Race is an issue that is omnipresent, and sometimes society refuses to acknowledge the existence of the advantages and disadvantages that are inherent to certain races. Peggy McIntosh analyzes race from the perspective of a white female in her article “White Privilege”, while Carlina Duan analyzes race from that of an Asian female in her article “Our sacrifice. our shame”. The contrasting perspectives in terms of race allow for a better understanding of how race creates inequality and division within society.
McIntosh, a white female, is taught from the perspective of whiteness that racism is something that puts someone else at a disadvantage, instead of that “white privilege is an advantage” (McIntosh, “White Privilege”) After careful reflection, she realizes that it is indeed an advantage, and enumerates multiple benefits of being white: not having to worry about being discriminated against for housing, the ability to ﬁnd the necessary items to fulfill cultural traditions, and being able to take on ajob without the suspicion of getting in because of race.
The other races are always “catching up” to reach an equal level, but rarely is whiteness described as a privilege. As a result, this mindset ofcatching up, allows for the white community to construct terms like the “model minority”. which is used to describe people like Duan. Duan, as an Asian American often has her success attributed to her race. Asians are often perceived as hardworking, and achieve a higher level of success. which is mainly measured by income. education, and they have “caught up” to those with white privilege, while other minorities have yet to do so.
In the same way males are told not to recognize their privilege. people with white privilege are also trained to ignore their privilege. Duan is often described as the “model minority”. and as the “token Asian friend” (Duan. “Our Sarcriﬁce, our shame”), to signify that her success is purely based on her racial background.
The recognition of a model minority then becomes detrimental to minority groups it facilitates racial oppression. The success of the model minority is from their hard work and strong dedications to education. Here. Asian Americans are the poster child for meritocracy, who still achieve high levels of succ ‘s in the “absence“ of racial discrimination. Then. the issue of “white privilege” is a non sequitur to the white community, as the success is purely based on meritocracy. As a result, they get to maintain their advantages over other minoriti s while denying the existence of their privilege. On the other hand, other minorities, who fail to meet the same levels of success, are then categorized as lazy and irresponsible as a whole, In that instance, white privilege is no longer in the picture, and the failures of minorities then devolves into a class issue and meritocracy. Furthermore, whites are reluctant to admit their privilege, as doing so would disprove the myth of meritocracy, and “thi. s not such a free country, one’s life is not what one makes it, many doors open for people through no virtues of their own” (McIntosh).
Those in control of the privilege would come precariously close to losing it, and the facade that they put up would no longer hold, and it becomes their primary goal to prevent awareness. If white privilege was truly just simply “waiting for others” to catch up, then those in control would surely have no problem allowing that to happen, but instead, it is an advantage that they are in fear of losing. In addition. not only are other minorities oppressed. groups within the model minority itself become oppressed. By using a blanket statement to describe a spectrum of backgrounds, society not only homogenizes many cultural groups. but also begins to ignore the discrimination that the model minority itself faces. The inequalities that the model minority faces are regarded as not as important as the inequalities that other minorities experience, since the model minority can be successful regardless.
Consequently, a racial hierarchy is formed, and the model minority faces even worse forms of oppression, since the oppression becomes invisible. In addition to institutional racism. the model minority also faces the challenge of meeting up to society’s expectations, which takes an emotional and psychological toll on the individual, who then has increased risk of stress. depression. and mental illnesses, and is yet another form of inequality, White people are seen to be the norm, the ideal, average, and anyone who does not fit the description becomes the “other”. White skin color becomes “an asset for any move I was educated to want to make” (Mclntosh). White privilege protects Mclntosh from discrimination, but Duan being the “model minority” only reinforces the notion of being different. While there are good connotations associated with being the “model minority”, Negative notions are intrinsic as well. Duan is always different, people wrinkle their noses at her food, she is called a variety of racial names, and is constantly under attack from the dominant racial group.
While forms of privilege are inextricably linked to each other, class, gender, race, sexual orientation, challenging the dominant group from a minority perspective is difficult. When Duan is sked to describe the inequalities that she faces, she says, “that’s hard. It’s a project I don’t know how to undertake without stammering, fearful to offend”. For Duan, it is uncomfortable for her to challenge the dominant white structure, as she in many instances she will get ignored because she is part of the model minority. However, McIntosh, a member of the dominant racial group, is able to gain credibility within her own group and suggests breaking down the barrier to equality by ﬁrst “acknowledging their colossal unseen dimensions”. The contrasting perspectives reinforce the notion that there is an inequality within racial groups. Mclntosh’s methodology is a pragmatic approach to creating reform within society. as the ﬁrst step to resolving a problem is to acknowledge the existence of a problem Only then, can greater progressive reform gain traction and overthrow oppressive politics.