Mcintosh as synecdoche: How teacher education's focus on white privilege undermines antiracism

Timothy J. Lensmire, Shannon K. McManimon, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Mary E. Lee-Nichols, Zachary A. Casey, Audrey Lensmire, Bryan M. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


In this article, members of the Midwest Critical Whiteness Collective argue that Peggy McIntosh's seminal "knapsack" article acts as a synecdoche, or as a stand-in, for all the antiracist work to be done in teacher education and that this limits our understanding and possibilities for action. The authors develop this argument by questioning the lack of critique of McIntosh's 1988 classic "invisible knapsack" article and sharing two narratives by members of their collective that illustrate problems with both the acceptance and the rejection of McIntosh's conception of white privilege. This discussion illuminates how white privilege pedagogy demands confession and how confession is a dead end for antiracist action. The authors also explore how McIntosh's ideas can lead to dangerous misreadings of student resistance. Acknowledging the initial fruitfulness of McIntosh's ideas, it is time for us to move to more complex treatments of working with white people on questions of race, white supremacy, and antiracism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-431
Number of pages22
JournalHarvard Educational Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


Dive into the research topics of 'Mcintosh as synecdoche: How teacher education's focus on white privilege undermines antiracism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this