Monday, April 11, 2011

White Privilege at Walgreens on Union and McLean

Last semester, I took Counseling Psychology. One of the first topics we examined was White Privilege. As a class assignment, we were asked to go to a nearby pharmacy and find greeting cards, magazines, bandages, make-up, and stockings for an African American woman. The experience was eye opening to say the least. I had gone to the same Walgreens that I have shopping at since freshman year, yet I had never noticed the lack of variety and price discrepancy for African-American products. I discovered that Hallmark offers a line of greeting cards, called “Mahogany,” that is specifically intended for African Americans; however, this section was noticeably smaller and distinct from the adjacent aisle of greeting cards. Moreover, I could only find two magazines for African Americans out of the plethora that were offered. The task of finding such magazines was difficult considering both were on the bottom shelf. The bandages, stockings, and make-up for African Americans were more expensive than the products offered for Caucasians. For example, Covergirl sold dark foundation shades for $10.79, while the light foundation shades were $8.79.

Considering the Memphis population is approximately 60% African American and 30% Caucasian, I was stunned at the limited selection of African American products. In addition, each African American product was labeled in reference to skin color, such as “Brown Sugar” or “Mahogany.” Such distinction from other products perpetuates the normative value of being White in our society. In addition, it is unjust that African Americans pay more for products simply because of their skin tone.

After reading the article on White Privilege, I was particularly struck when the author wrote, “whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow ‘them’ to be more like ‘us’” (McIntosh, 1). However, allowing “them” to be more like “us” seems like an impossible endeavor; the difficulty about white privilege is that it is often unrecognized. Thus, people will not be able to afford such privilege to minority groups. On the other hand, denying white privilege seems to mimic the “colonizer who refuses” dilemma; is it possible to escape white privilege in our society?


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  2. I do not feel like it is possible to escape white privlege. One cannot simply decide that they will no longer take part in it because as we learned with the colonizer and the colonized and what we've probably gained from past experiences is that the under privleged cannot grasp the same privileges that the privleged cannot refuse. This was a very interesting assignment that you all were given and it;s also interesting that it has been a long time since I have noticed that. Only when I am looking for something specific that I am have a lot of trouble finding do I notice it. I guess it is possible to become desensitized to things like this because it is on a level of everyday life and after a while you have your particular places where you get what you need. But that is a still an interesting thought, most products are designed using Caucasians as the normative.

  3. I find it interesting that the make-up for blacks is differently priced than the make-up for whites, but I don't know if you can make the claim that it is that way because of white privilege. I have no idea what it takes to manufacture each type of make-up, and perhaps it is more expensive to make the darker make-ups. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to chalk up the price of the product you are inevitably going to sell more of (because Memphis is %60 black). Certainly I don't know if any of this is due to business or white privilege, but I don't think one can make a strong claim either way here without more evidence.


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