One of the most important steps in innovation is seeing the patterns that confine us. That's why it's so important to listen to people who question conventional wisdom and the status quo. They may not be right but they are most probably signalling some previously unnoticed pattern.
The New Yorker: The Woman Who Coined the Term White Privilege, 2014-May-13, interview of Peggy McIntosh by Joshua Rothman
In order to understand the way privilege works, you have to be able to see patterns and systems in social life, but you also have to care about individual experiences. I think one’s own individual experience is sacred. Testifying to it is very important—but so is seeing that it is set within a framework outside of one’s personal experience that is much bigger, and has repetitive statistical patterns in it.
Is that the challenge—or the usefulness—of the idea of privilege, as you see it? That it asks you to combine an individual view of life with an abstract one?
When Tal Fortgang was told, “Check your privilege”—which is a flip, get-with-it kind of statement—it infuriated him, because he didn’t want to see himself systematically. But what I believe is that everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in life. Whiteness is just one of the many variables that one can look at, starting with, for example, one’s place in the birth order, or your body type, or your athletic abilities, or your relationship to written and spoken words, or your parents’ places of origin, or your parents’ relationship to education and to English, or what is projected onto your religious or ethnic background. We’re all put ahead and behind by the circumstances of our birth. We all have a combination of both. And it changes minute by minute, depending on where we are, who we’re seeing, or what we’re required to do.