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Io Palmer – Knapsacks, After Peggy McIntosh (participation)

February 8, 2012

Check out this exhibit — what do you think?  Why is the knapsack such a powerful metaphor?

Knapsacks, After Peggy McIntosh

In her essay White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, Peggy McIntosh lists the 62 ways in which she sees her own inherent privilege as an educated white women. She describes the process of writing and defining this privilege as a knapsack needing to be unpacked in order to be recognized, acknowledged, and understood. McIntosh’s desire to reflect on privilege encouraged me, 22 years after this essay was written, to consider my own advantages and access. Through the process of constructing these knapsacks, this object became laden with divergent meaning; the access that academia provides while also being a symbol of the weighted history of minority women within an academic setting.

via Io Palmer – Knapsacks, After Peggy McIntosh.

via Io Palmer – Knapsacks, After Peggy McIntosh.

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3 Comments
  1. Kyla Chappell permalink

    I think this exhibit is a very powerful one, without a doubt. it puts picture to her metaphor of “unpacking an invisible knapsack”. I feel as though “knapsack” is such a powerful metaphor because it refers to people carrying around their privileges and attributes around with them everywhere. Most people do not realize the privileges they carry with them solely based on the color of their skin itself. But McIntosh explains how everyone needs to open their own knapsack and see how different everyones are, figuratively speaking of course. Until then, we cannot acknowledge privilege nor begin to understand it.

  2. Alyssa Rumann permalink

    The is a powerful metaphor because it has such truth value, and is simple to comprehend privilege to the likeness of carrying around a backpack. I think it’s interesting to see that each person has this “knapsack,” yet the contents are different for most everyone. People have different privileges that they might not even be fully aware of, indicated by the invisibility. This may be a little off topic, but I also can picture this metaphor as a sort of burden. If you are hiking up a hill and you have a heavy backpack, it can slow you down a bit. More simply put, sometimes privileges aren’t always seen in a positive light. For example, if someone got to the top position in their job because they worked hard, and others saw it as only making it there because of their skin color, that can be a negative connotation tied to the metaphor.

  3. Jacob Holmes permalink

    Who actually sees privilege when you have it all around you? like you used the example in class, would you ask a fish what the water is like? no, because the fish is always in the water. Whites are always in privilege, and always will be like that, it is a sad fact, for as long as whites are the majority, in control of politics, courts, law systems, and public policy, it will be extremely difficult to stray away from the privilege that is handed down generation to generation to whites. If everyone set down the knapsack, or just kinda distributed it evenly with everyone in the world, racial equality would most likely become more apparent and a reachable goal. But getting everyone the education to actually realize that whites have that knapsack, is the true obstacle.

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