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A review of “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh

A review of Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, available for your reading enjoyment at –

I find this anecdotal article loosely correlating findings in Women’s Studies to the issue of cultural assimilation and the assertion of the existence of a “white privilege” to very likely be among the most directly biased, prejudiced, and deliberately provocative items I have reviewed in quite some time.

Not only does this individual engage in the logical fallacy of the general rule (to assert or assume that a thing is true in every possible case), but also of:

– reductive fallacy (over-simplifying the causes),

– genetic fallacy (the argument that because the arguer holds a particular origin, the argument must be right),

– psychogenetic fallacy (that, if you know the reason why your discussion opponent prefers another argument, it is proof of bias),

– argument of the beard (the existence of one thing does not mean that many of the one thing makes a bigger, new thing)

– wisdom of the ancients (that arguments supported by an authority figure are automatically superior),

– argument by dismissal (rejecting the presence of other possible explanations without qualifying why they are so rejected),

– poisoning the well (attempting to discredit any position or source that might demonstrate other causes or reasons by use of argument by dismissal; this is, by the way, a form of ad hominem attack),

– cliche thinking (appealing to popular opinion rather than academic or clinically demonstrable fact),

– appeal to sympathy (argument that induces agreement by claiming suffering is reason enough to reject all other lines of argument)

– begging the question (argument that uses its own assumptions to “prove” its conclusion)

– stolen concept (using prejudice to prove prejudice)

– argument from authority (using position and status in women’s studies to imply equal credibility in socio-anthropology)

– appeal to authority (use of some other approval or endorsement as evidence of accuracy or factual truth)

– statement of conversion (use of a type of experiential authority to imply seeing things differently now makes them an authority)

– bad analogy (claiming two situations are similar when they are not)

– reifying (an abstract thing being spoken of as if concrete)

– false cause (asserting that because two things happened, the first one caused the second)

– confusing correlation and causation (ex: the bigger a child’s shoe size, the better the child’s handwriting. does having bigger feet make it easier to write? no, it means the child is older.)

– fallacy of composition (assuming the whole has the same simplicity as its parts)

– fallacy of division (assuming what is true of the whole is true of each constituent part)

– slippery slope (assuming that something is wrong because it occurs in proximity to something else that is wrong)

– argument by repetition (say it often enough, it will become true because people will begin believing it as truth)

– argument by selective observation; cherry-picking (presentation of favorable examples while ignoring unfavorable ones)

– argument by generalization (drawing a broad conclusion from a small number of perhaps unrepresented cases [due to selective observation, see above])

– argument from small numbers (assuming small numbers are the same as big numbers; ex: rolling three sevens in a row is common, rolling thirty-seven in a row is not)

– innumeracy (attempting to ignore or unreasonably reject regression to the mean)

– inconsistency (all bad things happening to ethnic groups are the fault of “white privilege”, but all good things are the result of their own choices, behaviors, etc.)

– non sequitur (something that does not automatically follow; ex: ethnic groups experience bias, prejudice, and discrimination does not automatically mean “white privilege exists”.)

– hypothesis contrary to (or in absence of) fact (arguing something that might be, but is not proven to be)

– argument by scenario (telling a story that ties together unrelated material and attempts to present it as if related)

– pious fraud (the ends [in this case, equality] justifies the means [asserting unproven as fact])

I might have found some need to consider the baseline premise had it been accompanied by any degree of supporting research, citation, or reference; instead, the entire argument, wholecloth, seems to make a sweeping generalization about the plethora of inter-related, multi-cultural, and range of religious, philosophical, and economic factors that contribute to challenges and difficulties in any society or culture and lay them at the figurative feet of “white people”… as if the overt lumping in of all nations and cultures whose skin tone is a particular color somehow is indicative of anything more than the very thing this article proclaims to be most against.

Were such an anecdotal article written about another “color” using such “logic”, it would be harried into the very ground for the bias, prejudice, and abject stereotyping in play (and rightly so, mind you!).

As a “white” person who happens to be both Cherokee and Irish, who has been on her own since the age of 13, who has endured homelessness (repeated instances), street life, and more that I do not care to mention here, I could write an equally interesting article from precisely the opposite perspective…. but then again, I couldn’t, because I’m not willing to pretend my personal, anecdotal experience has any place in a discussion of academic consideration, nor would I be willing to sacrifice my intellectual integrity to push what is effectively a poorly defended editorial as the best possible explanation for all societal and culture unrest, and I certainly would not be foolish enough to use the very same bias, prejudice, and stereotyping to accomplish it.

Posted in Diary Entries, Essays and Thoughts, Life.