Thursday, November 10, 2011

Invisible Privileges

By: Michelle Kasprzak

          'Invisible privileges' are unfair advantages given only to a dominant group. Whites, males, Christians, heterosexuals and attractive people are just a few of the groups popularly thought of to receive invisible privilege. For example, a White woman who forgot to pack concealer for vacation can easily run to a drug store and find a cover up that will match her skin color, where as Blacks and Latinos would probably have a much harder time unless they went to a department store and paid a lot more money. Because Whites are a dominant group they don't have to deal with as much nonsense as minority groups. Lets be clear though that invisible privileges are not the fault of an individual but the result of society's belief that dominant groups are the norm. Invisible privileges are systematic and institutionalized and therefore we cannot blame anybody for invisible privilege.
           I work at a restaurant where all of the servers are at least second-generation Americans whose first languages are English. However the majority of the kitchen and maintenance staff are from Mexico or Africa. The other day I was talking to one of these 'back of house' people and he said how he felt he worked too much and didn't make enough money and he was jealous of how much money the servers make. Without thinking I said something along the lines of "Well, you can't serve you don't speak English." We were clearly speaking in English (although he has a thick accent) but I just didn't think anything of it. The next day the guy told me that what I said had hurt his feelings. I told him I didn't mean for it to be hurtful and that I personally wouldn't mind if he was a server but managers and customers would probably not be too fond of the idea due to his accent. This made me think of the invisible privileges that native English speakers in America have. This example clearly relates to job opportunities however we can also ask for direction without being asked to repeat ourselves a few times, we can show up at school and expect our professors to speak our language and the list goes on.

          I'm sure this is not the first time someone with an accent has felt left out or uncomfortable in the dominant group of  English speakers in America, it probably won't be the last either. Not until our institutions are remodeled in order to break down the concept of invisible privilege, for example I had not learned in depth about invisible privilege until college, if things like this were taught at an earlier level of schooling it would be easier for people to acknowledge and try to avoid abusing their unearned"privileges".



  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. The other day in class while we were covering this topic i thought about writing a blog post in response to it too.

    I think the big problem is that these privileges are systematic and institutionalized, like you said. It makes it so much harder to try to level the playing grounds and give everyone some of these privileges when a lot of people (the privileged ones) arent even aware of what they have. A lot of these privileges are taken for granted. Privileged people may automatically assume that everyone has an easy time going food shopping,or picking out decorations for holidays that they celebrate. Even though i didnt really like the video that was in your blog, I think that it will make people think twice about certain things.

    It is very hard for me to find foundation or any other type of make up in my shade. I feel like my skin complexion or rather my race is not important to makeup companies. When i walk down the makeup aisle most companies are represented by euro, white british or anglo saxon models. What about the models that are my skin shade? Theyre usually on perm solution boxes...

  2. I myself experience that same feeling. I applied for a position at Macy store in langhorne pennsylvania online. I got a response back to come in for an interview the next day. I went for the interview i felt confident with my answers. I had been a secretary for several years and i know i could have done the job. I went to two interviews with Macy's and did not get hired because they were all white and no color in the HR position only on the floor which is where they wanted me to be at but i refused. So i know what it feels like to under privileged.

  3. Olaitan Okusaga

    I totally agree with you on this because have experience it so many times at work myself. According to the law of the institution where I work, to become an Assistance Vice President(AVP) you must have your PhD at least. When the person that hold the position retired and the time for the institution to name a replacement, to the surprise of everyone in the department the board name a "white" women without a PhD as a replacement and overlook a "Black" women who has everything and even senior the white women and also had spent most time at the job than any other person in the department. Just simply because she is black. And they are calling themselves a "minority serving institutions" outside and all the people at top are WHITE with NO SINGLE BLACK. HOW SAD!!!