News & Media

April 16, 2015

McIntosh Speaks on Privilege Systems at Spring Hakim Lecture

Wellesley’s Dr. Peggy McIntosh discussed her personal experience with “Coming to See Privilege Systems: The Surprising Journey” on April 14th at the Spring 2015 Hakim Lecture.

On Tuesday, April 14th, Dr. Peggy McIntosh, Associate Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, spoke on the topic of "Coming to See Privilege Systems: The Surprising Journey," at the Spring 2015 Hakim Lecture. McIntosh, who is also the founder and co-director of the United States S.E.E.D. Project on Inclusive Curriculum (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) has written and presented widely on the issues of male privilege and white privilege.

President Sr. Janet Eisner, SND opened the lecture with a welcome and remembrance of the lecture series' namesake, the late Catherine McLaughlin Hakim '70, who would be celebrating her 45th Emmanuel reunion this May. Sr. Janet noted that many of the issues society was facing when McLaughlin was a sociology major at Emmanuel are still prevalent today.

Associate Professor of Sociology and Department Chair Catherine Simpson Bueker introduced McIntosh and explained that with the recent shootings of so many unarmed black men, there is still a great urgency in society to really talk about race.

"We are so thrilled to have you here," Bueker said to McIntosh, "but the great need to have you here is a little bit sad."

In her talk, McIntosh shared her own personal experience with coming to see white privilege. She identified some of the day-to-day conditions that she can expect, but her friends and coworkers of color cannot - conditions she first enumerated in her 1989 article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" - such as, "I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time"; "When I am told about our national heritage or about 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my color made it what it is"; and "If a traffic cop pulls me over, or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race."

McIntosh also touched on the way curricula has historically been developed and taught, with the top tier in any discipline celebrating only the powerful and typically, white and male - the "win, lest we lose" tier. This tier is followed the "exceptions": individual women or men of color who are singled out for recognition or praise, but who are regarded as unlike their own kind (the Marie Curies and Malcolm Xs). A third tier educates on the "isms": sexism, racism, adultism, etc., which often contrast the powerful to the powerless. The lower tiers advocate for "making and mending the fabric" of society and striving for more balance among these tiers.

She encouraged the audience to engage others in dialogue on privilege, whether it be race, class, sexual orientation, religion, or other, taking care to listen and respond with your own experiences rather than your opinions. Arguing, she said, is also an ineffective tool in discussion, as it feeds another "win, lest we lose" environment.

The annual Hakim Lecture Series was established by Dr. Raymond Hakim in honor of his late wife, Catherine McLaughlin Hakim '70. A sociology major at Emmanuel, Catherine studied under longtime sociology professor Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND, who left an especially indelible mark on her student experience. The lecture series commemorates Catherine's life, her fondness for Emmanuel, and the relationships she formed at the College and continued to maintain throughout her life. The Catherine McLaughlin Hakim Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Sociology. Lectures focus on issues of sociology, social justice and public policy on the local, national and international levels. Past speakers have included Mary C. Waters and William Julius Wilson from Harvard University, Michael Patrick McDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion, and David Cunningham, faculty member and director of the Social Justice & Social Policy Program at Brandeis University.