Denying White Privilege Won’t Make a Dent In The Truth. Here’s Why

A brief history on McIntosh’s term, and ongoing debate

Allison Wiltz
4 min readMar 25, 2022


Photo by petr sidorov on Unsplash

Did you know Peggy McIntosh, a White feminist scholar, coined the term “white privilege?” In 1987 in her “lecture-turned article, White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible, Knapsack,” McIntosh listed a number of experiences she took for granted as a White woman. In checking her privilege, she cast aside any doubts about the depth and breadth of racism and white supremacy. And since then, scholars, activists, businessmen and women have used the term to peel back the layers, or as McIntosh said, “unpack the invisible knapsack.”

I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group — Peggy McIntosh

As Michael Morris described, White Normativity comes with the societal presumption of having the standard body, the standard mind, and being the standard citizen. This standard makes some White people oblivious to the plight of others. So her inquiry started with an analogy about male privilege. McIntosh wrote, “I think Whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.” To understand her relative privilege to Black people, she considered her status as a woman and those privileges men have over women, like better pay and body autonomy. McIntosh used a feminist theoretical lens to understand how race impacts societal privilege: “As a White person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.”

I would add to McIntosh’s point that Black male privilege doesn’t operate in the same way as White male privilege because being a Black man in America comes with its share of risks. The anti-Black racism Black men experiences diminished their ability to make money equal to White men, or receive equal protection under the law. Still, McIntosh was on to something. If people are serious about checking their privilege, they will consider the lived experiences of others. White people, who deny white privielge exists refuse to consider their experiences…



Allison Wiltz

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, Cultured #WEOC Founder - Learn about me @ allisonthedailywriter.com ☕️ ko-fi.com/allyfromnola

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