, had, held, enjoyed, conferred, seen, rejected, hidden, veiled, visible, and invisible. For example, privilege is an object in the remark, "I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have privilege."44 Similarly, Mcintosh's metaphorical descriptions of privilege as "an invisible package" and "an invisible knapsack" cast privilege as an object. 45 27


Privilege has Agency. Although Mcintosh employs agentless constructs to describe privilege, she also assigns agency to privilege itself. She thus constructs privilege as an entity with some measure of autonomy that acts as it pleases and for which no one is responsible or to blame. Privilege acts upon people to cause them to do certain things and feel certain ways. It causes oppression, confers power and dominance, protects people, damages people, victimizes people, dehumanizes people, and determines how or what people can feel and what individuals can do. Mcintosh writes, "white 'privilege' damages white people, [in ways that differ from the] ways in which it damages the victimized."46 Exemplifying the role privilege has in determining how individuals feel, Mcintosh writes, "heterosexual privilege makes some persons comfortable or powerful."47 In telling of her own experience of privilege, she writes, Some privileges make me feel at home in the world. Others allow me to escape penalties or dangers that others suffer. Through some, I escape fear, anxiety, insult, injury, or a sense of not being welcome, not being real. Some keep me from having to hide, to be in disguise, to feel sick or crazy, to negotiate each transaction from the position of being an outsider or, within my group, a person who is suspected of having too close links with a dominant culture. Most keep me from having to be angry. 48 Privilege acts to protect, for example, in Mcintosh's claim that the privilege inherent in her "whiteness" protects her "from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence."49 In addition, privilege has the agency to give permission and assign dominance to individuals, as illustrated in the claim, "privilege simply confers 28


dominance [and] gives permission to control, because of one's race or sex."50 Mcintosh presents privilege as an agent that controls how she feels in her claim, "I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race."51 Similarly, among the 46 ways she experiences her white privilege, she includes, "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. "52 Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. Individuals have or do not have privilege based upon their social identities--class, race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the like-with members of dominant identity groups having privilege and members of oppressed identity groups not having privilege. 53 One underlying assumption is that readers know which identity groups are dominant and which are oppressed. For example, men are dominant, and women are oppressed. Similarly, heterosexual people are dominant, and others are oppressed. Such dichotomies are pervasive and presupposedeveryone is either dominant or oppressed. The privilege that Mcintosh theorizes thus builds on the assumption that white people are dominant in relation to people of color, who are oppressed. While Mcintosh theorizes white and heterosexual privileges from inside those identity groups, she theorizes male privilege from an outsider's perspective. She also acknowledges other bases for privilege: "in addition, since race and sex are not the 29


only advantaging systems at work, we need to similarly examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation."54 Privilege generally ensures that privileged individuals are perceived favorably and as individuals rather than as members of their identity groups. Individuals without privilege, in contrast, are perceived unfairly and as representatives of their identity groups. This feature of privilege implicitly acknowledges only the perceptions of the privileged in construing their favorable judgment as approval. Mcintosh gives no acknowledgment to the ways unprivileged individuals perceive one another and instead concerns herself exclusively with how the privileged/dominant group perceives individuals lacking privilege. Privilege is Unearned and Unfair Advantage. Privilege is rendered unfair through the author's frequent use of advantage as a synonym for privilege, by preceding it with unearned, and by metaphorically characterizing life as a race in which privileged individuals start closer to the finish line. Advantage, "superiority of position or condition,"55 necessarily constitutes inequality but may or may not assert injustice. The term unearned advantage, for example, implies the existence of earned advantage, which may seem more just than the unearned variety. Mcintosh equates privilege with advantage and characterizes both as unearned and unfair. She thus asserts that privilege is the condition of unjust inequality and argues that privilege must be rejected or else it will "always reinforce our present hierarchies."56 30


Unearned is one of the most frequently occurring descriptors of privilege in this essay. For example, Mcintosh describes having been unable to see her "unearned skin privilege" and the ways it put her "ahead in any way, or put [her] people ahead, overrewarding" them. She describes herself as "an unfairly advantaged person."57 The author equates privilege with advantage in the following passage: Only rarely will a man go beyond acknowledging that women are [dis ]advantaged to acknowledging that men have unearned advantage, or that unearned privilege has not been good for men's development as human beings, or for society's development, or that privilege systems might ever be challenged and changed. 58 Privilege is the Condition of Being Comfortable. I characterize a number of the experiences Mcintosh describes as manifestations of white privilege as "the condition of being comfortable." Much of what she labels white privilege is the relative comfort she perceives as a white person who is not discriminated against by other white people and her comfort in being a member of the normalized, dominant, and majority race in the United States. Mcintosh articulates the notion of privilege as the condition of being comfortable in the following passage: "We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned, or conferred by birth or luck. School graduates are reminded they are privileged and urged to use their (enviable) assets well. The word 'privilege' carries the connotation of being something everyone must want. "59 She theorizes "positive advantages" that "are not advantages at all but simply part of the normal civic and social fabric."60 31


A privileged individual experiences the condition of being comfortable in part by being approved by the dominant group and by being perceived outside the lens of discrimination. Mcintosh's list of 46 ways she experiences white privilege includes several examples of concern with how white people perceive others and one another. Five of those examples are listed below with my added text (in brackets) to suggest the undisclosed roles of white people in Mcintosh's narrative: a) "I can worry about racism without being seen [by white people] as self-interested or self-seeking"; 61 b) "I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my [white] co workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race";62 c) "I can talk with my mouth full and not have [white] people put this down to my color";63 d) "I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having [white] people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race";64 e) I can speak in public to a powerful male group without [white people] putting my race on trial";65 and, f)" I am never asked [by white people] to speak for all the people of my racial group."66 In short, when Mcintosh addresses how individuals are treated by others, the others to whom she refers are privileged. This construct suggests that individuals who lack privilege need, want, and cannot have the approval of individuals who are privileged and that this lack of approval denies them the condition of being comfortable. Comfort also is manifested in the normalization of the experience, perspectives, and culture of dominant groups. Such normalization is exemplified in 32


Mcintosh's observation that "I can choose blemish cover or bandages in 'flesh' color and have them more or less match my skin."67 Similarly, she notes, "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 which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser's shop and find someone who can cut my hair."68 Such circumstances encourage privileged individuals to experience their own preferences as normal and to overlook their privilege. Mcintosh writes, "In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted, as neutral, normal, and universally available to everybody."69 Privilege is Invisible. The privilege that white people have is constructed as an object whose most prominent physical feature is its invisibility-a descriptor that indicates strongly the author's perspective from inside the experience she theorizes. Perhaps because this essay is Mcintosh's story of the revelation of the privilege she has had all her life without ever before seeing it, she seems to believe it has been hidden from her and that it is invisible. This essay thus celebrates the author's newfound ability to see white privilege, even while she continues to conceptualize it as invisible. She explains: I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. 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. 70 33


Individuals are Privileged without Their Consent or Knowledge. Mcintosh's sudden discovery of something she has been carrying on her back and using throughout her life without knowing about it suggests strongly that individuals are given privilege without their knowledge or consent. Assuming her readers also are unaware of their white privilege, Mcintosh intends to cause readers to finally see their privilege, too. To do so, she says that privilege is invisible, hidden, and veiled-terms that other white people are more likely to consider appropriate descriptors of white privilege than are people of color. She does not suppose that, from the perspectives of people of color, white privilege may be visible even if it is hidden or veiled. Privileged Individuals are Not Responsible for Being Privileged or for Not Knowing They are Privileged. Mcintosh assures readers that they could not have known or been expected to know they are privileged. Mcintosh repeatedly acknowledges her own, and by implication, other white Americans' conditioned failure to see white privilege as manifested in its invisibility. In other words, people have been taught, trained, and conditioned not to see privilege. After acknowledging her own white privilege, Mcintosh begins to see herself as an oppressor and suggests that culpable educators failed to bring it to her attention. She writes, "my schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor."71 She thus shifts at least some of the blame for her status as an oppressor to others who should have warned her, maintaining the overarching rhetorical strategy of placing no blame upon her audience. 34


The pervasive assurance that white privilege has been-prior to this essayunknowable given its invisibility is one of several rhetorical strategies that Mcintosh uses in her essay to absolve white people of responsibility for both having and not knowing they have privilege. Other rhetorical strategies Mcintosh employs to avoid confronting her intended readers (her peers) with accusations, blame, and responsibility include a confessional narrative style, agentless constructs, personified abstractions as agents, and preemptive absolution. Collectively, these rhetorical strategies construct privilege in ways that avoid blaming privileged individuals for being privileged and for failing to see their privilege. The author uses a confessional style by telling her own story of realizing she has white privilege and offering a numbered list of ways she experiences privilege. She asserts that her experiences are specific to her own life circumstances and that her claims are not bases for generalizing. Even so, she offers such generalizations in the text of her article. For example, after listing 46 ways she experiences white privilege, Mcintosh writes, "if these things are true, this is not such a free country; one's life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.'012 While she uses confessional narrative to indict only herself directly and personally, she generalizes her experience to include all white people. She overtly heaps responsibility upon only herself for being a privileged white person and instructs her readers to avoid generalizing from her experience. This strategy allows her to avoid assigning any responsibility to her readers. 35


The agentless constructs Mcintosh uses avoid assigning blame to anyone for willful acts such as teaching children to be unaware of their privilege, granting privileges, and protecting privilege. For example, she writes, "I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.'m The phrase "are carefully taught" suggests a deliberate effort in a sentence that names no agent. Readers are not told who carefully teaches whites not to recognize white privilege, so no one is implicated. Similarly, without suggesting who keeps white and male privilege inculturated in the U.S., she writes, "obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States.''74 She adds, "I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions which were passed on to me as a white person,'m neglecting to name the agent who passes on such assumptions. Similarly, without suggesting who grants power, she says, "being white, I am given considerable power to escape many kinds of danger or penalty as well as to choose which risks I want to take."76 Personified abstractions act as agents in other constructs also to avoid assigning blame to anyone for willful acts. For example, Mcintosh writes, "denials protect male privilege,"77 and "the silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects.''78 In these claims, Mcintosh personifies denials and silences and names 36


them as the responsible parties who maintain privilege. The rhetorical strategy of personifying abstractions thus deflects responsibility for maintaining privilege from individuals by assigning responsibility to the abstractions. Several features of Mcintosh's rhetorical construct of privilege preemptively absolve white people of responsibility for white privilege. I characterize this as a preemptive absolution because with this essay Mcintosh both informs readers that they are privileged and absolves them of responsibility for their condition. No process is required of readers to learn of their privilege and to redeem themselves by apology, repentance, or deed to be forgiven or relieved of responsibility. In other words, preemptive absolution suggests that responsibility never attaches to the privileged for their privilege or their failure to know about it. Mcintosh offers such preemptive absolution by claiming that because privilege is conferred upon individuals without their consent or awareness, their condition of privilege is beyond their control. She also says privilege confers "unsought dominance" upon individuals, without allowing for instances in which individuals actually seek dominance. 79 Similarly, by asserting that white privilege is invisible, she suggests that people cannot be blamed for not seeing it. Because men and white people cannot see their own privilege, much of their "oppressiveness [is] unconscious,"80 which presumably is a less egregious offense than is conscious oppressiveness. 37


Privilege is Related to Power, Oppression, Dominance, Inequality, and Discrimination. Mcintosh draws relationships among notions of privilege, power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination that obliterate any lines of distinction among them. In some instances, one phenomenon causes another, as when Mcintosh theorizes "negative privilege," which "simply confers dominance."81 In other instances, such as, "we in women's studies work [to] reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power,"82 two or more terms (power and privilege in this instance) are conflated. Mcintosh further conflates power and privilege in this statement: "I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systemically. Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is, in fact, permission to escape or to dominate. But not all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging. "83 In the following passage, Mcintosh equates negative privilege with dominance, power, and unearned advantage: The negative "privilege" that gave me cultural permission not to take darker-skinned Others seriously can be seen as arbitrarily conferred dominance and should not be desirable for anyone. This paper results from a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally saw as attendant on being a human being in the United States consisted in unearned advantage and confirmed dominance. 84 For Mcintosh, people who have privilege use their unfair advantage to oppress people who lack privilege, even if they do not mean to do so. Reflecting on her experiences among women's studies scholars before she saw her white privilege, 38


Mcintosh writes, "I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don't see ourselves that way."85 For Mcintosh, privilege and oppression are differently named expressions of the same phenomenon-privileged people oppress; oppressed people lack privilege. The relationship between privilege and power generally is one in which privilege "confers power and dominance" upon individuals. Mcintosh writes, "power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate." Furthermore, she equates one's measure of privilege with one's measure of power, as illustrated in her observation that, as a white person, she has the "privilege not to listen to less powerful people." 86 In some instances, she conflates her constructed qualities of privilege with the qualities of power, as suggested by her notion that privileged individuals have "arbitrarily awarded power." 87 Accordingly, because privilege is unfair, unearned, and arbitrarily awarded, it confers power in such a way that calls for "more equitable distributions ofpower."88 Thus, while privilege underlies and is a precursor to the oppression, power, and deprivation that sustain social inequality, discrimination (e.g., racism and sexism) also is associated with privilege but without any causative claims. In other words, Mcintosh does not claim either that discrimination causes privilege or that privilege causes discrimination; rather, the two phenomena simply are associated. Mcintosh writes: 39


Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantaging associated with them should not be seen as the same. In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage which rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking. (17) Privilege is the Misallocation of Scarce Resources. Mcintosh reasons that if some people have and others do not have something that most everyone wants, that thing is misallocated. Referring to an example of what she calls positive privilege, "feeling that one belongs within the human circle," she writes, "ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them."89 She further builds scarcity in the construct of privilege by suggesting that men should "give up" some of their privilege so that women might have more. 90 Mcintosh's notion of inequitable "distributions ofpower"91 characterizes power as a commodity available in limited quantities to be apportioned to individuals by some determinant. In this instance, privilege is that determinant, so more privilege yields more power, and no privilege yields no power. Mcintosh thus constructs scarcity as a quality of power. This construct imposes an incumbent deprivation upon others by construing privilege as a misallocation of scarce resources. The privilege and power certain individuals have is theirs at the expense and deprivation of others. Privilege Impedes Social Justice. Mcintosh's rhetoric, in which privilege is constructed as unearned, unfair, associated with discrimination, conflated with oppression, and a determinant of power situates privilege among unequivocally unjust 40


conditions even while it avoids assigning culpability. Accordingly, Mcintosh concludes that privilege must be eradicated to facilitate a just society. Seemingly confident in her audience's benevolent intentions, Mcintosh challenges readers to join her to "lessen or end" privilege. 92 Where We Stand: Class Matters by bell hooks Hooks theorizes class privilege from the perspective of a person who now has-but has not always had---<:lass privilege. Hooks writes Where We Stand: Class Matters (Routledge, 2000) to theorize for a general audience both class and privilege from the standpoint of an educated African-American woman who considers herself to have class privilege when she writes this book. In addition, the author considers herself to lack other types of privilege such as gender-based and skin-color-based privilege. For these reasons, hooks' standpoint toward privilege may be described as both an insider's and an outsider's perspective. Hooks writes in a confessional narrative style, but she avoids self-indictment in her construct of privilege. Her immunity from culpability for her privilege seems to arise from both her original lack of class privilege and her current lack of other types of privilege. Even so, she describes differently privileged individuals quite negatively. She writes, for example, "At the university where the founder, Leland Stanford, had imagined different classes meeting on common ground, I learned how deeply individuals with class privilege feared and hated the working classes."93 41


Similarly, she writes, "privileged people are the individuals who create representations ofblackness where education is deemed valueless, where violence is glamorous, [and] where the poor are dehumanized."94 Such individuals presumably do not share hooks' values. Even so, in the concluding pages of this book, hooks owns her class privilege. She writes, "no matter the class privilege I hold today, for most of my life I have lived as one with the poor and working classes."95 Hooks constructs privilege rhetorically with the following features: I) Privilege is an object; 2) Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity groups; 3) Privilege is the condition of being comfortable; 4) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination; 5) Privilege is the misallocation of scarce resources; 6) Privilege is a feature of class; 7) Individuals know whether they are privileged; 8) Unprivileged individuals can and should become privileged; and 9) Individuals have varying degrees of privilege. Privilege is an Object. Privilege is constructed metaphorically as an objectsomething that individuals may possess, acquire, hold, and share with others. Hooks writes, "It is the task of those who hold greater privilege to create practical strategies."% Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. Hooks indicates that privilege arises from various aspects of identity by referencing white privilege, class privilege, economic privilege, material privilege, ruling class privilege, heterosexist privilege, and male privilege. Such references define privileged 42


groups only in opposition to others-by who they are not rather than by who they are. Materially privileged individuals, for example, are not poor, underprivileged, or working class. Hooks thus references, without expressly defining, heterosexist privilege merely as something not available to non-heterosexual individuals. She does so by explaining that lesbians "had by their sexual preference already placed themselves outside the domain ofheterosexist privilege and protection, both in the home and in the workplace."97 Similarly, those with class privilege and the poor are constructed as distinctly different individuals if not groups in hooks' remark, "the fear of being taken advantage of by those in need has led many people with class privilege to tum their backs on the poor."98 Privilege is the Condition of Being Comfortable. Although class privilege fails to offer immunity from racism, it is the condition of being comfortable because it is the antithesis of poverty. Hooks writes, "a host of black folks pulled themselves out of poverty into privilege."99 Privilege is Related to Power. In some instances, privilege confers power upon the privileged. Hooks writes, "Poor whites knew the power race privilege gave them and they used it."100 People who have privilege thus also have power, as hooks suggests in such claims as, "all black people knew that white skin gave any southern 'cracker or peckerwood' (ethnic slurs reserved for the white poor) more power and privilege than even the wealthiest of black folks."101 43


Privilege is the Misallocation of Scarce Resources. Hooks conceptualizes privilege as an abundance of resources for some and a lack of resources for others. She indicates that such resources are scarce by asserting that they should be reallocated. She writes, "the day will come when we will all have to live with less. If people of privilege want to help the poor, they can do so by living simply and by sharing their resources." 102 Wealth is a Determinant of Privilege. Hooks conceptualizes privilege as an incumbent feature of class. She does not define key terms such as class and privilege; rather, she simply writes about them as though they exist with readily recognizable meanings. Class seems roughly to equate to wealth, and all individuals who are not poor or working class are privileged. In some instances, individuals are described as privileged, while in others they are described as materially privileged. No distinction between the two terms is offered. Individuals who are not privileged are labeled underprivileged, without class privilege, and poor. The thresholds between rich and poor and privileged and underprivileged are not defined. Rather, by so classifying individuals without explanation, hooks suggests that such classifications are instantly knowable or known. For example, she writes, "white friends I had known in high school wore their class privilege modestly," without giving readers any way ofknowing what constitutes such friends' class privilege. 103 44


Individuals Know Whether They are Privileged. For hooks, individuals want privilege if they do not have it, and although some may be born privileged, she does not suggest that they do not consent to or know about their privilege. She writes, "folks without privilege, who are yearning to have, do not want to be critical of class elitism, and folks with privilege, who want to maintain it at the expense of others, are careful not to talk about ending class hierarchies."104 Because hooks makes no suggestion that privileged individuals are unaware of their privilege, she does not attempt to foster such an awareness or to suppose that individuals aware of their privilege will help dismantle it. To the contrary, hooks describes the most materially privileged individuals as "a predatory ruling class"105 and remarks, "most ruling class individuals mask their pleasure in domination and exploitation.''106 Unprivileged Individuals Can and Should Become Privileged. Hooks calls for certain individuals to pursue more privilege. Accordingly, she does not argue that privilege is bad, unfair, or unearned or that privilege should be eradicated. She is not concerned with making others aware of their privilege. Although she frequently is critical of individuals who have privilege and does not expressly claim that individuals can earn privilege, she avoids asserting that privilege arises only arbitrarily. To do so would undercut the narrative in which she attributes her privilege to hard work and struggle. Hooks suggests that individuals can ascend to higher classes through their own effort and with help from others. For hooks, people in higher classes have 45


privilege, while people in lower classes do not. She says, for instance, that in the struggle to change their class positions, some people "start on the bottom rung."107 Moreover, she characterizes herself as one of the "poor and struggling folks" while she "made [her] way through graduate school and up the economic ladder."108 Acknowledging her own agency in the process of changing her class position, hooks writes, "in the space of race and gender I am most likely to stand among those victimized; class is the one place where I have a choice about where I stand."109 She thus suggests that while other types of privilege such as gender-based and race-based privilege are conditions as immutable as gender and race, some class mobility is possible in the United States. Even if hooks believes that individuals may earn their ascension into higher classes, she still labels their condition upon arrival privileged. The possibility of change in individuals' privilege statuses is given little consideration throughout the literature. Generally, authors seek to end privilege, which means presumably that privileged individuals would cease to be privileged. Accordingly, authors encourage privileged individuals to relinquish their privilege to promote justice. Only hooks contemplates the possibility that some individuals may wish to become privileged and may intentionally achieve such a goal. Hooks conceptualizes class privilege as a somewhat fluid condition for those born without class privilege and as a permanent classification for those born with class privilege. Telling of a time when she began to have more income than ever before, she writes: 46


I felt I was falling into that trap many individuals from poor and working-class backgrounds fall into when we move into more privileged class positions. Constant vigilance (that includes a principled practice of sharing my resources) has been the only stance that keeps me from falling into the hedonistic consumerism that so quickly can lead individuals with class privilege to live beyond their means.110 Hooks thus both suggests some mobility in one's privileged or not-privileged status and avoids claiming that individuals (including herself) become privileged. Instead, they "move into more privileged class positions." This passage further suggests that even after moving into such a position, hooks does not self-identify as an individual with class privilege-she describes how such individuals are different. Similarly, hooks writes about entering "worlds where individuals were materially privileged," defining herself as different from such people while living in their world.111 Individuals Have V arving Degrees of Privilege. In addition to constructing privilege statuses with varying measures of mobility, hooks uniquely incorporates into her theory notions of degrees of class privilege. Degrees of privilege allow for rankings of privilege and lack thereof among individuals who share identity groups. For example, she writes that among women in the feminist movement who endeavored together to disrupt male oppression of women, "it was evident that black women were clearly at the bottom of this society's economic totem pole."112 She also distinguishes between more and less privileged African Americans and more and less 47


privileged white people. She contrasts "those who have abundant privilege with those who have little."113 Moreover, while others essentialize white privilege and attribute it to all white people, hooks describes it as something of an illusion perpetrated by economically privileged whites to trick poor whites into believing that "white supremacy is still giving them a meaningful edge." This effort "to brainwash poor whites," according to hooks, undermines solidarity among poor people across races and maintains poor whites' solidarity with privileged whites.114 The degrees of privilege are matters of class-degrees of poverty and wealth. Perhaps equating economic security with privilege, hooks argues that impoverished individuals should seek greater degrees of privilege. "White Privilege Shapes the U.S." by Robert Jensen in Privilege: A Reader Jensen theorizes white privilege for a general audience from an insider's perspective-that of a white male college professor. His essay is a confessional narrative in which white privilege is characterized as "the dirty little secret that we white people carry around with us."115 For Jensen, the primary implication of white privilege is that "in a world of white privilege, some of what we [white people] have is unearned."116 Jensen constructs privilege rhetorically with the following features: 1) Privilege is an object; 2) Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity 48


groups; 4) Privilege is unearned and unfair advantage; 5) Individuals are privileged without their consent or knowledge; and 6) Privilege impedes social justice. Privilege is an Object. Jensen constructs privilege as an object by asserting its physical existence. He says, for example, that white privilege is "real and tangible."117 Jensen further characterizes privilege as something to be possessed and carried in the remark, "white privilege is not something I get to decide whether or not I want to keep .... I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased from this society."118 Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. For Jensen, privilege is unavoidable for individuals born into a dominant identity group He writes "all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves."119 He speculates that in addition to race, class and gender are determinants of privilege. Jensen writes, "some white people have had it easier than me, probably because they came from wealthy families that gave them even more privilege. Some white people have had it tougher than me because they came from poorer families. White women face discrimination I will never know."120 Privilege is Unearned and Unfair Advantage. Jensen uses a metaphor of life is a game to assert that privilege constitutes unfair advantage. He writes, "the rules under which I work in [sic] are stacked in my benefit."121 He describes privilege as unearned in the remark "we live in a world of white privilege-unearned white privilege." 122 49


Individuals are Privileged without Their Consent or Knowledge. For Jensen, privileged people do not know they are privileged because privilege is a secret about which individuals are silent. He endeavors to tell the secret with this essay and in his pedagogy by talking about his own experiences. He writes, "rather than try to tell others how white privilege has played out in their lives, I talk about how it has affected me."123 Moreover, he asserts the irrelevance of consent in determining one's privilege by remarking, "white privilege is not something I get to decide whether or not I want to keep."124 Privilege Impedes Social Justice. For Jensen, white privilege is a vestige of white supremacy. He writes that, white privilege will endure "until the day white supremacy is erased from this society. Frankly, I don't think I will live to see that day; I am realistic about the scope of the task."125 "Teaching about Being an Oppressor" by Steven P Schacht in Privilege: A Reader Schacht theorizes male privilege from an insider's perspective-that of a white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual male. His essay is a deeply confessional narrative that extends beyond the parameters of others' confessions, which are roughly of the I failed to notice my privilege variety, to the I grossly exploited others variety. Schacht's construct of privilege is not one of advantage conferred upon individuals without their complicity. His is not a blameless, non-confrontational construct in the Mcintosh tradition. Rather, males are responsible for sustaining their 50


own privilege, and their proper task is to reject it. For Schacht, privilege is conferred upon males, who sustain but do not name or examine their own privilege. Privilege has agency, accrues to members of various dominant groups, is unearned and unfair advantage, is the condition of being comfortable, may be conferred without the consent or knowledge of the privileged, is related to power, oppression, and dominance, impedes social justice, is a process, and is sustained through silence. Privilege has Agency. For Schacht, privilege acts to alter circumstances for individuals who are privileged as well as for those who are not. He writes, ''these are privileges that not only subordinate and oppress people but they often further reinforce and enhance the status of the dominant party who is exercising them."126 Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. Schacht attributes his own privilege to a number of identity groups to which he belongs. He writes, "being a white heterosexual male from an upper-middle-class background meant I was born into a social status that afforded me limitless opportunities to obtain immeasurable amounts of male prestige, privilege, power, and concordant wealth."127 He elaborates, "the experiential knowledge I bring into my classes is very much situated in that of an incredibly privileged societal member: I am male, white, heterosexual, and from an upper middle class background."128 Privilege is Unearned and Unfair Advantage. The condition of being privileged clearly constitutes injustice for Schacht. He writes, "I have witnessed many men (although admittedly not all) in my classes very much loosen the otherwise firm 51


grip they have on justifying and living the male privilege that society so unjustly confers upon them." 129 Schacht describes his own privilege as unearned. He writes, "I attempt to share with the participants in my courses the ways in which much of the privilege that has been conferred upon me has been unearned."130 Privilege is the Condition of Being Comfortable. Privilege renders individuals comfortable primarily by sparing them the experience of being oppressed. Schacht writes, "I honestly can claim no experiences of being oppressed."131 For Schacht, male privilege includes other aspects of comfort relative to women's experiences such as reduced accountability at home and at work and having little responsibility for domestic tasks and child-rearing. Individuals are Privileged without Their Consent or Knowledge. Male privilege is conferred by society, according to Schacht. He writes, "by making men aware of the unearned advantages that society confers upon them, coupled with the knowledge of how this is oppressive to the significant women in their lives, many men are left in an ideological bind."132 Although males may be unaware of their privilege, such unawareness may be willful. Schacht writes, "we live in a society where ignorance truly is bliss, especially for those with unearned male privilege and status." 133 Privilege is Related to Power. Oppression. and Dominance. For Schacht, a privileged male is very likely an oppressor. He endeavors to add a different 52


perspective to the ongoing dialogue about privilege by telling his "different story of the how's and why's of being an oppressor."134 He writes: While being privileged has significantly decreased the likelihood of me being oppressed . it has correspondingly increased the likelihood of me being an oppressor. That is, both in action and mere presence, much of my life has been spent being oppressive to others. Accordingly, much of my privilege and status has been purchased at the expense of societal subordinates, as they were the real estate and obvious requisites for me being superior and doing masculinity: it was through the humiliation and degradation of others (sometimes in the form of their bruised and bloodied bodies), 135 the resultant terror and pain in their eyes, and the typical powerlessness and helplessness of their response that I came to experience and fallaciously believe myself to be superior to so many others. 136 In this narrative, privilege seems to be Schacht's accomplice. It urges him to victimize others by increasing the likelihood of his being an oppressor. For Schacht, a causal relationship seems to exist between his privilege and his oppression of others, and that causal relationship seems to relieve him of some, but not all, responsibility for oppressing others. Schacht relates power to privilege only as one of the benefits of being a member of several dominant identity groups. Among the benefits of being white, heterosexual, male, and upper middle class are "limitless opportunities to obtain immeasurable amounts of male prestige, privilege, power, and concordant wealth."137 Privilege is the Misallocation of Scarce Resources. The privilege of some denies privilege to others, according to Schacht. He explains, "I hope to teach the participants of my courses that the reason that women, people of color, the poor, and 53


so forth are truly disadvantaged is that certain individuals, such as myself, are truly over-privileged in our society."138 A scarcity of the resources that constitute "over privileged" status is required for such a status to render others "disadvantaged." Privilege Impedes Social Justice. For Schacht, an end to male privilege would facilitate a more just world. He writes, "a world without unearned male privilege would be a significant step in the pursuit of a non-oppressive, egalitarian future." 139 Privilege is a Process. Schacht suggests that privilege is a process, something men "do." He alludes to the notion of privilege as a process by conflating privilege with dominance and referencing "experiences of doing male dominance 140 Individuals Sustain Their Own Privilege by Being Silent. Rather than relieving men of responsibility for their privilege, Schacht finds privileged males to be participants in maintaining their privilege both actively and passively. He asserts, "unearned male privilege and status ... provide men with an excuse to deny the existence of the very real and harmful sexist hierarchical realities that surround us and the active role men must play in their maintenance."141 Schacht explains that privilege is maintained through silence and willful "blindness." Instead, privilege is conferred upon men by society, but it is maintained by the men who participate in sustaining it. Schacht thus gives significant emphasis to individuals' agency in sustaining and enacting their own privilege. He faults some men for "failing to reject"142 privilege and for maintaining their privilege by remaining silent.143 Noting how little a man must do to maintain his privilege, Schacht 54


writes, "all that is expected of me is to remain silent and I, too, will cash in on my patriarchal dividend." 144 "Challenging Privilege through Africentric Social Work Practice" by Mary E. Swigonski in Social Work Swigonski's article addresses social workers in a disciplinary journal to implore them to "honor the profession's commitment to social change and social justice ... [by taking] up the work of unlearning, undoing, transforming, and revolutionizing the patterns of social privilege." The goal for doing so is to transform social institutions. 145 Privilege has Agency. Swigonski attributes agency to privilege by asserting that privilege oppresses people. She writes, "social workers must recognize the ways that the privileges of certain groups oppress members of other groups."146 Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. For Swigonski, all members of dominant identity groups are irrevocably privileged and for them, "it is not possible to give up privilege."147 The author attributes privilege to "particular groups" and suggests different "kinds of privileges" that have in common their origin-identity group membership. She writes: A comprehensive list ofthe kinds of privileges enjoyed by particular groups would be enormous, but some illustrative examples include capitalist privilege, racial (white) privilege, gender (male) privilege, socioeconomic (high income) privilege, sexual orientation (heterosexual) privilege, married privilege, religious privilege, and age (youth) privilege. 148 55


Such various bases for privilege notwithstanding, this text primarily is about race-based (white) privilege. Virtually all mentions ofprivileged individuals, groups, and perspectives reference "European Americans" and white people. 149 Privilege is Unearned. Swigonski characterizes privilege as unearned. She writes that "access to unearned privilege sustains continued inequality in the distribution of power and resources." so Privilege is Invisible to the Privileged and Visible to Others. Swigonski asserts that privileges are "generally invisible to those who enjoy them. It [privilege] is quite visible to those to whom it is denied."'s' Privilege is Related to Oppression. For Swigonski, privilege causes oppression, and oppression causes privilege. She suggests that oppression causes privilege in the claims, "privileges accrue to those who (consciously or not) oppress others"m and "all forms of oppression result in privileges for the oppressors."m She suggests that privilege causes oppression by remarking, "it is necessary to study the contexts of privilege that sustain oppression and to understand the unearned advantages that accrue from it." 154 Privilege is the Misallocation of Scarce Resources. The author construes "access to unearned privilege" as the determinant of both scarce resources and power. She writes, "access to unearned privilege sustains continued inequality in the distribution of power and resources."155 56


Privilege Impedes Social Justice. Swigonski does not seem to believe that privilege can end. She advocates "making privilege and its effects visible" for privileged individuals and asserts that privilege sustains oppression. She writes, "to more effectively confront oppression, it is necessary to study the contexts of privilege that sustain oppression."1s6 Swigonski explicitly links privilege and social justice in the following appeal to her peers: "To more effectively honor the profession's commitment to social change and social justice, social workers need to consciously and intentionally take up the work of unlearning, undoing, transforming, and revolutionizing the patterns of social privilege." 157 Privileged and Marginalized Statuses Overlap. Whatever privileges individuals may have, Swigonski notes that most people also are members of marginalized groups-a dichotomous opposite of privileged groups in her construct. Membership in marginalized groups may "be a barrier to recognizing areas of one's own life that are privileged."1s8 Elsewhere in the essay, the author does not compartmentalize privilege into areas of lives; rather, entire lives, individuals, and groups are either privileged or marginalized. She classifies as privileged, for example, those who are middle class, heterosexual, white, and European Americanindividuals she labels "members of dominant groups." She classifies as not privileged low-income people, gay men and lesbians, people of color, and members of ethnic minority groups-individuals she calls "members of marginalized groups." 159 Swigonski asserts that people either are privileged or are denied privilege. She does 57


not assign blame or responsibility for either condition. In other words, she makes no claims regarding who confers privilege or who denies privilege. "Heterosexual Identity and Heterosexism: Recognizing Privilege to Reduce Prejudice" by Jane M Simoni and Karina L. Walters in Journal o[Homosexuality Simoni and Walters address heterosexual privilege with a "gay-affirmative bias" 160 for a scholarly audience. The authors attempt with their research to quantify heterosexual privilege to help researchers understand the societal role of privilege. Such an understanding "may assist in decreasing prejudice."161 The article is organized and presented as a quantitative research report in a scholarly journal. Accordingly, it is a depersonalized account of research results. The authors' goals for researching privilege are to decrease heterosexist attitudes and to "shift the burden of fighting oppressive attitudes from the shoulders of the oppressed to those holding privilege." 162 Simoni and Walters construct privilege rhetorically with the following features: I) Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity groups; 2) Privilege is the condition ofbeing comfortable; 3) Privilege is invisible to the privileged; 4) Individuals are privileged without their consent or knowledge; 5) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination; 6) Privilege impedes social justice; and 7) Some privilege is granted legally, while other privilege is socially performed. 58


Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. Simoni and Walters suggest that dominant identity groups have privileged status. They write, "heterosexual individuals in this society possess a privileged status ... based on their sharing the sexual orientation of the majority.''163 The privileged status of heterosexual individuals affords them "unearned institutional entitlements and advantages (i.e., 'privilege').''164 They add, "other dominant groups exercising privilege include whites, males, Christians, and the able-bodied."165 Privilege is the Condition of Being Comfortable. Simoni and Walters assert, "a privileged status allows the privileged to experience their daily life and identity as routine, all encompassing, normal, neutral, and universal.''166 Privilege is Invisible to the Privileged. According to Simoni and Walters, privilege is "generally invisible to those experiencing privilege. This experienced invisibility renders discovering and taking responsibility for privilege difficult and complex.''167 Individuals are Privileged without Their Consent or Knowledge. The authors suggest that heterosexual people are largely unaware of their privilege. They write, "Although most heterosexuals understand that non-heterosexuals in this society are oppressed, they often fail to appreciate the advantages and entitlements that accrue from their own sexual orientation.''168 In addition, Simoni and Walters write, "among heterosexuals, the privilege of a heterosexual sexual orientation is particularly difficult to grasp."169 59


Privilege is Related to Power. Oppression, Dominance, Inequality. and Discrimination. The relationship between oppression and privilege is not causative for Simoni and Walters; rather, privilege and oppression are dichotomous notions so that people are either privileged or oppressed. They observe, "until recently, much cross-cultural research focused on the oppressed status of minority groups and ignored the privileged status of the majority."170 Prejudice also is a concept related to privilege. Simoni and Walters find that a greater degree of awareness of one's own privilege corresponds to a lesser degree of prejudice against others who are not privileged. "Understanding the role of privilege may assist in decreasing prejudice "171 Privilege is associated with power in the statement, "if the counselor does not consciously monitor his or her own privilege and its associated power in clinical transactions, it may be misused."172 The authors also suggest that racism and privilege are related concepts. They write, "this foundation is essential to more clearly understand the effects of racism and privilege on the reality of African Americans."173 Privilege Impedes Social Justice. The authors suggest that ongoing privilege impedes social justice with their remark, "that kind of work ensures the perpetuation of the privilege of the existing power structure and falls short of the larger goals of social justice." 174 Even so, they do not suggest that privilege should be eradicated. Instead, they find value in helping privileged individuals acknowledge their privilege to "contribute to shifting the burden of fighting oppressive attitudes from the 60


shoulders of the oppressed to those holding privilege, who, after all, possess the power and the responsibility to refonn."175 Some Privilege is Granted Legally. Privilege is either legaJly granted or socially perfonned. Legally granted privilege consists of"marriage, custody, and adoption rights; tax and insurance benefits; anti-discrimination protection in housing and employment; and benefits and protections in tenns of military service, inheritance, hospital visitation, pensions, and immigration." Such codified privilege originates and is maintained differently from privilege that is established and maintained as social practice without an explicit legal basis. "Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo" by Lewis Z. Schlosser in Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development Schlosser theorizes Christian privilege from outside the identity group to which he ascribes privilege. His essay is written and published for a scholarly audience; however, he addresses a general audience by distributing his essay from his Web site. Schlosser offers a list of28 manifestations of Christian privilege in the Mcintosh tradition (for which he credits Mcintosh). He writes the list in the firstperson voice from the perspective of a Christian American, even though he discloses in his essay that he is not a Christian. Thus, Schlosser presents a list of experiences he assumes others have rather than a list of his own experiences, while framing it as a first-person confessional account. For example, his list of privileges includes, "I can 61


be sure when I hear someone in the media talking about god that they are talking about my (the Christian) god."176 Schlosser constructs privilege rhetorically with the following features: I) Privilege has agency; 2) Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity groups; 3) Privilege is the condition of being comfortable; 4) Privilege is invisible; 5) Privileged individuals are not responsible for being privileged, but they are responsible for knowing they are privileged; 6) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination; and 7) Privilege impedes social justice. Privilege has Agency. For Schlosser, privilege has agency with which it dictates individuals' feelings. He describes the oppression of"non-Christians" as something perpetrated not by Christians but by Christian dogmatism. For Schlosser, this dogmatism is used to preserve Christian privilege and the sacred taboo. 177 He writes, "Christian religious dogmatism contributes to persons from minority religious groups feeling that their religious identity is not valued, and subsequently, they feel discrimination and oppression because of their religious group membership."178 In this way and with numerous items on his list of exemplary manifestations of Christian privilege, Schlosser conceptualizes privilege as a force that dictates individuals' feelings. The incomplete claim that individuals are made to feel "their religious identity is not valued" is notable for its failure to indicate by whom it is not valued. Presumably, non-Christians are made to feel by Christians that Christians do not 62


value non-Christian religious identities. If Christians' failure to value non-Christian religious identities creates a condition among non-Christians of being "not valued," then non-Christians, too, are privileging the Christian perspective. Privilege Accrues to Members of Various Dominant Identity Groups. Schlosser asserts identity group membership as the determinant of privilege with his claim, "all dominant groups are privileged." 179 He alludes to various bases for identity group privilege in his claim: "as the dominant group, Christians enjoy a variety of privileges."180 He elaborates, "Christians enjoy a variety of privileges, much like Whites and men do in the United States."181 Privilege is the Condition of Being Comfortable. For Schlosser, the comfort of being privileged is manifested in freedom from worry. He writes, Christians "do not need to worry about the ramifications of disclosing [their] religious identity to others."182 Privilege is Invisible. Citing Mcintosh, Schlosser explains, "as a Caucasian male in today's society, I enjoy many invisible advantages."183 Privileged Individuals are Not Responsible for Being Privileged, But They are Responsible for Knowing They are Privileged. Schlosser's rhetoric is notably non confrontational. Without assigning blame to any individuals, the author suggests that "both subtle and obvious pressures exist to ensure" Christian privilege, amounting to "a sacred taboo." Discussing Christian privilege, then, is breaking a sacred taboo, 184 and something that must be done to "enrich society's (U.S.) understanding of 63


people's experience."185 Even so, Schlosser argues that Christians are responsible for knowing they are privileged. He writes, "because Christians are the dominant religious group in the United States, it is their responsibility to recognize their power and the accompanying privileges.'' 186 Privilege is Related to Power and Oppression. For Schlosser, privilege may cause or contribute to oppression He writes, "future work should attempt to incorporate multiple aspects of privilege that coexist simultaneously. For example, the oppression that lesbian, gay male bisexual male and female, and transgendered individuals experience might be somewhat explained by Christian privilege."187 In a portion of his essay comprised of an autobiographical narrative, Schlosser explains that he and others are oppressed, but he does so without nwning the oppressors. After acknowledging his privilege as a "Caucasian male," he writes, "the ways in which I wn privileged have also led to the neglect and denial of the part of me that experiences oppression, that part of me is my identification of a member of a minority religious group."188 Continuing his blwneless construct, he adds that such groups "have experienced oppression and discrimination." 189 Privilege Impedes Social Justice. For Schlosser, the eradication of privilege is a prerequisite to social justice. He writes, "all people from both minority and dominant groups [to] work in conjunction to eradicate privilege.''190 64


Synthesis of the Analysis Results In this section, I synthesize the research findings to note the corresponding and diverging rhetorical constructs of privilege from among the texts analyzed. As previously noted, 11 significant assumptions underlie Mcintosh's construct of privilege: 1) Privilege is an object; 2) Privilege has agency; 3) Privilege accrues to members of various dominant identity groups; 4) Privilege is unearned and unfair advantage; 5) Privilege is the condition of being comfortable; 6) Privilege is invisible; 7) Individuals are privileged without their consent or knowledge; 8) Privileged individuals are not at fault for being privileged or for not knowing they are privileged; 9) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination; 1 0) Privilege is the misallocation of scarce resources; and 11) Privilege impedes social justice. The other texts analyzed collectively offer eight additional assumptions underlying the construct of privilege: 1) Wealth is a determinant of privilege (hooks); 2) Individuals know whether they are privileged (hooks); 3) Unprivileged individuals can and should become privileged (hooks); 4) Individuals have varying degrees of privilege (hooks); 5) Privilege is a process (Schacht); 6) Individuals sustain their own privilege through silence (Schacht); 7) Privileged and marginalized statuses overlap (Swigonski); and 8) Some privilege is granted legally while other privilege is socially performed (Simoni and Walters). These assumptions each are engaged in only one of the analyzed texts. 65


The other texts analyzed generally ratify Mcintosh's assumptions with few exceptions, although they do not do so unanimously. Mcintosh's notions that privilege accrues to members of dominant social identity groups and that privilege impedes social justice are the most pervasive underpinnings of the ongoing dialogue throughout the texts analyzed. The assumption that privilege accrues to members of dominant social identity groups underlies all of the analyzed texts. The notion that privilege impedes social justice is advanced by Jensen, Schacht, Swigonski, Simoni and Walters, and Schlosser---everyone except hooks. Although all except one of the authors of the analyzed texts (hooks) cite Mcintosh to help them define privilege, none concurs fully with her constructed meaning of privilege or with one another's meanings. Even so, they indicate no awareness of such differences and are not engaged in a dialogue to reconcile them. The few features of the rhetorical construct of privilege about which all the authors concur are: I) Privilege accrues to members of dominant identity groups; 2) Privilege arises from various bases; and 3) Privilege is related to power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination. The authors do not agree on whether privilege is invisible, an object, unearned, unfair, unavoidable, or permanent. Most do not assign it agency. The authors do not agree that privilege should be eradicated. Some want privilege for more people, some want an end to privilege, some want to reallocate privilege, and some want to make better use of privilege. The authors do not conceptualize privilege 66


in relation to power, oppression, inequality, and discrimination in the same ways. Moreover, in some instances, power, oppression, discrimination and/or inequality are inextricably associated with privilege, while in others they are not associated with privilege at all. Taken together, the various constructs of privilege contain mutually exclusive qualities. For example, privilege is both invisible and quite visible, and privilege both must be rejected by individuals interested in social justice and cannot be rejected by those who have it. In addition, the constructs contain internal inconsistencies, exemplified in tautological cause-and-effect relationships such as Swigonski's competing claims that privilege causes oppression and oppression causes privilege. A significant point of divergence among the texts is in the relationships drawn among privilege and oppression, dominance, inequality, and various forms of discrimination (e.g., racism and sexism). The nature and directions of these relationships contradict one another and vary so significantly that the texts suggest collectively that these concepts are related in ways the authors do not understand or perhaps in ways the authors understand but do not articulate in these texts. Many of the features of privilege, as Mcintosh constructs it, may be understood as rhetorical strategies she uses to absolve herself and others she considers privileged from any responsibility for both being privileged and being unaware of their privilege. She so absolves her readers by conceptualizing privilege as having agency, being invisible, and automatically accruing to members of dominant identity 67


groups without their consent or knowledge. While these strategies may contribute significantly to the enormous popularity and acceptance of Mcintosh's argument, they do not represent privilege as others tend to understand it. These strategies generally have not endured in ensuing constructs of privilege. Mcintosh's strategies for absolving her readers of responsibility for being privileged and not knowing they are privileged notwithstanding, an overarching purpose of her essay surely is to cause readers to feel guilty for being privileged. By doing so, Mcintosh and others urge audiences toward mortification-Kenneth Burke's notion of self-imposed denial, sacrifice, and restriction individuals choose to suffer in response to guilt they fee1.191 Mcintosh's repeated claims that privilege is invisible assure her readers that they are incapable of seeing privilege, regardless of the quality of their own vision or their efforts to see. No one can see what is invisible. Her notion of the unqualified invisibility of privilege reveals the perspective of theorizing exclusively from inside a phenomenon. In other words, Mcintosh does not suppose that privilege is invisible only for the privileged; rather, she argues that it simply is invisible. As those authors theorizing from outside the particular privileges about which they write attest, the privilege of others is not invisible. Although the other authors tend to agree that individuals are unaware of their own privilege, with exception to Mcintosh, they make little and in some instances no effort to absolve privileged people of responsibility for being unaware of their 68


privilege. For example, although authors throughout the literature about privilege frequently quote Mcintosh's passages that assert the invisibility of privilege (e.g., "the invisible knapsack"), only one of the six other texts analyzed contains any claims of invisible privileges, and that text includes only one such claim. Similarly, in a departure from Mcintosh's construct of privilege, most other authors make no suggestion that privilege is hidden or veiled. Others either avoid visual metaphor in describing privilege, or they expressly state that privilege is not invisible to those who do not have it, although it may be perceived as invisible by those who have it. This is a distinction that Mcintosh does not make. In addition to making abundant use of metaphor in constructing privilege, Mcintosh personifies privilege and other abstract notions, giving them agency. Taken in context, such language uses may be understood to facilitate the blameless construct of privilege that Mcintosh favors. In other words, where privilege serves as the actor in any given claim, no person or group of people must act. Among the other authors, only Schlosser exhibits Mcintosh's concern with naming no human agents in perpetrating privilege; however, Schlosser does not assign agency to privilege. Among the other authors, then, only Schacht assigns agency to privilege to avoid assigning agency to culpable individuals. This feature seems not to have endured in authors' subsequent constructs of privilege. Two authors do, however, assign agency to privilege in its relationship to oppression to claim that privilege oppresses people. 69


Although Mcintosh's notion of privilege that accrues to members of dominant identity groups without their knowledge or consent serves the purpose of relieving individuals from responsibility for being privileged, it is a notion perpetuated by each of the other authors with the exception of hooks. Hooks does not object uniformly to this idea, however. She advances the idea of white privilege that attaches to all white people, for example. Even so, she theorizes class privilege as something that people want if they do not have it and that individuals may gain through their own deliberate efforts. Hooks' acknowledgment of individuals' propensity toward achievement belies other authors' assumptions that individuals are wholly unaware of their privilege. In short, the analysis reveals that the research question, "how is privilege constructed rhetorically?" may be answered partially with the response, "in many different ways." Those features of privilege upon which the authors of the texts analyzed agree are too few to suffice as a complete construct of privilege. Accordingly, my critique does not address a unified construct of privilege; rather, it addresses privilege in the various ways in which the authors construct it rhetorically. 70


CHAPTER THREE A CRITIQUE OF THE RHETORICAL CONSTRUCT OF PRIVILEGE As the comparative analysis indicates, no consensus exists among scholars regarding the meaning of the word privilege. In this chapter, I will engage the synthesized results of the analysis to critique various aspects of the texts' constructs of privilege and the rhetorical strategies to which they are integral according to their utility in serving rhetors' goals. The goal with which I am concerned in that of the analyzed texts' authors-generally to effect progressive social change (e.g., to create a more just and/or equitable society) by making individuals aware of privilege and by reallocating or abolishing privilege. Accordingly, this critique is organized to engage various aspects of the analyzed constructs of privilege according to their utility for facilitating this goal. Rhetors' Goal: Create a More Just and/or Equitable Society by Making Individuals Aware of Privilege Perhaps most authors think they know something, maybe even something urgent, that their readers don't know but should. A goal shared by the authors of the analyzed texts (with the exception of hooks) is to make individuals aware of privilege-usually their own privilege. Underlying such a goal is an assumption that 71


readers do not know already about privilege. I submit that such an assumption is dubious. People Already Know about and are Indifferent to Privilege Public discourse suggests that most Americans are aware of and indifferent to privilege. For example, despite the persistent efforts of George W. Bush's political opponents to garner outrage among voters for many of the most flamboyant uses of his privilege, none seems to have upset at least half of the nation's voters. Bush's admissions to and graduations from Yale and Harvard despite his academic underachievement, his appointment to and early dismissal from the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, and his disappeared drug-use and drunkdriving arrest records are manifestations of his wealthy, connected, heterosexual white male privilege that exceeds vastly any privilege available to virtually all other Americans. Even so, millions seem utterly undisturbed by it. The negligible public reaction to Bush's extreme exercise of privilege suggests that Americans are both aware of privilege and not outraged by it. The Construct of Privilege Claims and Fails to Distinguish Between Those Who are Privileged and Those Who are Not Privileged The construct of privilege often is evoked to convince individuals of their own privilege rather than to generate outrage in response to others' privilege. One of the 72


essential elements of persuasive efforts to make people aware of privilege thus is a claim about who is privileged. If rhetors want individuals to acknowledge their own privilege, rhetors presumably must distinguish between the privileged and the not privileged and give audiences some means for determining whether they are privileged The authors of the analyzed texts make such distinctions in wide swaths by deeming all members of large identity groups privileged. Indeed, virtually everyone is privileged. Rhetors who wish to address privileged individuals can speak to almost anyone, according to the ways privilege is constructed. All of the analyzed texts acknowledge multiple bases for privilege and therefore imply that while an individual may lack privilege by virtue of one aspect of her identity she may have privilege for another A person is not privileged for being a woman, for example, but she is privileged for being able to walk, for having a savings account, and/or for being white. A single aspect of identity thus cannot exclude one from privilege, and most everyone is privileged somehow. Audience selection therefore is easy-almost everyone is privileged, and perhaps few individuals know it. The ways in which privilege is constructed, however, complicate matters by suggesting that some ranking of privileges is possible-some individuals may be more privileged than others. Schlosser implies, for example that in the United States, heterosexual white Christian males are the most privileged people, while hooks states expressly that black women are the least privileged people in the U S .192 Suggestions 73


made by other authors allow for additional determinants of relative privilege-for example, age, wealth, and disability. Moreover, I submit that privileges also may be somewhat determined by extroversion, height, standardized physical attractiveness, weight, articulation, charisma, hairstyle, personal hygiene, and choice of clothing. If these combined lists were to comprise all determinants of privilege, the most privileged person in the U.S. would be a wealthy, charismatic, articulate, young, tall, well-groomed, able-bodied, extroverted, well-dressed, heterosexual white Christian male who is not balding, overweight, or underweight. Of course, this is not a complete list of personal qualities and identity characteristics that determine individuals' privilege. This seemingly most privileged person may not be particularly privileged, for example, if he is addicted to heroin. As this intractable yet incomplete list of possible determinants of privilege suggests, attempts to assign and rank privileges in wide swaths according to such determinants as race, sexual orientation, gender, and religion are simplistic. Cursory acknowledgments of such simplification notwithstanding, the authors of the analyzed texts consistently construct privilege in such a way that it attaches to all members of social identity groups in roughly equal measures. Privilege is thus constructed in ways that serve rhetorically to assert intra-group equality. The term male privilege, for example, implies that some manner of privilege is apportioned to all males in equal measure and ignores other factors influencing the utility and manifestations of male privilege in any given life. 74


Acknowledgment of various bases for determining privilege statuses suggests that conceptualizing individuals as either privileged or not privileged is problematic at best and erroneous or deceptive at worst. The rhetorical construct of privilege encourages rhetors and audiences to perceive individuals as either privileged or not privileged, even while rhetors acknowledge that individuals are privileged in some ways and not privileged in others. Accordingly, any individual may be labeled unequivocally privileged in one context and not privileged in another. I, for example, may be described as privileged in a discussion about white privilege because I look white. I also may be described as not privileged in a discussion about male privilege. Given the changes in my status according to context, I may not be labeled accurately either as privileged or not privileged if the two labels are understood to exclude one another. Even so, privilege is constructed in ways that fail to acknowledge that individuals are not essentially privileged-they are at most contextually privileged. This untenable and simplistic oversight or shortcut in the construct of privilege fails to challenge audiences' most predictable response to allegations of their own privilege-that they are not privileged. Labeling individuals privileged or not privileged also contributes to maintaining privilege, which is not a goal articulated by any of the authors of the analyzed texts. Privilege that attaches to individuals as a part of their identities has no clear way of ending short of the removal from society of those people deemed privileged. Although such a solution lacks any merit whatsoever, it does facilitate 75


some useful questions: If all the privileged people were to exit society suddenly in a somewhat modified Rapture, would privilege cease to exist? Who would be left behind if all of the privileged people were to exit? I submit that if all individuals construed as privileged according to the rhetorical construct of privilege were to exit this world, everyone would exit just as surely as a biblical Rapture that leaves behind the sinners would leave everyone behind. Barring such a Rapture for the privileged, privileged people would have to cease to be privileged to accommodate many rhetors' ultimate goal-to end privilege. The rhetorical construct of privilege is ill suited for separating privileged people from their privilege because the construct asserts permanent privilege. If members of dominant/majority identity groups simply are privileged, as the construct of privilege mandates, then their privilege is as intractable as their identities. The construct of privilege mandates privilege for white people, for example as long as white is the United States' most prevalent skin color. Similarly, it mandates privilege for heterosexuals as long as a majority of Americans are heterosexual. While these truths may seem self-evident, they are constructed and could be constructed differently. Although the rhetorical construct of privilege suggests otherwise, white privilege and heterosexual privilege are not the inevitable extensions of majority populations; rather, they are optional processes of dominance. The history of South Africa illustrates the point that majority status does not determine privilege. Under the now-defunct social and legal system of Apartheid, 76


South Africa's small minority of white people ruled its majority population of native South Africans, reserving virtually all privilege--defined here in the broadest sense to include legal rights and human rights-for themselves during the 42 years ending in 1990. The capacity of minority groups to govern and dominate majority groups suggests that white privilege in the U.S. should not be expected to end automatically in the event that white people cease to be a majority identity group in the U.S. Moreover, females now comprise a majority of the U.S. gender population, but female privilege remains an elusive concept. In short, the assumption that majority population status determines privilege must be separated from the assumption that dominant status determines privilege. Dominance as a determinant of privilege differs from majority population as a determinant in that dominance connotes process-something people do to one another-rather than something people simply are. If we remove from the construct of privilege the notion that majority group membership automatically confers privilege, we discontinue constructing privilege as an inevitability assured by population imbalances. If privilege accrues to members of majority groups, then someone always will be privileged, and efforts to end privilege are futile. Alternatively, if privilege accrues to members of dominant groups, then some possibility for change may be found in dissembling the processes of dominance. Specifically, individual members of such groups might recognize that by choosing not to dominate others, they might reduce 77


privilege by helping to bring about the end of their group's dominance and/or by making little or no use of their dominant group-based privilege. If individuals instead believe that they simply are privileged without recourse, they may make little or no effort to address the processes of dominance that underlie their privilege. To the extent that the rhetorical construct of privilege ascribes privilege to members of majority population groups, it masks the United States' extreme concentrations of wealth. For example, a concept of class privilege that allows for most Americans (e.g., middle class, upper class, and ruling class) to have privilege while some do not neglects the fact that about 40% of all household wealth in the U.S. is held by just I% of the population.193 Instead, such a construct of class privilege answers only a yes/no question. One either is privileged or is not, and the financial determinants of such privilege range from having a statistically average wage (middle class) or income to being among the wealthiest individuals in the nation. Such a category is so broad that very few credible claims may be made to encompass the experience of all its members. Notions of privilege rooted in majority populations mask the concentration of political and economic power among very few individuals. Although the rhetorical construct of white privilege accurately anticipates that an overwhelming majority of institutional (e.g., political, business, and educational) leaders in the U.S. are white, it says nothing about those few powerful individuals' relative privilege among white people or the larger population. In short, while some measure of privilege may accrue 78


to large majority identity groups, some far greater measure of privilege accrues to members of small groups such as the society's wealthiest and most politically connected families, and the rhetorical construct of privilege masks this fact. For the most part, constructs of privilege neglect to allow for any degrees of privilege. Among the rhetors whose texts were analyzed, only hooks allows for status variances more sophisticated than privileged or not privileged. Hooks' concern with ranking degrees of privilege culminates in her claim that poverty or wealth is, if not the greatest determinant of individuals' relative privilege, one greater than race. Arguing that white privilege usurped white poverty prior to the civil rights movement, hooks says that white privilege now is negated among impoverished white people. She writes, "the poor of any race no longer have an edge in this society." 194 Also, quite unlike the other texts analyzed in this study, hooks' perspective on poverty among white people suggests that notions of white privilege hide or render invisible a lack of privilege among poor whites. She notes that the mass media misuse statistics and images to put "a black face" on poverty and says that what the statistics "mask is that blacks are a small percentage of the population. While black folks disproportionate to our numbers are among the poor, the vast majority ofthe poor continue to be white. The hidden face of poverty in the United States is the untold stories of millions of poor white people."195 Although the notion of majority-group privilege largely has supplanted the notion of"the privileged few," the analyzed texts contain a few highly incongruent 79


references to the privilege ofthe few. This suggests that while their constructs otherwise neglect small-group privilege in favor of large-group privilege, the authors of the analyzed texts conflate the two notions in some ways. For example, Mcintosh writes: It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already. 196 Another assumption in the construct of privilege is that all privilege belongs to the members of one of every two dichotomous groups so that members of dominant identity groups are privileged and all others are not. For example, white people are assumed privileged, and people of color are assumed not privileged. Similarly, heterosexual privilege is predicated on the assumption that everyone who is not heterosexual is not privileged. Even so, I propose that privilege, which I construe here as favorable conditions more readily available to members of the group than to others, attaches to most if not all identity groups rather than only to dominant groups. The relative value of each privilege is subject to interpretation. I offer female privilege as an example of privilege not contemplated in the construct of male privilege. Like male privilege, female privilege is manifested in societal norms that individuals may or may not consider advantageous. Female privilege includes, for example, being exempt from registering for the military draft in the United States. 80


Female privilege allows generally that a female may express and/or display a full range of emotion (except anger) in the presence of others without severely disrupting expectations or impelling others to judge her harshly and/or to advise her to "be a woman" and quit feeling so much. Relative to males, females also might be privileged by lower automobile insurance rates; more variety in culturally acceptable fashions for clothing, shoes, and hairstyles; and freedom from social pressure to be physically strong, mechanically adept, and willing to repair broken things or kill bugs. Perhaps ideal audience members for rhetors who wish to assert audience member privilege are people who are unequivocally privileged, capable of disdaining their own privilege, and simply unaware prior to engagement with the rhetor that they are privileged. Given a construct of privilege that both includes and excludes almost everyone from various privileged groups, such ideal audience members surely are in short supply. Instead, those who may be willing to identify as privileged-in-some ways-but-not-in-others might be expected to object to being labeled simply privileged and perhaps to other parts ofrhetors' accompanying messages. In short, privilege is constructed in such a way that no one is unequivocally privileged, so rhetors' allegations of privilege may be presumed to pertain to someone else. Audience members thus are likely to miss entirely the transformative experience sought by rhetors and to remain aware of the privilege of others while confident that 81


they are not among the privileged or at least not among the very privileged-the ones who really ought to undergo change. The Construct of Privilege Does Not Indicate What Privilege Is If rhetors wish to make individuals aware of their own privilege, rhetors presumably will need to articulate exactly what privilege is. The authors of the analyzed texts fail to do so. Instead, they simply refer to privilege without defining it and/or write in abstract terms about what privilege "looks like" or "sounds like." Communication Processes are Not Named. I submit that privilege can be defined as a collection of communication processes and that to define privilege, rhetors must describe its processes. Rather than describing the processes of privilege, they describe some implications of such processes. An example of such an implication is, "when I am told about our national heritage or about 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my race made it what it is." 197 The processes of privilege in this example include the myriad determinants of what and how children are taught in school and the rhetorical means for creating and maintaining cultural myths. Such communication acts and artifacts are the processes of privilege, but privilege is constructed in ways that say little of process. Instead, privilege is constructed as static and devoid of process, so individuals know little about how they perform privilege and perhaps less about how to stop performing privilege. As privilege is constructed, it may inspire little specific action 82


in response. While rhetors would have audiences become aware of their privilege as the primary way of rectifying privilege, the ensuing steps are unclear because privilege is constructed as an object, a possession, and a thing more than it is conceptualized as a process or as many processes. When constructed as something that individuals have without their consent and/or knowledge, privilege is construed as an object or phenomenon that exists external to the people who possess it-something they did not choose and cannot change-in short, something to which they need not attend. This feature of privilege denies the communication processes that create, maintain, and are privilege. The ways privilege is constructed thus mask the possibility for change that lies in changing the processes of privilege. Although the authors display concern with the implications of privilege when they present lists of ways they experience privilege, such lists do not tend to rest on privilege conceptualized as process, presumably because privilege is constructed rhetorically as a condition or a possession. The manifestations of privilege the authors of the analyzed texts present are examples of privilege rather than explications of the processes of privilege. For example, the claim that Christians are privileged by radio and television broadcasts of songs and programs that celebrate their religion 198 names no agents or processes of the privilege. The rhetorical construct of privilege as a condition or possession encourages rhetors to describe privilege in quite incomplete 83


narratives and to describe what privilege looks and sounds like without describing how it is created. Privilege without process is a notion perpetuated if not originated by Mcintosh, who sees privilege as an invisible, weightless knapsack that dominant group members carry without being aware that they do so.199 For Mcintosh, privilege constructed without process facilitates her rhetorical strategy of blaming no one for privilege. Perhaps Mcintosh engages the notion of privilege to discuss power, oppression, dominance, discrimination, and inequality while using a blameless, static construct. Perhaps those features ofthe rhetorical construct of privilege serve some useful purposes such as reducing audiences' resistance by reducing the inherent confrontation. For example, labeling an individual privileged probably is less of an affront than labeling a person oppressive or dominant. Even so, the notion of privilege without process and agents cannot survive scrutiny because privilege has no existence apart from its processes. Privilege is Not Distinguished from Other Notions. Privilege is constructed in ways that render it difficult to discern from other notions such as power and domination. The conflation of power and privilege, for example, is a common phenomenon within the texts analyzed. Indeed, throughout the texts, the authors display a lack of certainty in their understandings of how privilege, power, oppression, dominance, inequality, and discrimination are related. In addition to often conflating the terms and sometimes disagreeing with themselves, the authors 84


frequently disagree with one another's claims about how these concepts are related. Swigonski claims in a single sentence, for example, both that privilege causes oppression and that oppression creates privilege. In other claims, she states that people gain privilege by oppressing others. More typically, however, the authors present together the concepts of prejudice, privilege, power, inequality, and oppression without articulating their relationships and delineations. For example, Schlosser writes: Christians are not likely to know (or believe) that the environment is oppressive because that environment has never been oppressive to them for being Christian. Thus, Christian privilege is likely to be a result of Christianity being the nonconscious ideology (in terms of religious group membership) of the United States. Even if this is a valid explanation for the existence of Christian privilege, because Christians are the dominant group in the United States, it is their responsibility to recognize their power and the accompanying privileges. 200 Perhaps Schlosser means that dominance yields power and power yields privilege---or perhaps not-but those notions' relationships to oppression is entirely unclear. Similarly, Schacht assigns a high level of interchangeability among the terms dominance, oppression, and privilege in his discussion about male privilege: Instead of abstractly talking about male dominance and women's subordination, I attempt to put a face on oppression. I offer my own experiences of doing unearned male privilege, and recognize the harm it inflicted on others, both female and male. Often courageous male students will also offer their experiences of doing male dominance. In all classroom discussions female students freely and frequently offer their experiences of being oppressed by men. 201 85


Mcintosh obliterates any distinction between privilege and dominance by equating the two. She does so by drawing dichotomies in which individuals are either dominant or oppressed and individuals are either privileged or oppressed. All those who are oppressed, then, are neither dominant nor privileged, and all those who are privileged also are dominant. She further contlates power and privilege by claiming, for example, that privilege is "arbitrarily awarded power." Mcintosh also credits privilege for conferring both power and dominance without distinguishing between the two notions in any way. In short, Mcintosh equates privilege, dominance, and power and dichotomizes their unified meaning in juxtaposition to the condition of being oppressed. Individuals who are not privileged/dominant/powerful are oppressed. The failure to justify such relationship claims and the apparent absence of delineation among the concepts of privilege, power, oppression, dominance, discrimination, and inequality are not unique to the analyzed texts. Carbado's noncommittal claim that "power and privilege are relational"202 is the most believable claim I have found regarding any relationship between power and privilege. More bold and prevalent claims so convincingly muddle any distinctions among various constructs that they suggest that privilege is power is oppression is dominance is discrimination is inequality. In other words, privilege is just one of several possible names for a single often-researched and -theorized phenomenon. 86


If so, then labeling the unified phenomenon in a variety of ways may be regarded as a rhetorical strategy unto itself. Each label for the phenomenon may be constructed in relation to the others, as privilege is, and may be made of approximately the same materials. Each label also may hide a few of the phenomenon's unattractive features and attach a few adornments the others have surrendered to external scrutiny. The differing appearances may seem to justify the differing labels. Eventually, however, rhetors should strip away the embellishments to reveal a single constructed phenomenon. Although comparative analyses of the rhetorical constructs of privilege, power, oppression, dominance, discrimination, and inequality would significantly inform this discussion, such analyses exceed the scope of this study. Absent such comparative analyses, I will suggest that privilege's conflation with power, oppression, dominance, discrimination, and inequality is a part of its rhetorical construction that permits rhetors to render privilege a notion similar to and as familiar and significant as power, oppression, dominance, discrimination, and inequality but with the modifications that make it uniquely privilege. This conflation functions as a shortcut to theorizing privilege and legitimating the concept. The implied claim is, "Privilege is power/oppression/dominance /supremacy/discrimination/inequality but different." 87


Rhetors' Goal: Create a More Just and/or Equitable Society by Reallocating or Abolishing Privilege In each of the analyzed texts, the authors construct a notion of privilege and put that notion in service toward their goal of creating a more just and/or equitable society by reallocating or abolishing privilege. Their two-step process is: 1) make people aware of privilege; and 2) abolish or reallocate privilege. Ifthe women's movement were designed similarly, it would have included only two steps: 1) raise consciousness; and 2) end patriarchy. Obviously, more elaborate rhetorical strategies are in order. Instead of using more elaborate rhetorical strategies, the authors of the analyzed texts display a faith that individuals will want to rectify privilege once they know about it. In this faith, individuals will want not only the abolition of privilege, but they also will want to eviscerate their own privilege as a contribution to the cause. Extending the women's movement as an analogy, men would be the movement's leaders and participants, choosing to act benevolently to end patriarchy in response to finding out that society is patriarchal. I submit that at least two impediments to the feasibility of such faith to facilitate transformation are readily identifiable: I) awareness of a problem is not enough to inspire people to rectify it; and 2) people like privilege and want more of it. 88


Awareness of a Problem Is Not Enough Much of the literature about privilege seems to be of the consciousness-raising variety in which authors pin their hopes for progressive social change on the belief that if only people knew about privilege, they would agree that privilege is bad and that it must be rectified. Rhetors presumably do not want audiences newly informed about privilege to respond with a disinterested shrug, a helpless sigh, or "so what?" Instead, rhetors presumably want audiences to care deeply, to respond with outrage, and to take action to rectify privilege and its incumbent injustice. Increased awareness may inspire audience members to care more and to feel outrage, but a rhetorical strategy for ending privilege is incomplete without some indication of the processes that might rectify privilege. People Want Privilege Privilege is constructed rhetorically both as something people want and should have and as something inherently disdainful that people should reject. Hooks gives the only indication from among all the authors of the analyzed texts that individuals aspire to privilege-that it is a status coveted both by those who have privilege and those who do not. Although Schacht says that many men might consider foolish the idea of giving up any of their privilege203 and Schlosser contends that Christians want to keep all religious privilege for themselves, 204 they do not suggest that women and non-Christian religious groups want or should have the privilege they are assumed to 89


lack. With exception to hooks, then, the authors implicitly agree that the way to facilitate progressive social change is to strip privilege from those who have it rather than to gain privilege for those who do not. The implication is that privilege is bad, and no one should want it. Meanwhile, people tend to want it. Although the idea that no one should want what any other human being cannot or does not have may be appealing, it is at best a polite fiction. Some authors include in their construct of privilege the notion of education, defining educated people as privileged. To abate this inequity, those inclined to pursue graduate school, for example, should not proceed until all others who wish to complete an undergraduate education have done so. In an even more extreme analogy, the same would-be students should wait to enter graduate school until all other people have finished their undergraduate educations, regardless of whether they want one. If privilege attaches to education, the desire to be educated is not a determinant of privilege. The fact of being educated or not is the sole determinant. Obviously, this is absurd. According to this way of constructing privilege, individuals who want to be educated necessarily want to be privileged. Similarly, individuals who want to increase their income want to be privileged. Although many Americans may want more education, surely many more want to increase their income and/or wealth. If such individuals were to accomplish what they want, their achievements would be construed as additional privilege. Thus, the construction of privilege as exactly those 90

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things that many people want and also as something that no one should want is untenable. Privilege does not attach to individuals only arbitrarily because many-if not most-individuals actively pursue privilege. This necessarily dilutes the idea that privilege attaches to individuals without their knowledge or consent. Perhaps that happens sometimes, but it certainly cannot happen always. The idea that no one wants privilege is only one of many polite fictions built into the construct of privilege. Another agreed-upon fiction constitutes regressive theory by renewing a commitment to essentializing identities. The authors tend to dichotomize identities to accommodate a construct of privilege in which people are or are not white, heterosexual, or male, for example, and privilege belongs to those who are. Perhaps privilege is constructed in such a way to spare theorists the burden of engaging a social constructionist perspective on identity formation. Regardless of the underlying motives, basing notions of privilege on essential identities functions to essentialize privilege so that individuals either are born privileged or are not. The oversights fostered by such a perspective are numerous. For example, such a perspective renders privilege immutable-an unavoidable, biological fact of life. Moreover, it asserts the homogeneity of identity group members, as if privilege were a uniformly distributed asset among, for instance, all males. 91

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Constructing Privilege as a Scarce Commodity Encourages Competition for It Many of the texts analyzed here advance the notion that privilege exists in limited supply. Accordingly, the available supply of privilege is assumed inadequate to allow everyone to have as much as the privileged individuals now have. A resultant formula for achieving social equality is to persuade privileged individuals to give up some or all of their privilege. As history suggests and several of the analyzed texts' authors note, many individuals are reluctant to surrender their own privilege. Any assumed scarcity built into the rhetorical construct of privilege is accompanied by myriad other assumptions, some of which reveal incompatible facets of the rhetors' plans for achieving social change. For example, some authors of the texts analyzed advance the incompatible ideas that justice is served when privileged individuals give up their privilege (a scarcity model) and that individuals will do so willingly once they become aware of their privilege and its incumbent injustice. This model for achieving justice might be described as cooperative reallocation-a misnomer at best. While people may be quite willing to give up some of what they believe exists in abundance, they are not often inspired to give up something that they believe is scarce. Acknowledging the influence perceived scarcity has on human behavior, R. Buckminster Fuller writes "it is very logical man [sic] should fight to the death when he thinks there's not enough to go around "205 92

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Scarcity models are known as zero-sum scenarios in Game Theory. Zero-sum scenarios are contexts in which the benefit of one party occurs only to the detriment of another. According to Game Theory, such contexts foster competition and obliterate cooperation. Participants in such situations are "purely antagonistic" and "related by inequality."206 Thus, ifrhetors insist that privilege is a scarce resource, a cooperative model for rectifying its unequal distribution is inappropriate, and a competitive model is needed. A competitive model might be ofthe Robin Hood variety-taking from those with privilege to give to those without privilege. A Robin Hood model seeks to facilitate justice by using theft, an arguably unjust means for pursuing justice. Alternatively, if the rhetorical construct of privilege were stripped of its scarcity, a cooperative model for resolution may be useful. Individuals made aware of their own privilege might hope for others to have as much privilege, particularly if they need not give up any of their own to accommodate such a hope. Of course, a formula for social change that begins with causing others to be aware of their privilege includes the assumption that others do not already know of the ways in which they are privileged. This notion is central to the rhetorical construct of privilege advanced by many rhetors. Moreover, this model for achieving social equality includes the assumption that privilege is adequately offensive to fair-minded people regardless of their own privilege statuses to cause them to act in opposition to privilege. 93

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People Endeavor to and Want to Achieve An assumption that people do not want privilege, which surely accompanies expectations that privilege is acquired only accidentally and that aware individuals will relinquish privilege, disregards the relevant concept of achievement. Although the texts analyzed in this study are concerned primarily with privileges awarded according to membership in identity groups, they touch occasionally upon achievement-based privileges. For example, several of the authors of the texts analyzed mention education as a privilege-something into which individuals are not presumed to be born. Notions of class privilege often connote some measure of achievement, too, given that class is defined loosely as relative wealth, and wealth often is conceptualized as something that is achieved. Generally, any privilege that is partially or wholly determined by individuals' activity rather than passivity may involve some measure of achievement. Even so, the rhetorical construct of privilege makes little allowance for the possibility of achievement. In some respects, it negates notions of achievement. Ignoring the issue of achievement in constructing privilege certainly simplifies the effort; however, it weakens the construct. As constructed, privilege answers the question, "why is this person successful/comfortable/happy?" with "this person's success/comfort/happiness is privilege." A powerful connotation of privilege is that it is unearned and therefore undeserved. The construct thus characterizes success, comfort, and happiness as unearned and undeserved largely without regard 94

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for any active role that individuals may play in their own achievement of such conditions. In other words, the notions of privilege and achievement are constructed dichotomously-what is privilege is unearned and therefore not achieved. Ultimately, the dichotomy dictates that achievement does not exist; all that is achievement is encompassed in the meaning of privilege. Using this simplified construct of privilege, theorists are freed from the impossible burden of determining what portion of anyone's good fortune is attributable to privilege and what portion is attributable to achievement. The construct is weakened by the theorists' avoidance of acknowledging that burden by pretending it does not exist, however. The theorists' common solution, attributing all good fortune to privilege, is just too simple to be credible. Predictably, the thus weakened construct of privilege is exploited easily to deny any role privilege may have in facilitating individuals' success, comfort, and happiness. Like theorists who suppose that privilege is the sole determinant of individuals' life conditions, others may adopt an either/or stance regarding privilege and achievement. Noting that some of what they enjoy is attributable to their own efforts, they can object easily to accusations of privilege by rebutting "it's not privilege-it's achievement." A more sophisticated perspective on privilege requires some acknowledgment that, regardless of privilege statuses, individuals are agents and therefore among the determinants of their own life conditions. In other words, the 95

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construct of privilege is flawed in its attempt to negate achievement-both privilege and achievement must be construed as possible in a credible construct of privilege. Furthermore, if the sole determinant of such conditions as success, happiness, and comfort is privilege, as the construct of privilege suggests, then privilege is merely a tautological label as affixed to success, happiness, and comfort. Assuming that an individual is successful because of her privilege, for example, and labeling her success privilege amounts to nothing more than claiming that she is privileged because she is privileged. By labeling both the means and the end privilege, rhetors deny the possibility that one may become privileged (i.e., successful, happy, and/or comfortable) without using privilege as the only or even one of the means for doing so. In other words, such labeling encourages rhetors and audiences to equate all success, happiness, and comfort with permanent privilege and to ignore individuals' agency and achievement. The notion of achievement directly challenges the notion of unearned privilege by suggesting that privilege can be earned. If privilege is construed to mean such conditions as success, happiness, and comfort, then achievement might be reframed as earned privilege. Hooks alludes to earned privilege by labeling economic comfort class privilege and describing her experience of working toward and gaining economic comfort. Notably, hooks does not label privilege unearned, and she attributes none of her achievement to privilege construed as advantage; rather, her privilege is earned. 96

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Although none of the authors theorize earned privilege, if they were to do so, they would undermine their own assertions that privilege is unfair, unearned, and should be eradicated. Perhaps more significantly, they would illuminate the complexities of privilege that dictate that it is not likely either purely earned or unearned and that individuals have no way of determining which privilege (construed as favorable life conditions) is earned and which is unearned. Claims that privilege is unfair, unearned, and should be eradicated are elements in the rhetorical construct of privilege that attempt to mask several complexities of privilege. This failure to construct privilege with adequate complexity further undermines its theoretical and practical utility. Theoretical acceptance ofthe constructed notion of privilege requires audiences to overlook the complexities of privilege. In response, many audience members might be expected to object to the constructed notions of privilege that deny achievement. Arguably, almost anyone inclined to read a theoretical claim about privilege has at least some self-conception of achievement, and many also may have some self-conception of privilege. If such individuals believe they are beneficiaries of both, they likely will resist a construct of privilege that usurps all achievement. Using the term privilege to connote both advantages and favorable conditions further challenges audiences to avoid wanting and/or to give up something that likely violates their sense of fairness-advantage-and something that does not-favorable conditions such as comfort. Privilege is constructed in ways that urge individuals to 97

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both want it and not want it. When the term is invoked in almost purely negative contexts-those that call for its eradication, for example-audience members are urged to reject privilege outright. This effectively discourages individuals from seeking to improve their own life conditions, vilifies achievement, and idealizes life without privilege. Such accomplishments serve well the goals of anyone seeking to maintain the status quo and are reminiscent of religious doctrines that urge individuals to self-sacrifice, hardship, and martyrdom. In short, the rhetorical construct of privilege may contribute to maintaining the existing social order by glorifying an absence of privilege as a virtue in ways not unlike religious glorification of various manifestations of deprivation. Moreover, recasting achievement as privilege removes any distinction between the two notions and denies that achievement is a potential means for improving life quality regardless of privilege statuses. This further reifies the existing social order. For example, an individual born into a wealthy family may enjoy lifelong economic comfort and its incumbent access to good nutrition, health care, and freedom from various forms of deprivation. That individual is, according to most constructions of privilege, privileged. Another individual born into an impoverished family may act in ways that eventually yield economic comfort and its incumbent benefits. At any time that such economic comfort is achieved, that individual also is privileged. The rhetorical construct of privilege thus makes no distinction between the 98

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two individuals' life experiences, masks all processes behind their privileges, and denies that achievement is a potential determinant of life quality. Essentializing Privilege Makes It Seem Inevitable and Permanent Allegations of privilege often are based upon essentialized identities-something that individuals seem likely to reject. White privilege, for example, is said to attach to all white individuals. To discuss who has such privilege, then, we must assume we know who is white and that whether someone actually "is" white matters. Such a construct does not suggest that white privilege may be available to individuals who are perceived as white regardless of how they self-identify in terms of race. Similarly, five of the seven authors of the analyzed texts address (if only briefly) heterosexual privilege without suggesting that it is not something individuals are born with or without. Such a suggestion may be made on at least two points. First, the authors clearly essentialize sexual orientation in this construct. Second, much of what is construed to be heterosexual privilege hinges not upon whether individuals "are" heterosexual but whether individuals are or can be perceived to be heterosexual. The discredited status of essentialized identities notwithstanding, most people believe they are their identities. In other words, they believe they are male or female and a member of some race, for example. When allegations of privilege are attached to those identities, individuals must feel helpless to change their own privilege. A person said to be privileged for being male, for example, may reply easily that he 99

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cannot do anything about that-he is male. If the construct of privilege persuades individuals to believe that they are privileged but they cannot avoid that fact because they were born into privilege, then the construct may be expected to inspire no action to rectify privilege from such individuals. Summary In short, privilege is constructed in ways not likely very useful for facilitating rhetors' goals of effecting progressive social change by making individuals aware of their privilege and by curtailing or eradicating privilege. The construct of privilege is remarkably unruly and in need of a haircut-not just a little trim of its bangs. As previously noted, the rhetorical construct of privilege is embellished with features such as invisibility and agency, incomplete for its lack of process, simplistic for universalizing members of identity groups, overreaching in its capacity for including virtually everyone, counterproductive for its permanent qualities, and inconsistent in its relationship to other constructs. While these qualities alone do not render the construct unsuitable for rhetors' purposes and few if any constructs are complete, unembellished, and consistent, they suggest that the rhetorical construct of privilege is due a makeover. In the next chapter, I propose a reconceptualization of privilege for the purpose of increasing the likelihood that rhetors' goals will be served by the rhetorical construct of privilege. 100

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CHAPTER FOUR CONCLUSION: A RECONCEPTUALIZA TION OF PRIVILEGE In this chapter, I propose to reconceptualize privilege to address the points discussed in my critique of the ways privilege is constructed in the analyzed texts. I conclude by describing the possible utility of a reconceptualized notion of privilege. Proposed Changes to the Rhetorical Construct of Privilege My critique suggests that the construct of privilege may be better suited for rhetors' purpose of creating a more just and/or equitable society if privilege is constructed differently and incorporated into rhetorical strategies differently. A more suitable construct of privilege would: 1) Assume that individuals are aware of privilege; 2) Not label individuals privileged; 3) Define privilege by its processes; 4) Suggest that changes to and replacement of processes are ways to rectify privilege; 5) Differentiate between unfair advantage and the condition of being comfortable and not vilify the condition of being comfortable; 6) Assert the possibility of dismantling the processes of unfair advantage by emphasizing their impermanence; 7) Discourage competition for privilege by relieving it of notions of scarcity; 8) Validate and not vilify achievement; and 9) Distinguish privilege from other concepts such as power and oppression. 101

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Assume Audiences are Aware of Privilege The authors of the texts display a faith that people will want to abolish privilege once they recognize it. As I have argued in this study, people already tend to know about privilege, and most want more of it for themselves and perhaps for others when privilege is conceptualized generally as the state of being economically and socially comfortable. Refrain from Labeling Individuals Privileged: De-essentialize Privilege Moreover, I submit that no one is properly labeled privileged, regardless of how it is constructed. All labels assert permanence regardless of context, but some are more obviously subject to context than others. Context seems fairly irrelevant to gender labels, for example. Most individuals will identify as either male or female for an entire lifetime. Context is highly relevant to allegations of privilege, however. A white woman adjacent to a woman of color, for instance, is privileged. A white woman adjacent to a man is not privileged. While white males generally are considered consistently privileged, they too may be rendered not privileged by virtue of their physical ability, age, sexual orientation, and economic status. Privilege is relative, while labels are absolute. Labeling anyone privileged thus is absurd. As the analyzed texts suggest, few if any individuals are always and only the beneficiaries of privilege when privilege is construed as advantage. As Swigonski 102

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says, "most individuals are members of a privileged group in some aspect oftheir lives, and many are members of marginalized groups in other aspects."207 I submit that additionally, group membership is not the only determinant of whether a given individual is advantaged. Other aspects of context also are determinants of privilege. For example, male privilege may not prevail in the occasions, organizations, and perspectives of feminist groups. Similarly, Christian privilege may evaporate in mosques and synagogues. As a label affixed to individuals, privilege asserts the fiction that individuals are always and irrevocably advantaged in every context. An implied corollary assertion is that others are always and irrevocably disadvantaged. The construct of privilege attached to individuals thus maintains the permanence of privilege. If one must be either privileged or not privileged, perhaps the best outcome for which one might hope is that more of those who are not privileged will become privileged. This best possible outcome is not what rhetors seem to want, however, which suggests that privilege is not constructed in a way that is likely to facilitate their goals. Furthermore, the implication that the vast majority (all who are white, male, and/or heterosexual, etc.) of people are always privileged is not credible. An African American male, for example, is construed as not privileged in the notion of white privilege and privileged in the notion of male privilege. Hence, one is challenged to justify labeling him either privileged or not privileged. Carbado warns, "in constructing a list of male privilege, then, one has to be careful not to universalize 103

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'man' or present him in ways that obscure male multiplicity."208 As presently constructed, however, the notion of male privilege certainly does universalize male. This feature ofthe construct of privilege is sufficiently vulnerable to criticism that it is ridiculed by right-wing critics who mention privilege only rarely and in quotation marks, assuring their readers that privilege is just a made-up liberal fiction. In his Political Dictionary, William Satire defines disadvantaged by ridiculing the ideas that anyone is privileged, underprivileged, advantaged, or disadvantaged and by mocking anyone who may indulge such ideas. He writes: Disadvantaged [is] a euphemism for "poor," replacing "underprivileged" in social workers' jargon. As a result of the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties, it was felt that no citizen was "privileged," though many were "advantaged," thus the substitution. Since "underadvantaged" is cumbersome, "disadvantaged"-without the advantages of education and opportunity-was selected. In the same way, what used to be called a "slum" is now delicately referred to as a "culturally deprived environment. "209 Such mockery by a proponent of an ideology quite inconsistent with the analyzed texts may be useful by providing clues to opposing perspectives. Many ideologues do not believe that privilege exists. If rhetors wish to persuade such people that privilege exists, they might be more effective if they rid the construct of privilege of its erroneous and therefore vulnerable claims. The claim that individuals either are or are not privileged is one such erroneous and vulnerable claim that comprises a part of the construct of privilege. If the construct is modified so that individuals do 104

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privilege, but individuals are not characterized as privileged, this vulnerability is removed. Construct Privilege as Communication Processes If individuals continue to conceptualize white privilege, for example, as something that white people have, it is likely to endure as long as white remains a social classification. If instead individuals conceptualize white privilege as a variety of social processes that yield advantages to white people, then they allow for an end to the processes without concern for when white might cease to be a social classification. In other words, I propose to modify the construct of privilege so that it is something people do rather than something people have or are. Suggest that Changes to and Replacement of Processes are Ways to Rectify Privilege Privilege constructed as processes suggests changes to and replacement of those processes as means for effecting change. For example, if the inclusion of textbook illustrations representing only white males in an American history book is a process that privileges white males, then changing the process to make different selections helps rectify that particular process of privilege. In contrast, merely observing that white males are the subjects of all the pertinent illustrations fails to name the process of privilege and to suggest any resolution. 105

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Bifurcate Privilege into the Conditions of Being Comfortable and Unfair Advantage Privilege can encompass the condition of being comfortable without regard for the means by which comfort is achieved, but if privilege is to be construed as bad, unfair, and unearned, some of its other qualities are inconsistent. For example, the construct of privilege overreaches by encompassing both unfair advantages given members of dominant groups and the conditions of being socially and economically comfortable. When privilege is used to describe some manner of comfort, it connotes an unjust and unwarranted reason for any given person's comfort. If comfort is not a scarce commodity, however, no one's comfort is inherently unjust. Moreover, labeling comfort privilege is an attribution: it asserts that one is comfortable because one is privileged. In other words, this is a circular claim that people are privileged because they are privileged. While contextual advantages may contribute to anyone's economic and social comfort, individual efforts and other factors may contribute, too. Labeling comfort privilege denies the possibility that other factors contribute to anyone's success. Construct Privilege as Impermanent Because critics want privilege to be eradicated, they might benefit from constructing privilege not only as something that others also will want to end but also as something that can be ended. Constructs in which privilege is permanent will not facilitate an end to privilege. Conflations of power and privilege, for example, ensure 106

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the perpetual endurance of privilege unless one believes that power can be eradicated. Similarly, claims such as "it is not possible to give up privilege"210 assert the futility of efforts to end privilege. The construct of privilege underscores Carbado' s concern that men behave "as though our privileges as men were not politically up for grabs, as though they were social givens-inevitably 'just there."' 211 For Carbado, such behavior is manifest in failures to theorize privilege. As this study suggests, such behavior is manifest in theorizing privilege devoid of process. Privilege constructed as an inevitability is constructed to endure rather than to be dismantled. An effective rhetorical strategy does not insist that the rhetor's goals are unachievable. For these reasons, I propose to detach the notion of privilege from groups of people and attach it instead to processes. Groups of people are semi-permanent; processes can be stopped. Assume that Privilege is Abundant/Not Scarce Such a perspective suggests that Americans do not tend to conceptualize privilege as a scarce commodity. Individuals do not tend to believe that privilege must be taken away from or surrendered by one person so that another may have more. Some authors seek to persuade audiences otherwise by constructing privilege as a commodity that exists in limited supplies. Constructing privilege as a scarce commodity suggests that justice is facilitated by reallocating rather than abolishing privilege. Even so, some authors both construct privilege as a scarce commodity and 107

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call for an end to privilege. If the way to achieve justice is to eradicate privilege, then privilege need not be constructed with any inherent scarcity because constructed scarcity suggests a different means for achieving justice-reallocation. A strategy for achieving justice by reallocating a commodity suggests that the commodity is desirable and necessary in any human life. Constructing privilege as a scarce commodity thus asserts its value and desirability and fosters competition for it rather than cooperative efforts to abolish it. Scarcity increases the potential for injustice because disparities in the distribution of any commodity seem more unfair when the supply of that commodity is limited and inadequate to meet demand. For example, when the U.S. supply of influenza vaccine was reduced to about half the anticipated supply in 2004, fairness became an issue. Members of Congress were criticized for each using one dose of the vaccine. The criteria for equity of distribution were debated and questioned in and by the media. Prior to the reduction in supply, although the available vaccine was not unlimited, it was roughly adequate to meet demand. No one who received a dose of the vaccine was characterized as taking it away from anyone else. Perceptions of scarcity ensure allegations of unfairness. Accordingly, when privilege is conceptualized as scarce, its distribution is presumed unfair. This supports the idea that privilege is bad because it causes the unequal and unfair distribution of resources. Most relevant to the goals articulated in the analyzed texts, privilege conceived as scarce is not privilege that people willingly will relinquish. 108

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Validate Achievement in the Construct of Privilege Because the authors of the texts tend to know that privilege is not the sole or even a measurable determinant of individuals' achievement, rhetors' use of the term privilege to attribute all achievement to unearned, unfair advantage may be expected to meet with resistance. Resistance is not conducive to persuasion. The construct of privilege may cease to inspire resistance in such a way if it is modified so that it describes one of many means individuals use to achieve and/or to maintain their own comfort and no longer describes conditions of comfort. The claim that advantages benefit some people more than others in different contexts is far more credible than the implication that all comfort is the ill-begotten bounty of unfair advantages available to some and denied others. I propose to discontinue using privilege to label the conditions of being comfortable because doing so undermines the believability of the notion of privilege and because comfort, unlike privilege construed as unfair advantage, is not something rhetors (or audiences) want to eradicate. Distinguish Privilege from and Define its Relationships to Power, Oppression, Discrimination, Prejudice, and Dominance The notion of privilege has been deemed by U.S. courts insufficiently rigorous to be codified into legal existence, and some scholars have objected. As Stephanie Wildman writes, "law plays an important role in the perpetuation of privilege by ignoring that privilege exists. And by ignoring its existence, law, with help from our 109

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language, ensures the perpetuation ofprivilege."212 Wildman's assertion that privilege exists illustrates the most basic function of a rhetorical construct: to assert the existence of that which is constructed. Moreover, the courts' assertion that the notion of privilege lacks rigor is confirmed by this research. A rigorous construct of privilege is one that, in part, is distinguishable from other notions. Wildman continues, "what is privilege? We all recognize its most blatant forms. Men only admitted to this club. We won't allow African Americans into that school."213 The author's question is appropriate--courts certainly would require a definition of privilege to permit codifYing its existence; however, the ensuing answer to the question is comprised of two examples of privilege rather than any definition of privilege. Furthermore, the two examples of privilege provided are indistinguishable from discrimination. Given that the courts do recognize discrimination, Wildman's call for the legal recognition of privilege seems potentially redundant and therefore far from compelling. The courts presumably will require some distinction between privilege and other concepts that are constructed similarly and in relation to privilege (e.g., oppression, power, prejudice, and dominance) before they recognize privilege. Rhetors might do well to make such distinctions in other venues as well if they wish audiences to recognize the existence of privilege. Making such distinctions would narrow the scope of what constructed privilege encompasses. In their most crude forms, these changes would reconstruct 110

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privilege so that it is not discrimination, power, prejudice, dominance, inequality, or oppression; however, defining privilege by articulating what it is not would collapse privilege entirely. In other words, no feature of privilege is not also a feature of one or more of these related constructs, so it cannot be constructed as a wholly dissimilar concept. Any distinction between privilege and these other concepts must therefore be one of nuance. Moreover, I do not claim to know the nature ofthe distinctions or relationships among privilege and these other concepts. Even though drawing such distinctions and relationships falls outside the scope of this study, doing so is fundamental to a rigorous construct of privilege and therefore worthy of additional research. Conclusion Conceived as advantage, privilege has approximately the same meaning as inequality and discrimination. All of these terms may be used to label social processes through which individuals are treated and regarded differently from the ways others are treated and regarded. When the bases for such differing treatments and regards are institutional systems (e.g., the codified denial ofthe right to marry for same-sex couples, national holidays honoring the Christian religion and white male historical figures, the Boy Scouts' requirement that Scouts believe in the Christian God) and/or prejudice, they may be judged by many as unfair and perhaps even wrong. Many 111

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people may agree with the authors of the analyzed texts that such instances of privilege should be abolished. Differing (unequal) treatments of individuals, however, rarely arise from a single basis. Even identity-based decisions are not singular. In other words, one cannot regard a white woman purely on the basis of her sex. One who regards her interacts with any presumed aspects of her identity, including sex, race, age, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and appearance. Not all determinants of how individuals treat one another are aspects of identity, however. Many are behavioral. For example, friendly behavior likely inspires a different response than does anger. Through communication processes, people negotiate their treatment of and regard for one another. Perhaps a person who smiles freely and sincerely often is treated and regarded more favorably than a person who does not. Any portion of the smiley person's privilege attributable to the smiley person's smile is neither unfair nor in need of eradication. Moreover, each person's bases for behaving toward or regarding others in a given way are knowable only to them; others only may presume to know. As it is constructed, the notion of privilege asserts that everyone knows why the smiley, hard working, smart, funny, friendly white guy has a good life: it's because he's a white guy. A useful rhetorical construct of privilege------{)ne that facilitates a more just society-must be more honest than this. 112

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In short, differing and unequal treatment is not inherently unjust, and an effective rhetorical construct of privilege will acknowledge that. A useful construct of privilege should help distinguish those privileges that are unjust and therefore appropriate for dismantling. Such a construct also should avoid maintaining unfair privilege and suggest a process for eradicating unwanted privileges. This reconceptualized privilege is a verb, not a noun and not an adjective. No one is privileged. No one has privilege. Anyone can privilege. I can privilege you. You can privilege me. She can privilege Christians, and he can privilege very wealthy people. Each individual has her own manifold reasons for privileging whom she privileges, but individuals probably tend to articulate them in simple terms such as I like her. Privilege, the verb, means to treat or regard more favorably than others to some greater or lesser degree. When individuals privilege one another and/or entire groups of others for nefarious reasons such as prejudice, a modifier or descriptor must accompany the verb privilege to signify the malevolent intent behind it. For instance, she unfairly privileges Christians, and he unconscionably privileges very wealthy people in his thinly veiled servitude to his personal greed and insecurities. The modifiers are clues to audiences that the rhetor favors stopping these privileging processes. To discuss privileging in such ways, rhetors must have some idea of the processes of privileging to which they refer. In other words, the construct of privilege, the verb, encourages rhetors to describe a privileging process. For example, if he 113

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alleges that she unfairly privileges Christians, he should anticipate that a reader or other audience will wonder how. What is her way of privileging? The answer to this question is a description of the process. She unfairly privileges Christians by giving a 10 percent discount at her diner to any customer who wears a necklace or earrings. Such a description of the privileging process provides audiences with far more pertinent information than Christians are privileged at that diner. Moreover, if audiences are persuaded to want to end this privileging process, they can formulate some way of doing so fairly easily because they know who is doing what. In this instance, inspired audiences may elect to contact the person doing the privileging to ask her to change her behavior. Constructed as a verb and stripped of its implicit unfairness, privilege may help facilitate rhetors' goals of stopping unjust privileging processes by describing those processes rather than characterizing them as social conditions. By doing so, rhetors may further articulate the nature of such processes and propose ways to change or end them. If rhetors one day achieve their goal of ending unjust privileging processes, the revised rhetorical construct of privilege would remain useful for naming any new processes of privilege and for describing things that some people used to do; however, the construct would not assert in a post-unfair privilege world that privilege exists. I 14

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NOTES 1. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary (I Oth), 2004 [cited 20 October 2004], Available from 2. Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language 2002, 1828 [cited 17 October 2004], Available from 3./bid. 4. Barbara Ann Kipfer and Princeton Language Institute, eds. 21st Century Synonym and Antonym Finder, New York: Dell, 1993, 423. 5. Theorists who so credit Mcintosh include: Brenda J. Allen, Difference Matters (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2003); B. Deutsch, "The White Privilege Checklist" Expository Magazine, 412, 2004 [cited 15 October 2004 ], Available from http:/ / checklist.php; Ronald L. Jackson II, "White Space, White Privilege: Mapping Discursive Inquiry into the Self," Quarterly Journal of Speech 85 (1999): 38-54; Robert Jensen, "White Privilege Shapes the U.S." in Privilege: A Reader, MichaelS. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2003): 79-82; Karen Elaine Rosenblum and Toni-Michelle Travis, The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, and Sexual Orientation, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1996); Mary E. Swigonski, "Challenging Privilege through Africentric Social Work Practice," Social Work41, no. 2 (1996): 153-61. 6. Peggy Mcintosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies," In Working Paper No. 189. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, 1988. This essay entered the public sphere about two years prior to its publication. According to a footnote to the published paper, it was presented at two conferences and discussed with two groups of seminar participants elsewhere beginning in early 1986. Although the essay cited appears to be its first published version, it subsequently has been published elsewhere many times under various titles and with differing modifications. Although I do not offer a count of such other versions of the essay, republished versions are so abundant that Mcintosh's essay may be described as ubiquitous in contemporary literature addressing privilege. In my research for this 115

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project, I have encountered at least six different published versions of the essay. From among the many available versions, I have chosen to cite and to analyze the essay as it was published originally. My expectation is that the original essay should offer more insight into how Mcintosh reconceptualized privilege-my primary concern with her essay-than would subsequent versions refined and otherwise modified for reasons not disclosed to the reader. 7. Karen Elaine Rosenblum and Toni-Michelle Travis, The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, and Sexual Orientation, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996): 143. 8. Mcintosh, "White Privilege" (1988): 18-19. 9. Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber, Privilege: A Reader (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 2003): 2, 10. 10. Mel ntosh, "White Privilege" ( 1988): 19. 11. John Stuart Mill, "The Subjection of Women," in The Feminist Papers: From Adams to De Beauvoir, ed. by Alice S. Rossi (Boston: Northeastern Press University, 1988): 196. 12. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (New York, Penguin, 1992): 147. 13. Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex; the Case jnr Feminist Revolution (New York,: Morrow, 1970): 5. 14. Longres, John F., and Robert H. Bailey, "Men's Issues and Sexism: A Journal Review," Social Work 24, no. 1 (1979): 27. 15. Marcella Schuyler, "Battered Wives: An Emerging Social Problem," Social Work 21, no. 6 ( 1 976): 488-91. 16. Ibid. 17. Robert Jensen, "White Privilege Shapes the U.S." In Privilege: A Reader, ed. by MichaelS. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 2003): 79-82. 116

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18. Jensen, "White Privilege Shapes the U.S."; Lewis Z. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo." Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development 31, no. I (2003): 44-51; Schwalbe, Michael. The Costs of American Privilege, 2002 [cited Oct. 17 2004]. Available from http:/ / 19. "B." is an abbreviated "Barry," but the published essay is attributed to "B. Deutsch." 20. B. Deutsch, The Male Privilege Checklist: An Unabashed Imitation of An Article by Peggy Mcintosh, Expository Magazine, 4/2,2004 [cited 15 October 2004], Available from checklist.php. 21. Devon W. Carbado, "Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege," in Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (2"d ed.), ed. by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000): 527. 22. Charles W. Mills, "Racial Exploitation and the Wages of Whiteness," In What White Looh Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question, ed. by George Yancy (New York: Routledge, 2004): 31. 23. Ronald L. Jackson II, "White Space, White Privilege: Mapping Discursive Inquiry into the Self," Quarterly Journal ofSpeech 85 (1999): 41. 24. Lewis R. Gordon, "Critical Reflection on Three Popular Tropes in the Study of Whiteness," In What White Looh Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question, ed. by George Yancy (New York: Routledge, 2004): 175. 25. Sonja K. Foss, William J.C. Waters, and Bernard J. Armada, "The Nature and Function ofLiberatory Agency: A Case Study of Run Lola Run," Manuscript submitted for publication (2005). 26. Cynthia Levine-Rasky, "Framing Whiteness: Working through the Tensions in Introducing Whiteness to Educators," Race, Ethnicity and Education 3, no. 3 (2000): 275. 27. Lawrence R. Frey, Mark A. Pollock, Lee Artz, W. Barnett Pearce, and Bren A. 0. Murphy, "Looking for Justice in All the Wrong Places: On a 117

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Communication Approach to Social Justice," Communication Studies 47 (1996): 11027. 28. bell hooks, Where We Stand: Class Matters (New York: Routledge, 2000). 29. Steven P. Schacht, "Teaching About Being an Oppressor." In Privilege: A Reader, ed. by Michael S. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 2003). 30. Steven Schacht, Steve Schacht's Official Homepage [cited 8 November 2004], Available from 31. Robert Jensen, Homepage of Robert Jensen [cited 8 November 2004], Available from 32. Mary E. Swigonski, Home Page [cited 8 November 2004], available from http:/ /bl 33. Mary E. Swigonski, "Challenging Privilege through Africentric Social Work Practice," Social Work41, no. 2 (1996): 153-61. 34. Jane Simoni, UW Psychology: Jane Simoni, Ph.D. [cited 8 November 2004], Available from http:/ /we b. psych. directory /index. php ?option=info& person_ id=29; Karina Walters, Karina Walters, Associate Director of Phd Program [cited 8 November 2004 ], Available from 35. Jane M. Simoni and Karina L. Walters, "Heterosexual Identity and Heterosexism: Recognizing Privilege to Reduce Prejudice," Journal of Homosexuality41, no. 1 (2001): 157-72. 36. Lewis Z. Schlosser, Lewis Z. Schlosser, Ph.D. [cited 8 November 2004], Available from 37. Lewis Z. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo," Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development 31, no. 1 (2003 ): 44-51. 118

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38. Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss, The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Chicago: Aldine, 1967. 39. Thomas R. Lindlof and Bryan C. Taylor, Qualitative Communication Research Methods, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2002, 218. 40. Schacht, Teaching About Being an Oppressor, 163. 41. Frey, Pollock, Artz, Pearce, and Murphy, Looking for Justice, 11 0. Chapter Two: Analysis of the Rhetorical Construction of Privilege 42. Mcintosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege," 1988, 2. 43. Peggy Mcintosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," In Privilege: A Reader, edited by MichaelS. Kimmel and Abby L. Ferber, 165-69, Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2003, 166. 44. Mcintosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege," 1988, 1. 45. Ibid. 46. Ibid., 15. 47. Ibid., 16 48. Ibid., 10-11. 49. Ibid., 12. 50. Ibid. 51. Ibid., 9. 52. Ibid., 7. 53. Ibid., 17. 54. Ibid., 15-16. 119

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55. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary (lOth), 2004 [cited 14 February 2005], Available from 56. Mcintosh, "White Privilege," 1988, 14. 57. Ibid., 4. 58. Ibid., 2. The original (1988) version of the published paper includes an error in this passage, using "advantaged" where "disadvantaged" clearly is the author's intention. Subsequent versions of the paper confirm the error by correcting it. 59. Ibid., 12. 60. Ibid., 13. 61. Ibid., 8. 62. Ibid., 8. 63. Ibid., 6. 64. Ibid., 6-7. 65. Ibid., 7. 66. Ibid. 67. Ibid., 9. 68. Ibid., 6. 69. Ibid., 10. 70. Ibid., 1-2. 71. Ibid., 4. 72. Ibid., 9. 120

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73. Ibid., 1. 74. Ibid., 18. 75. Ibid., 11. 76. Ibid., 14. 77. Ibid., 1. 78. Ibid., 18. 79. Ibid., 18. 80. Ibid., 4. 81. Ibid., 12. 82. Ibid., 2. 83. Ibid., 13. 84. Ibid., 14. 85. Ibid., 4. 86. Ibid., 13. 87. Ibid., 19. 88. Ibid., 14-15. 89. Ibid., 14. 90. Ibid., 2. 9l.Ibid., 14-15. 92. Ibid., 2-3. 121

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93. hooks, Where We Stand, 35. 94. Ibid., 99. 95. Ibid., 157. 96. Ibid, 48. 97. Ibid., 102-103. 98. Ibid., 46. 99. Ibid, 118. 100. Ibid., 115. 101. Ibid, 111. 102. Ibid., 129. 103. Ibid, 26. 104. Ibid, 160-161. 105. Ibid, 84. 1 06. Ibid., 77. 107. Ibid, 155. 108. Ibid., 157. 109. Ibid, 161. 110. Ibid., 60. 111. Ibid, 60. 112. Ibid., 103. 122

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113. Ibid., 76. 114. Ibid, 117. 115. Jensen, "White Privilege," 79. 116. Ibid., 79. 117. Ibid., 79. 118. Ibid., 82. 119. Ibid., 80. 120. Ibid., 81. 121. Ibid., 82. 122. Ibid., 79. 123. Ibid., 80. 124. Ibid., 82. 125. Ibid., 82. 126. Schacht, "Teaching," 164. 127. Ibid., 162. 128. Ibid., 162. 129. Ibid., 170. 130. Ibid, 163. 131. Ibid, 162. 132. Ibid., 170. 123

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133. Ibid., 169. 134. Ibid, 163. 135. Schacht notes here, "the ethos of the various male groups [to which] I belonged prescribed that one should never be violent towards a woman. Accordingly, although I have severely injured innumerable men, I never have been physically violent towards a women [sic]. Nevertheless, when I was younger I often did use economic resources to be controlling and abusive to many women." 136. Ibid, 162. 137. Ibid. 138. Ibid., 163. 139. Ibid., 170. 140. Ibid., 170. 141. Ibid., 170. 142. Ibid., 164. 143. Ibid, 169. 144. Ibid., 169. 145. Swigonski, "Challenging Privilege," 159. 146. Ibid., 160. 147. Ibid., 156. 148. Ibid., 154. 149. Ibid., 156. 150. Ibid.,. 153. 124

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151. Ibid. 152. Ibid. 153. Ibid. 154. Ibid., 156. 155. Ibid., 153. 156. Ibid., 156. 157.1bid., 159. 158. Ibid., 154. 159. Ibid., 155-156. 160. Simoni and Walters, 168. 161. Ibid., 159. 162. Ibid., 169-170. 163. Ibid., 158. 164. Ibid. 165. Ibid. 166. Ibid., 158-159. 167. Ibid., 159. 168. Ibid., 167. 169. Ibid., 159. 170. Ibid., 158. 125

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171. Ibid., 159. 172. Ibid. 173. Swigonski, "Challenging Privilege," 157. 174. Ibid., 159. 175. Simoni and Walters, 170. 176. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege," 49. 177. Ibid., 47. 178. Ibid. 179. Ibid., 45. 180. Ibid., 46. 181. Ibid, 46. 182. Ibid, 49. 183. Ibid., 45. 184. Ibid 185. Ibid., 48. 186. Ibid., 4 7. 187. Ibid, 50. 188. Ibid., 46. 189. Ibid. 190. Ibid., 50 126

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191. Sonja K. Foss, Karen A. Foss, and Robert Trapp, Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric, 3rd ed. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland, 2002, 211. Chapter Three: A Critique of the Rhetorical Construct of Privilege 192. hooks, Where We Stand, 103. 193. Lisa A. Keister, Wealth in America: Trends in Wealth Inequality, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000): 64-65. 194. hooks, Where We Stand, 117. 195. Ibid. 196. Mcintosh, "White Privilege," 1988, 18-19. 197. Ibid., 6. 198. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege," 48. 199. Mcintosh, "White Privilege," 1988, 1. 200. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege," 47. 201. Schacht, "Teaching," 170. 202. Carbado, "Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege," 528. 203. Schacht, "Teaching," 170. 204. Schlosser, "Christian Privilege," 47. 205. R. Buckminster Fuller, I Seem to Be a Verb (New York: Bantam, 1970): 17. 206. Herve Moulin, Game Theory for the Social Sciences: Studies in Game Theory and Mathematical Economic, (New York: New York University Press, 1982): 36. 127

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Chapter Four: Conclusion: A Reconceptualization of Privilege 207. Swigonski, "Challenging Privilege," 154. 208. Carbado, "Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege," 528. 209. William Satire, Safire's Political Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1978): 174. 210. Ibid., 156. 211. Carbado, "Men, Feminism, and Male Heterosexual Privilege," 526. 212. Stephanie M. Wildman with Adrienne D. Davis, "Language and Silence: Making Systems of Privilege Visible," in Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (2"d ed.), ed. by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, 657-66. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000): 658. 213. Wildman, "Language," 658. 128

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