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The U.S.: A White, heterosexist, capitalist, Christian, educated, able-bodied patriarchy

Updated on September 30, 2012

Arguably, the U.S. historically has seemed to have been a White country, and I say "seemed" because White people have historically had the most access to societal power, and therefore has been dominant. That dominance has made White, heterosexist, capitalist, Christian, educated, able-bodied people the standard group of people in the United States, and the group is that which is judged against and primarily considered when making certain decisions. It doesn’t matter if a person who fits that description is the minority in an area; as long as they have that racial location, they will continue to see the world from that standpoint and benefit from being a part of that group. As Mohammed said, it all depends on what the "elites" say; Whites can set themselves as the standard by which other cultures and ethnicities can be applied, and if they don't match, then the others are deemed inferior.

Peggy McIntosh’s “invisible knapsack” is a good example of this. European Americans benefit from the privileges of being White oftentimes without realizing it because they hold the power over other cultures and ethnicities. The first 10 items in the knapsack include:

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

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

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

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me. (This supports the fact that the average European American lives in a neighborhood that is more than 80%, well, European American.

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

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

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

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

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

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

White people currently have the power in the United States, which means they are the most comfortable and understood group in the nation, currently. Meanwhile, minority groups don’t have the privilege of being in areas where their races or cultures are the most pervasive, where they are confident their voice will be heard, and where they can speak their own language comfortably.

What can be done about this? Primarily, education about the values and histories of different ethnicities and cultures helps immensely. I know it's helped me out of my little shelter of idealism.


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    • jcd302 profile image


      9 years ago from Belding, MI

      Much agreed. I live in rural West Michigan and don't have to deal with many outside my race. However, I have supervised a wide array of cultures so it is not anything new to interact with others.I am now in retail and deal with woever comes to me for parts/information.

      I'm not prejudice, I hate everyone equally!

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      These comments are even more amazing and insightful than I could have ever expected. Thank you for drawing on your experiences and sharing your perceptions. While it's true that we may not be that different as humans, there are enough differences to cause varying reactions among others. SpiritHappy, I love your comment including my kitty :)

    • DarleneMarie profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Very interesting Hub! I am white and have been exposed to a different culture though my step-mother, who is of Asian decent and I realized that I do not really have to think about being white that much. Can the same be said of other races in the United States? We are obviously progressing as a nation and I think it will continue in the right direction :)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Where is the love. It is Amazing how we have divided people based on melonin in skin. Even so called "whites" have melonin in their skin. My site is based on spirituality and love. I am surprised how much we all seperate ourselve. at we sell nothing but LOVE. Please let us awake an love each other before it is too late. That cat in your arms has more sense than most of us. Great colors on the cat..makes you think..

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi, The big lie is that we have all been deceived into thinking there is a race of whites. There is not one American who does not have a mix of many Nationality. There are no whites only nationalities.There are Germans, Scots, French,African, Carib..etc Why did we buy this lie of race. It is the biggest hoax and unfortunately what will bring the demise of these "once" great Nation. PBS did a great special 2 years ago and proved race does not exist. Although we see our selves as intellengent we humans are not an intelligent species.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      The title of your Hub punches home the centrist view many American citizens have about their own slice of the pie.  Whether they are certified members of the DAR, or daughters and sons of immigrants who made their way and paved a road for their children, they follow the white, heterosexist, capitalist, Christian, educated, able-bodied patriarchy that this country's elite fosters.  It's a badge of courage and the patriotic way to wear it.  That's what they've been taught.

      At the same time, there are those who do not conform to this scheme.  And they are to be applauded.  We are a country who welcomes all.

      With all that said, I echo JamaGenee's thoughts about a bi-racial president.

      It's time to get rid of the stereotypes and look at our brothers and sisters for who they are, as individuals, not for what we think they represent, but for what they are.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      That a bi-racial president is will inhabit the Oval Office says much about how far this country has embraced tolerance in the past decade.

    • eovery profile image


      9 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Nice Hub.

      The tides are changing. With the white's having less children, the minorities are catching up in numbers. It appears that within ten to twenty years, the whites may become a minority.

      This last election, I think the minorities found some of their voice and learned that their votes could make a difference.

      Keep on hubbing.

    • earnestshub profile image


      9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Coming from Australia, I was horrified at the racism I saw in America first hand in the 1970s

      By the mid 1990s I had already seen a lot of changes. I hope America, and Australia continue to become race tolerant societies.

    • crulf8 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great peice! I like the social study you have written. Do not forget that alot of this has to do with wealth and knowledge. To be inclusve no matter your color you have to be wealthy and schooled. There are whites that would not fit in with other whites based soley on thier color. And the same goes for other races too. Native Americans, Blacks, Whites, Asians and hispanics will all be one race in the distant future of the United States. We are the melting pot, a mutt is much smarter and sharper than a purebred who is kept through the same lineage. We already are very mixed with Native Americans. I am part cherokee and a good percentage of whites will say they have some native american blood. We assume someone is white and they are Native American, Scandinavion, hispanic, and asian. So what is the big deal with race and why do we as people put such an emphisis on it. If you were poor and moved to an exclusive area of any color you would be removed. Your mannerisms would be diferent and you would immeadietly try to use the waste. I know because I have lived on the Balboa puninsulla in Newport Beach and I have lived in the ghetto of Long Beach. Long Beach is a good study of poverty being so close to wealth. Race and wealth divisions are going to happen until about 10 generations and if we do not go towards a more socialist / capitalist system we are going to see the haves and the have nots are going to be more a division than any race division in this country. Sorry, you wrote a very nice peice.

    • m2maker profile image


      9 years ago

      It is important that we love each other regardless of race

    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      "America is truly the best country on Earth"

      That's a debate, not a fact.

    • Steve Orris profile image

      Steve Orris 

      9 years ago from NE Ohio

      It is good to see things from another point of view. America is truly the best country on Earth but not everyone is equally privileged. Although some issues are right and wrong there are cultural differences that should be experienced and appreciated. Styles of clothing, types of music, different food, and so much more. Not two of our fingerprints are the same because God likes variety.

      There is a word that is over used in America today. That word is tolerance. How would you like it if someone told you today that they tolerate you. Not very flattering is it. Rather than tolerating someone because they are different why not celebrate their difference and enjoy what you have in common. America's problem is we have diversity without unity. If we would share one another's burdens and treat everyone the way we want to be treated we would have unity. Diversity would then be our strength not our weakness.

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your passionate and honest responses. I love how you inject your stories and experiences in a few sentences... it really brings this Hub to life, and I appreciate it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      you're right when u said US has seemed to have been a white country. down south where im from, US history is changing.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      9 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      I just don't get it...If you look back into History...the people that fled from Europe where the adventurous ones trying to escape paying so much of their earnings? in taxes...They came from heritage is from Germany..Ireland...Russia...many people followed and began to build this country...I am not in favor of the way they slaughtered the native's that were was wrong...but it is done...  and I can see how stories get told by many different people with many different thoughts about it.

      Of course back then they didn't want to teach about how wrong we many stories do we hear now about our governments past doings...wrong doings...I could make a list that would be a hub itself...

      I think we have come along way and we have done a whole lot to try to make up for past mistakes made by our forefathers...but this is Now...we are here is up to us Now to make this world a better place and it all comes from each one of us...

      We have immigrants from everywhere that come here to live...Why?? They are among all their own people that speak their own language...that all have similar religions...Aren't they capable of the same freedoms being established as we are? Well I think they want to come here because it is already established...because it iS a freedom to die many have done; so we can live like we choose too,believe like we want to,get a good eduacation (well??) better then many...I Love the USA "UNITED STATES" called AMERICA

      Ok I am done..sorry for rambling on...Nicely done hub my dear...G-Ma :o) Hugs & Peace

    • christine almaraz profile image

      christine almaraz 

      9 years ago from colorado springs

      I am half Native American and grew up on a reservation for most of my life. My mother, father and most of my family members still live there. I think the lack of Native American studies in our school system (all you tend to learn is that white people killed them and took their land) was bizarre to me as a child. Then they would make us celebrate Columbus Day and like I've always said, how you discover some place that is already occupied by natives? Did the Native Americans mean absolutely nothing to this country? And as much as we do know now, why are we still celebrating Columbus Day? We should at least re-name it something like "A White Guy Came to America Day". I agree with Sweetie Pie, our school system should tell of our history in a more balanced way and give credit where credit is due. Great hub.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well written and very interesting. You are awesome.

      Rich Simpson

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Glassvisage, thanks for a thought provoking hub. It's very true that being different from the majority can cost us. It's just that there are so many different ways to be different.

      There are all sorts of minorities and lots of different ways to slice the demographic pie. Race or ethnicity is one of them, but not the only one. For instance, we live in a rural area where almost everyone is Christian. Most people are white, too. But there are some from Asian and African American backgrounds. When during the Christmas concert the children in the public school sing Christmas carols with a religious theme, my daughter and I are the only ones who feel a little uncomfortable. (She would rather sing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas", rather than "O Holy Night", but she sings both if that's what's on the program.)

      The black and Asian kids in the school are all Christian, so they feel much more comfortable than we do during the Christmas concert, although to outward appearances we are more "white".

      I would prefer to live in a world in which people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Hopefully the race category will soon be less important to everyone, and the other categories of "differentness" will also lead to less discomfort.


    • LondonGirl profile image


      9 years ago from London

      very interesting, thank you!

    • bgamall profile image

      Gary Anderson 

      9 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Well, it is all true, except maybe the moving part since everyone is broke now regardless of ethnic background:)

    • Lifebydesign profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      I wasn;t sure what to expect, but this is interesting, I'd never heard of this. Well-put together glassvisage.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 

      9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I am white, (well, part Cherokee,) and a minority in my neighborhood. This makes it more difficult for me to find a job in my neighborhood, and I find Peggy McIntosh’s "invisible knapsack" offensive. I love being part of a community that is culturally and physically diverse. I wish I spoke spanish so it would be easier for me to find a job here, but I don't begrudge native spanish speakers and business owners their desire to be able to communicate with their employee's and customers clearly.

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 

      9 years ago

      Well now, we have come a long ways towards inclusion. I was discriminated against in public school as a child solely on my skin color. Being of Cherokee and Scots blood the American Native blood was more prevalant outwardly and some people never really knew what I was, but treated me different anyway. On all my formal papers I declare myself as Native American and I am torn between that and my Scottish heritage of which is my major bloodline.

      I no longer feel different, jusy American and I am very tolerant of others. We have many problems in America, but I don't really see this as an issue as it was back in 'the day'. We've come a long ways baby! Look at our new soon to be President! Who'd o' thunk it?

    • glassvisage profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you all for your comments. SweetiePie, how awesome of you to have the initiative to learn more about a part of your heritage!

      Tom and anja, it's true that things are getting better. I think we can only look forward to a brighter future... but only if people face the facts now!

    • anjalichugh profile image


      9 years ago from New York

      That's was nicely put. I feel, as Tom said, we are, most certainly, witnessing certain amount of tolerance in the society now, as compared to what we had in the past. Good work.

    • Tom Rubenoff profile image

      Tom rubenoff 

      9 years ago from United States

      Very nice. Even in the dominantly white society, the differeneces can be jarring. Yet we have been moving gradually toward a more inclusive society. May our progress continue.

    • SweetiePie profile image


      9 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Great research and a very important topic. One thing that always bothered me is being part Native American not nearly enough time is set aside in history classes for the study of Native American tribes. In order to quench my thirst on this topic as a child I had to do independent research. I think a balanced American history education is becoming more and more hopeful as we progress into the future.


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