S. Wildman Essay Race (Human Categorization) Ethnicity, Race & Gender

Stephanie M. Wildman, with Adrianne D. Davis
Making Systems of Privilege Visible, in
Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America, 1996
Language Veils the Existence of Systems of Privilege
When a baby is born, we ask “Is it a boy or a girl?” This is an example of how we do not
know how to relate without knowing gender.
It is also hard for us not to avoid to taking mental notes as to race and our language is
categorized by race. Example: A teacher calls on a Latino student, she calls him Mr.
Martinez but his name was Rodriguez.
There are categories beyond race and gender and many subcategories too. The
subcategories mask a system of power, and that system privileges whiteness.
There are many “isms” such as racism, sexism, etc. They fo
cus on the larger categories and
they give the illusion that all patterns of domination and subordination are the same and
Calling someone a racist individualizes the behavior and veils that racism can occur only
where it is culturally, socially, and legally supported. It lays blame on the individual rather
than the system that shaped the individual.
The focus on individual behavior, the seemingly neutral subparts of categorie
, and
apparent interchangeability underlying the vocabulary of isms all obscure the existence of 
systems of privilege and power.
Race should be discussed as a power system that creates privilege for some and
disadvantage to others.
What is Privilege?
Characteristics of a privileged group define social norm and privileged group members can
rely on their privilege and avoid objecting to oppression.
The privileged group’s affiliation with power may often be transformed into and presented
as individual merit.
Members of privileged groups can opt out of the struggles against oppression if they
Form of privilege can come from race, gender, class, etc.
Identification of privilege is difficult because the US is considered a classless society.
Discrimination based on race and sex, are illegal but the privilege of class and wealth seems
Language masks privilege and makes the bases for subordination themselves appear
linguistically neutral. As a result a hierarchy of power implicit in words such as race, gender,
and sexual orientation is banished from the language. Once the hierarchy is made visible, it
becomes possible to discuss them in a more revealing and useful fashion.