Rhetoricalanalysis of White Privilege
Privilegeis normally defined as the unearned advantage that someone isaccorded. At one point, it is evident that everyone has beenprivileged. In her article, Peggy McIntosh begins by explaining aboutmale dominance and their unwillingness to acknowledge that they areover-privileged. Additionally, she seeks to provide more insightabout white privilege. She argues that some whites enjoyunder-recognized privilege yet, they do not want to acknowledge it.Being the assistant director of Wellesley College and it is evidentthat has done a lot of research in women’s studies and hercredibility is thus unquestionable. The article effectively brings upvarious advantages that every white person gets to enjoy because ofhis or her skin color orientation without even realizing. Accordingto her, whites are taught to think that their lives are morallyneutral and normative. Her article stands out because she forwardsher arguments through various rhetorical appeals, effective choice ofwords, proper language and use of long lists to convince her audienceand the reader to accept her claims.
Apartfrom the definitions of the term privilege in the text and shortbeginning paragraphs, another technique that stands out in thearticle is the long list indicating how she benefits from whiteprivileges. The use of short paragraphs makes the piece easy to readand comprehend what white privilege mean without being distracted orgetting bored. Additionally, she includes this list which containsfifty specific examples from her life indicating the privileges sheenjoyed. This technique appeals to the reasoning of the audience orthe reader. It is well organized and is very engaging because some ofthe examples given occur in real life and it is true that many times,people do not notice. It is evident that if the examples were in theform of a paragraph, the article would have been boring to the readerand one would have had to re-read several times in order to fullyunderstand what was being explained.
Insupporting her claims, Peggy McIntosh uses relatively simple yetformal language that everyone can understand. She is probablyaddressing ordinary people who do not know much about white privilegeor at best, know about racism. She needs to be simple in her speechso that everyone can understand and so that the readers feelcomfortable. For example, she uses an analogy of white privilegebeing weightless and keeps on reciting article examples such asvisas, clothes, and maps. These are ordinary and straightforwardthings which are aimed at capturing the reader`s attention and makethe piece memorable.
Ontop of this, she also set an effective tone when explaining on whiteprivileges. It is evident that she is keen not to exalt herself aboveothers because this may annoy her readers. Additionally, she alsocaptures and maintains the audience attention when she includesherself with the uninformed audience. She uses inclusive words suchas “we” and this technique is effective because it makes thereader feel comfortable and valued (McIntosh, 1990). It helps inreinforcing some of the attributes that she shares with her audience.From an individual’s perspective, it can be said that her simplelanguage and tone are some of the strongest tools that McIntosh hasused to persuade her audience.
McIntoshhas as also used various rhetorical techniques to convince heraudience about the seriousness of the topic. She uses ethos orethical appeal when explaining that racism and gender equality areimportant. It is evident that women’s right movement was an ongoingpublic issue that elicited mixed reactions. By deciding to addressthis controversial issue alongside her topic of white privilege, sheaims to provoke her audience to think critically about the matter andmake moral decisions. Additionally, she has also used pathos oremotional appeal to engage with her audience emotionally.
Thesheer volume of the list on its own is enough to cause disbelief andshock for her audience. It is evident from the list given that thenumbers of advantages are overwhelming and this makes the readerreflect on some of the privileges that they too may be enjoyingwithout even realizing. Additionally, this technique also helps inevoking a feeling of guilt. The reader begins to feel that someonecould have all the privilege that others are not lucky to have yetthey failed to recognize. The list given is also an example of anemotional appeal because it creates the feeling that there are somany things that people take for granted in their daily lives. It isthus evident that the word choice, use of the list is aimed atevoking the audience’s sense of emotion and reason and as a resultfurther strengthening the author’s argument.
Anotherpowerful tool designed to engage and persuade the audience is theauthor’s appeal to reason. For instance, she articulates herarguments to the extent that everyone can openly acknowledge thatwhite privileges exist. In her list, McIntosh effectively analyzesthe list and point out that her and fellow whites were educated insuch a manner that they tend to take some privileges for granted. Shefurther clarifies that this is because most of the so-calledprivileges are usually assumed by the majority of the white people tobe a natural form of life.
Sheeffectively arranges her ideas chronologically by stating with themajor cause, which is equality and going down to the specific areasof concern. This arrangement is useful because it gives the readertime to internalize and comprehend whichever is being presentedslowly (Efstathiou & Bailey, 2012). It is evident that as thetalk continues and matters become more complicated, the audience isalready in a position to fully understand what is being presented. Agood example of this in the text is how the author begins bydefinition of terms such as privileges before eventually givingexamples to expound on the same. Being that her audience whereuninformed people, this technique was very effective and enabled herto persuade her audience that while privileges are real.
Inthe article, McIntosh clearly outlines the reasons as to why she isconvinced that the word “privilege” is a kind and soft word. Sheclaims that in its play, people should use the word “dominance”because it is the most appropriate and mean the mental control that aparticular members of the society have over another. Peggy McIntosheffectively uses rhetorical appeals, effective choice of words,proper language and tone and long lists to convince her audience andreaders that white privileges are real and that often, people do notrealize. The most visible one is the long list, which helps in makingthe piece easy to read and comprehend. Alongside the list are shortparagraphs that also serve the same purpose. Secondly, she has alsoused simple yet formal language, and this is because of her audiencewhich in this case, it is evident are uninformed on the topic. Apartfrom these techniques, he has also used ethos and pathos and appealto reason to persuade her audience further. These techniques areeffective because they involve the audience and as a result, theyfell appreciated and by the done the reader has finished reading, shehas already succeeded in her persuading him or her.
Efstathiou,N., & Bailey, C. (2012). Promoting active learning using audienceresponse system in large bioscience classes. NurseEducation Today, 32(1),91-95.
McIntosh,P. (1990). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack.