Engineering as a Space of White Privilege

Elliot P. Douglas

Abstract


Engineering has had a continual concern with diversity due to the low numbers of minority and female majors. Although race is recognized as socially constructed, the rhetoric around race in engineering for the most part takes it as an immutable characteristic of certain individuals (Black, Hispanic, Native American, etc.). Further, the approach to improving diversity takes on a Colonial perspective, with programs to help these students better “assimilate” into college life and to “fix” their perceived deficiencies in basic math and science. Some authors have examined the experiences of various minorities within engineering. However, there is almost no work that examines the privileges that inherently accrue to the majority white male in engineering. I take a Critical White perspective and build on Peggy McIntosh’s concept of the “invisible knapsack” to describe how I, as a white, heterosexual, Protestant, male, was inherently advantaged throughout my career as an engineer.


Keywords


Race; Class; Ability; Politics; Privilege; Oppression; Teaching; Research; Tools; Strategies; Youth; College; Education;

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