Supporting Evidence White Privilege

Updated May 14, 2022

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Supporting Evidence White Privilege essay

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As interpreters, it is our professional and ethical duty to provide communication access and act as a bridge between Deaf and hearing cultures. White interpreters can hinder this connection with our own lack of cultural competency and contribute to the oppression and discrimination of DPOC and interpreters of color, especially when many of us are not trained in issues of race, oppression and privilege. Regardless of intention, the effects of discriminatory remarks and behavior and perpetuating microaggressions are damaging. It is our responsibility to heighten our awareness of, and relationship to, issues of power, privilege and oppression . Interpreter awareness of oppressive behavior is the critical “first step to lead to actions that promote justice, and produce services with equity for Deaf Communities of Color” (Gallon, 2019).

A good place to start is in understanding white privilege. Peggy McIntosh starts her groundbreaking 1989 piece White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack with the sentiment, ‘I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group’. Only after recognizing, naming, and describing white privilege can one become accountable. In relation to giving up power, McIntosh says those who benefit from it must ask themselves, ‘having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?’”. She begins her work-of-self by identifying effects of white privilege in her own life and explains that, to her knowledge, her “African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom {she} comes into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions”. She gives fifty examples including,

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

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

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.

I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking..

She explains that before writing this list of realizations, she had repeatedly forgotten them and recognizes that the great pressure in avoiding confronting them, for in facing this she “ must give up the myth of meritocracy”. In unpacking the “invisible knapsack of white privilege”, she recognizes each experience as ones she once took for granted. The idea of white privilege is not a new one but has recently become a hot topic for controversial debate, no doubt in part due to our current political climate. Some have begun to explore their relationships to white privilege, while others deny its even existence. While individual acts have the potential to alleviate, they alone cannot end these problems. Solving systemic problems requires systemic change. She ends her piece by sharing the sentiment,

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, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base (McIntosh, 1989).

It’s been over three decades since McIntosh’s piece was first published and there is very clearly a lot of work left to do. Those in positions of power must use it to deconstruct and reconstruct the power systems they benefit from. This is an impossible task without first recognizing, describing, and naming those systems. When learning about white privilege for the first time, many {white} people experience negative reactions or even deny its existence or that they benefit from it. Gina Crosley-Corcoran, knows this feeling as well as anyone. In her piece Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person, she details her experience of growing up in extreme poverty and her reaction to being told by a feminist she had “white privilege”. She understood why “broke white folks get pissed” when called privileged.

As a child, she was discriminated against because of her poverty and is still recovering from those lasting wounds. She attributes her college education to her “more nuanced concept of privilege: the term ‘intersectionality’.” After being told she had white privilege she strongly responds, “‘my white skin didn’t do shit to prevent me from experiencing poverty.’ Then, like any good, educated feminist would, she directed me to Peggy McIntosh’s now-famous {1989) piece ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.’” She argues the impossibility of denying that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of other skin colors simply are not afforded after reading McIntosh’s work. There are many ways to experience privilege, and one can simultaneous benefit from some and not from others. These are the things that are handed to us at birth, and not earned, that provide opportunities to some and not to others. Intersectionality allows the ability to examine the many layers of discrimination simultaneously illuminating the results of multiple systems of oppression at work (Crosley-Corcoran, 2014).

Fortunately, although arguably in its infancy, the conversations and work have already begun and there are resources made available to those who are willing to join in. Mindess suggests interpreters familiarize themselves with code-switching between ASL and BASL as well as in the use of Standard English and Black Vernacular English and recommends white interpreters mentor with Black interpreters to effectively mirror language switching choices used by speakers/signers for the purposes of producing certain effects on audiences.The National Multicultural Interpreter Project cautions non-Black interpreters to exercise care in avoiding exaggeration of their emotional/expressive affect when interpreting for Black speakers and signers. In trying to take on a “style” that is not inherently natural to them, instead of effectively and respectfully emulating the person for whom they are interpreting, they may unconsciously represent a caricature of that style or person.

“The goal is to understand and be sensitive to cultural differences and interpret respectfully” (NMIP 29). For those who want to learn from the experiences and advice from Deaf interpreters of color Dear White Interpreters: A Panel of Deaf Interpreters of Color defines the meaning of BIPOC, explains: how to sign “black?. Signs in other communities that are sometimes misused, and gives advice for white interpreters working with people of color. It details examples of white interpreters causing harm for people of color, examples of benefits for people of color working with interpreters of color as well as providing advice for white interpreters on accepting or declining assignments and advice for interpreters of color. In addition, RID has released a Diversity Statement that specifically mentions their understanding of “the necessity of multicultural awareness and sensitivity” and a commitment to diversity both within the organization and within the profession of sign language interpreting. They further detail their next steps and plans of action of diversity. These are only but a few examples of possible next steps for interpreters working towards equity in the profession, but there are many more to explore.


There are still many questions that are unanswered, including the most important question of all—how is the problem solved? Nobody is immediately perfect at anything. It takes effort, time, dedication, and a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them to master a skill. This could be tattooing, interpreting, or challenging our own learned prejudices and biases and confronting them head-on. I took a chance by getting tattooed by Ana, but everyone needs a safe place to practice their skills and sometimes there is a level of risk involved but there must be real practice in order to make improvements. If not for those in the Deaf community who have taken a chance on me, and provided a patient and constructive environment for me to make mistakes, learn, and improve my craft it would be impossible to have any measurable amount of success as an interpreter. I can say the same for those friends who called me in, rather than out. We must continue to hold ourselves, and others, accountable if we hope to make any positive changes. The work begins with ourselves.

Supporting Evidence White Privilege essay

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Supporting Evidence White Privilege. (2022, May 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/supporting-evidence-white-privilege/


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