The Nation: Marxism and the National Question

by Joseph Stalin

What is a nation?

A nation is primarily a community, a definite community of people.

This community is not racial, nor is it tribal. The modern Italian nation was formed from Romans, Teutons, Etruscans, Greeks, Arabs, and so forth. The French nation was formed from Gauls, Romans, Britons, Teutons, and so on. The same must be said of the British, the Germans and others, who were formed into nations from people of diverse races and tribes.

Thus, a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people.

On the other hand, it is unquestionable that the great empires of Cyrus and Alexander could not be called nations, although they came to be constituted historically and were formed out of different tribes and races. They were not nations, but casual and loosely-connected conglomerations of groups, which fell apart or joined together according to the victories or defeats of this or that conqueror.

Thus, a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable community of people.

But not every stable community constitutes a nation. Continue reading

Lies Concerning the History of the Soviet Union

by Mario Sousa, Communist Party Marxist-Leninist Revolutionaries (Sweden)

From Hitler to Hearst, from Conquest to Solzhenitsyn

The history of the millions of people who were allegedly incarcerated and died in the labour camps of the Soviet Union and as a result of starvation during Stalin’s time.

In this world we live in, who can avoid hearing the terrible stories of suspected death and murders in the gulag labour camps of the Soviet Union? Who can avoid the stories of the millions who starved to death and the millions of oppositionists executed in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time? In the capitalist world these stories are repeated over and over again in books, newspapers, on the radio and television, and in films, and the mythical numbers of millions of victims of socialism have increased by leaps and bounds in the last 50 years.

But where in fact do these stories, and these figures, come from? Who is behind all this?

And another question: what truth is there in these stories? And what information is lying in the archives of the Soviet Union, formerly secret but opened up to historical research by Gorbachev in 1989? The authors of the myths always said that all their tales of millions having died in Stalin’s Soviet Union would be confirmed the day the archives were opened up. Is that what happened? Were they confirmed in fact?

The following article shows us where these stories of millions of deaths through hunger and in labour camps in Stalin’s Soviet Union originated and who is behind them. Continue reading

Red State Irony

by Neill Herring

The last four or five decades have seen extraordinary economic and population growth in the southern states of the United States, continuing historic developments that started during the Second World War and were later stimulated by the end of legal racial segregation. One national effect of those changes has been a continual shift in the center of economic growth for the whole country to the southern and western states, away from the Northeast and the Midwest “rust belt.”

The character of the exploitation of labor in the South has changed as investment patterns have displaced large populations from manufacturing and extractive employment. The continuing breakdown of the caste-like remnants of post-Reconstruction labor “markets” has removed hundreds of thousands of workers from home- and institution-based domestic service, as well as various manual occupations, and forced them into other employment. This new “New South” has been widely celebrated, even as regional wage rates still trail other sections of the country (and while the South shares the national upward redistribution of wealth). What is different now from the pattern in the 1950s is that realizing a return on investment by the sweating-it-out of workers is nothing like the obvious low-cost option it was then.

Marx says there are two sources of economic wealth: that produced by human labor; and the wealth that can be taken by that labor from the earth itself, from land, air, and water. As the rate of the exploitation of the former has continued to increase, exploitation of the latter has also risen, particularly in the South. Continue reading

Venezuela’s Recovery from Austerity: The Successful Outcomes of the Bolivarian Revolution

by Kurt B.

The war against global capitalism and American imperialism has been a long and bloody struggle for those feeling the oppression and exploitation in the developing world.  For those countries which share a close proximity to the United States, the creation or adoption of counter-ideologies has sometimes become the inevitable result of combating existing inequalities and injustices due to neo-colonialism.

Throughout the 20th century, many Central and South American nations have undertaken this course of action, including the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which has embarked on the most revolutionary transition in the entire region in recent times.

The Bolivarian Revolution was instigated in 1997 by the Fifth Republic Movement; a left-wing political party led by Hugo Chavez (renamed the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 2007).  After winning democratic elections in 1998 and being formally inaugurated as President of Venezuela, Chavez fully dedicated his incumbency to fighting poverty, illiteracy and the vast inequalities that engulfed his country.  He strived to achieve these goals by reforming every realm of societal existence and the policy-making process to ensure that any positive changes made would stay intact. Continue reading

Seven Questions for the Dalai Lama

Editor’s Note: It is a universal rule that all religions and their sects should forbid murdering and telling lies, and protect the interests of the country and its people. Tibetan Buddhism is no exception.

It is also a rule of Buddhism and a common understanding that life should be cherished and truth should be respected. However, reviewing some remarks and actions of the 14th Dalai Lama in recent years, the writer cannot help raising some questions to him. (original)

Q1:Why does the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation?

The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar so as to memorize “the fallen heroes of Tibet” in Dharamsala, India on Feb.22, 2012.

The writer can’t help thinking that the Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memorial of self-immolators.

It’s been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work.

However, “self-immolation” is an extreme way to end one’s life. In the modern age, any group or force encouraging self-immolation for their illegal purposes in any place is bound to be condemned.

UN declaration on measures to eliminate international terrorism declared that criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular communities for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.

From “3.14 Riots” in 2008 to recent self-immolations, all those incidents were premeditated long before and happened at a price of ordinary Tibetans’ peaceful life and even lives?

There is a saying in Buddism: “Saving one life is better than build a seven-storey pagoda”. Looking back, how many young lives have been terminated due to the Dalai Lama’s bewitching. Even if the Dalai Lama build hundreds of thousands of temples, it could not offset his sin in inciting repeated self-immolations of young monks.

Q2: Who extinguishes Tibetan culture?

In November 2011, the 14th Dalai Lama acclaimed in Japan that the reason for Tibetan monks’ self-immolations was “China’s policy on extinguishing Tibetan culture”.

As to “Tibetan culture”, the Dalai Lama follows such a logic: Tibetan culture is the culture of Tibetan Buddhism, the culture of Tibetan Buddhism is the culture of the Gelug Sect (the yellow sect of Tibetan Buddhism, and the sect of the Dalai Lama) while the Dalai Lama has the final speaking in the Gelug Sect.

In other words, anything that goes against the Dalai Lama is regarded by him as “extirpation of Tibetan culture”. What a ridiculous idea! The Dalai Lama still treats himself as the serf owner, Tibet as his property and Tibetan people as his slaves.

A scholar has pointed out that the so-called “extinguished Tibetan culture” refers to the absolute privilege of the religious figures. In the Dalai Lama’s eyes, the fact that common Tibetans master the culture would violate the stiff hierarchy of theocracy.

In fact, Tibetan culture consists of not only religious culture but also folk culture, not only traditional culture but also modern culture, not only the culture of the Tibetan ethnic group but also the cultures of other ethnic groups, such as Confucius culture, Mongolian culture and Manchu culture.

The religious culture has never been the only content of Tibetan culture, let alone the “Dalai Lama’s culture” or “Gelug culture”. The 14th Dalai Lama racks his brains to cheat the world that he develops the whole Tibetan culture if he develops the Gelug culture. What he does is the worst “extirpation of Tibetan culture”!

In the writer’s opinion, the Dalai Lama’s “extirpation of Tibetan culture” exposes his ugly purpose: he attempts to meet the demand of Tibetan separatists and stir up the Western forces’ “impulse to put pressure on China” in order to realize his aim of restoring Tibet’s serfdom and dividing China.

Q3: Are the central government of China and Tibet in a “Supply and Granting” relationship?

The 14th Dalai Lama claimed in his “Reincarnation Statement” that the “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central governments of Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and Tibet didn’t change even when the 13th Dalai Lama was conferred in 1879.

His statement implied that inland China and Tibet was historically in the so-called “Supply and Granting” relationship, and denied Tibet as an administratively subordinative region of China.

Reviewing the history of Qing, however, the author cannot help wondering why the Dalai Lama, known for his lineal memory of previous life, suddenly became “amnesiac” and denies the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. The author would like to help Dalai Lama recover his memory kindly by raising some questions.

Since the Dalai Lama considered the central government and Tibet had no “Supply and Granting” relationship when he was appointed, why was he so polite towards the central government’s ministers stationed in Tibet, reporting everything and seeking for support whenever he met problems?

Did he remember that he had directly reported to the emperor but was denied for bypassing the ministers stationed in Tibet?

The author believes that his previous life didn’t forget these facts before he was reincarnated, and he should not suddenly lose memory. He cannot go so far as to deny those facts as a human being.

Here is a piece of advice for the Dalai Lama: if there were no “Supply and Granting” relationship between the central government and Tibet and no drawing lot from the golden urn, the Dalai Lama and his previous life would not have existed either, let alone the “shows” he performed today.

At present,”traveling through time” is prevalent in the films and TV series. And I think the Dalai Lama should also “travel back” and review his previous life, and then he will tell the truth.

Q4: Why did you build up a “Berlin Wall” of national antagonism?

“Since the Berlin Wall collapsed, the world has witnessed that despotism has no future…the world belongs to humanity, and every country belongs to its people, not a political party, nor a king or spiritual leaders”, said the Dalai Lama in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) in July 2011, acting as if he is the “protector” of the world.

However, the author once noticed that the Dalai Lama stated in the “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People” (delivered in November 2008) that “it would be vital that” the so-called future “autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC”. This remark is a public declaration to expel non-Tibetan residents out of Tibet.

At the same time, the Dalai Lama and his followers advocated the “promotion of harmonious relationships between the Tibetan and Han people” with their tongues in cheeks, colluding with some shameless scholars to organize “Friendship Association between the Tibetan and Han people”. Through the contrast, it is evident that the Dalai Lama is a tricky liar skilled in double-dealing. His real intention of stirring up national hatred is obvious.

To be specific, the Dalai Lama was preying for support and sympathy with so-called slogan of “autonomy”, so that the feudal serfdom can be restored one day; and in the name of “protecting ethnic characteristics”, he was actually building up a “Berlin Wall” of ethnic segregation and confrontation.

The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the uncontrolled and cruel Nazi during the Second World War.

Behind the Dalai Lama’s concepts of “Middle Way Approach” and “high-level autonomy” is actually the idea of ethnic separation.

How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jewish!

Q5: Who do you speak for?

On February 10, 2010, the Dalai Lama asserted that he had responsibilities to speak for 6 million Tibetans during his trip of U.S.

He always plays tricks under the cover of doing good for Tibetans. It is doubtable that the Dalai Lama would speak on the behalf Tibetans as he is sponsored by the US and his relatives work for Central Intelligence Agency.

Let us find out who does the Dalai Lama actually speaks for.

The Dalai Lama claimed himself “son of India” on November 22nd, 2009. To be filial to his “father”, Dalai frequently exclaimed that the Lhoka Prefecture in Tibet belongs to India. He even said that India was better qualified for claiming Tibet’s sovereignty.

The Dalai Lama is the largest serf-owner in the old Tibet. He enjoyed the obedience of officials and owned all land, livestock and serfs.

The secular Geluns who followed him fleeing to India are no exception from oppressors. Top leaders of the Dalai Clique are merely ordinary Tibetans.

As for lives of the Tibetan communities in exile, they live in poverty and misery which can not be compared with their counterparts in China. It is doubted whether the Dalai Lama could repay them.

The Dalai Lama is labeled as “American follower”, “Son of India” and the formerly “serf-owner”. He speaks for his overseas boss and the feudal serf system. Democracy and election, out of his feudal realm before, became his “slogan” now. What a fickle man.

There is no possibility that the Dalai Lama can serve as a qualified leader for his followers. Unless he had rewritten his gene mapping as a serf-owner and traitor, could he be the spokesman of the Tibetans, which we all know is impossible.

Q6: Who are you praying for?

The Dalai Lama always says that he admires the courage of those who have died in self-immolation incidents and he will pray for them. To win the chance of being prayed by the Dalai Lama who has special religious status, his followers are in no doubt required to imitate their “examples”. The Dalai Lama has pointed out the method: “self-immolation’.

Praying is a common thing in religion, but if it were used with despicable intention it would become curse. What is the 14th Dalai Lama actually praying for then?

At first glance, the Dalai Lama seems to have prayed a lot: he did pray for the accidents such as Japan earthquake, the tsunami in Indonesia, and Taiwan typhoon.

However, when it comes to the interests of the United States and his other supporters, the Dalai Lama must be tight-lipped regardless of creatures being trampled on. For example, recently the US soldiers shot a dozen Afghan women and children, but the Dalai Lama dared not speak even a word. How clever he is!

The Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008 killed tens of thousands of lives instantly including many Tibetans. When some of them were not confirmed dead or alive, on May 15, the Dalai Lama visited Germany. However, he made no comment on the human catastrophe when many Tibetans were suffering physical and mental pain, nor did he express a trace of sympathy. Sources said that the Dalai Lama was in inexplicable ecstasy, showing his “real gaffe “.

What’s more, the Dalai Lama did nothing for the quake-hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, though he murmured a few words. It was the huge investment from central government that helped the affected Tibetans to rebuild their homes quickly.

After all, the Dalai Lama’s “prayer” is just a political one. He himself should know clearly whether his title of “Nobel Peace Prize winner” is true or false. He painted camouflage of “blessing”, but the color is peeling off and the inside is being brought to light.

Q7: Why Dalai Lama is despised by Netizens?

Before each self-immolation, it was always accompanied by activities such as “religious affairs” or “assemble meeting” organized by the Dalai Clique. The Chinese netizens gave an insight into the case.

Netizens said the Dalai Lama and his followers, who were all religious figures, had intervened in politics. It should not be allowed by any civilized society.

The Dalai Lama’s motive is clear: to restore the feudal serfdom system in Tibet under the cloak of “democracy”, “election” and “peace” with helps from his foreign partners.

Neither the history nor the people would agree.

The netizens’ voices generally represent the public opinions. We wonder if the Dalai Lama is aware of the fact that he is despised by the public.

The Dalai Lama isn’t worthy of worship. He has never felt contented for his super privilege as head of the feudal serfdom society. So today it is impossible for the monk to “debase himself” and join in carrying out the “democracy”.

Here, I would like to give a piece of advice to the Dalai Lama that if he continued to place himself against the country and the people, he wouldn’t have a good end.

Don’t even think about trying to separate Tibet from China. All the 56 ethnic groups unite together here.

The following is a letter written by a netizen to the Dalai Lama and his western supporters:

I ask God, “When will Tibet be independent?”

God answers, “It is impossible until the earth comes to the end.”

I ask, “Why do some people still play tricks to split China?'”

God illustrates, “They are ignorant, boring and inhuman.”

I am confused and ask, “Why don’t you punish them?'”

God says, “I am in charge of human beings’ behaviors rather than domestic animals.”

I ask, “Who will be responsible for them?'”

God answers contemptuously, “You’d better ask ‘Miss Liberty’ in US.'”

“The white pretentious woman standing at the harbor called ‘Liberty’? ”

“Yes, it is her.'”

“Well, to be frank, I don’t believe in her.”

*note: Originally published on China Tibet OnlineMarch 23, 2012.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

by Peggy Macintosh

Posted by kasama on March 25, 2012

The following essay first appeared in the Winter 1990 issue of Independent School. Other pieces describe the structures and evolution of white supremacy in the U.S. This widely circulated essay is a cataloguing of how white supremacy is experienced — by those who are white.  

Today, we would want to start with the questions:

When you walk to the store, are you worried that a crazed armed neighbor will confront and then shoot you because he thinks  you don’t belong there?

When you kiss your son goodbye at the door, do you worry that he might face sudden deadly attack from racist nuts or police authorities?

Through work to bring materials from women’s studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are overprivileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials that amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages that men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened, or ended.

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that, since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there is most likely a phenomenon of white privilege that was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that 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 think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that 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, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in women’s studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, “having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”

After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then 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. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.

My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work that will allow them to be more like us.

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area that I can afford and in which I would want to live.

3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about civilization, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

9. 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 that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can deal with my hair.

10. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

12. I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.

15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color, who constitute the worlds’ majority, without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

18. I can be sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge” I will be facing a person of my race.

19. 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.

20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

21. I can go home from most meetings or organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in rather than isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

23. I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my race will not work against me.

25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

26. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color that more or less matches my skin.

Elusive and Fugitive

I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; ones’ life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.

In unpacking this invisible knapsack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience that I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant, and destructive.

I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions that were passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turn, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly freely.

In proportion as my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color.

For this reason, the word privilege now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work systematically to overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.

Earned strength, unearned power

I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systematically. Privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. 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. Some, like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.

We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages, which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantage, which unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies. For example, the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege for a few. Ideally it is an unearned entitlement. At present, since only a few have it, it is an unearned advantage for them. This paper results from a process of coming to see that some of the power that I originally say as attendant on being a human being in the United States consisted in unearned advantage and conferred dominance.

I have met very few men who truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we will be like them, or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance, and, if so, what we will do to lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the United States think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color; they do not see whiteness as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

Difficulties and angers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantages associated with them should not be seen as the same. In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage that rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex, and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking, as the members of the Combahee River Collective pointed out in their “Black Feminist Statement of 1977″.

One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms, which we can see, and embedded forms, which as a member of the dominant groups one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.

Disapproving of the system won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitude. But a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate but cannot end, these problems.

To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. 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 subject taboo. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.

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.

Although systemic change takes many decades, there are pressing questions for me and, I imagine, for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What will we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden system of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.

*note: Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181 The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.