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A pair of emails crossed my desk yesterday that plunged me down a rabbit hole and into an exploration of white-male privilege—it was an amazing trip.My understanding of the phrase “white-male privilege” tracks along the lines laid down by feminist writer and academic activist Peggy Mc Intosh, a senior research scientist and associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, whose 1988 essay coined the phrase “invisible knapsack” as a metaphor for the benefits “of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks” that white Americans disproportionately carry compared with black and other Americans of color.
The challenge in all of this is a simple question: Who is allowed the privilege to determine how another person is viewed or treated?
As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, it’s likely many voices and views—not just those held by white men—will be represented in the answer.
The only differences were in the names of the students—Brad Anderson, Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, La Toya Brown, Juanita Martinez, Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Huang, and Mei Chen—which were designed to signal ethnicity, gender, and race in an obvious way.
“We found that faculty ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from Caucasian males, particularly in higher-paying disciplines and private institutions,” the authors wrote in the abstract of their study.
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He took umbrage with the implication that his failure to respond to the researchers’ fake letter represented racial animus.
As Barton wrote: For one, some professors whom I know simply do not respond to any unsolicited email, period. Possibly, but it cannot be considered a sign of ‘bias’.
Secondly, some professors (myself included) are admittedly widely inconsistent when it comes to answering unsolicited email.
While it may sound self-serving, I like to think that in my case whether or not I respond to an unsolicited email has more to do with the following external factors than with subtle encodings of racial or ethnic bias: my workload at the moment I receive the email, including but not limited to deadlines that are pending and/or the amount of grading I am facing; the time of the semester (early is better than middle or later); and so forth.