A bit back, a young person and I were discussing racism. The young person is young, and white, of good will, and I suggested zie read Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack" (linked here, thanks to the University of Michigan). It seemed like a good reading for someone who was ready to think more about racism. In order to make getting it easy for hir, I put up a link on my effbee page.
This morning, I got an email from my Mom. She says she read the essay (because she saw my link) and found it really insightful and thought-provoking, and now she's passing it along to her friends at her retirement center. (Most of whom are white, all of whom are middle or upper-middle class.)
I think of McIntosh's essay as being something everyone knows about and has read. I am wrong, of course. People in English departments have read it, and probably people in lots of other areas of academics. But people who frequent my Mom's retirement center, not so much.
The thing is, my Mom and (in my experience talking with them when I visit) the other folks at her retirement center are basically decent human beings. They don't want to be racists, and many of them (including my Mom) have done good work (my Mom tutored children and adults in basic literacy, for example, among other things), but they haven't necessarily thought about systemic racism or privilege. So this essay is thought-provoking (as indeed, it is) and helpful to them.
It makes me proud of my Mom that she's thinking about racism and passing the essay around to her friends. She and many other white people of her generation have changed a lot over the years, have tried to become less racist. I'm sometimes really critical of her (because I'm her daughter, of course), but I think she's had a harder time getting where she is than I ever had, in large part because she raised me to think about race, and started me earlier thinking about race and social justice than I'd have started alone.