Society for the Teaching of Psychology: Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

Privilege, Power, and Marginalization

Resources in this section address the topic of group privilege, power, and marginalization, as well as strategies for teaching about these concepts.


Anderson, S. L., & Middleton, V. A. (2005). Explorations in privilege, oppression, and diversity. CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

This book contains a collection of personal narratives written by mainly faculty and students in counseling psychology. There is tremendous racial, ethnic, linguistic, sexual, and class diversity among the authors. The narratives are succinct but powerfully written--they encourage good dialogue, enhance students' understanding of their own privilege and oppression, and complement the theoretical material on identity development. There are thought-provoking questions at the end of each narrative.

Dews, C. L. B. (1995). This fine place so far from home. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

This collection of essays was written by women and men from lower class and/or ethnic minority backgrounds who are currently working in academia. Many essays explore their experiences, including their feelings of isolation and the ways in which the subtle message that they are ‘different’ is conveyed. Many students, especially students of color and first generation college students, will resonate with their experiences.

Graham, L. O. (1995). Member of the club: Reflections on life in a racially polarized world. New York: Harper Collins.

Larry Graham is a highly successful, Harvard-trained lawyer who writes about his personal views and experiences about being Black in a community of predominantly White professionals. One of the more memorable essays recounts his experiences working undercover as a busboy in an all-White Connecticut country club. Others address topics from racism at Princeton University to how Black men are treated in everyday situations, such as dining in restaurants and hailing a taxicab.

Johnson, A. G. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference (2nd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Allan Johnson’s book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand how privilege is built into our society, how it results in prejudice and discrimination, and what individuals and society can do to combat its effect. Writing in clear, engaging prose, Johnson explains the source of privilege and addresses why people deny its existence. The book concludes with an outstanding chapter, “What can we do?” that helps students understand that the negative effects of privilege can be overcome.

Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and racism (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

This classic volume addresses many aspects of prejudice and racism, but is most notable for its focus on the history of race relations in the United States and how the White social hierarchy led to White’s dominance and control over Blacks. Jones is known for his conversational writing style and the book includes many case histories and personal narratives that complement his excellent coverage of research and theory.

Kimmel, M. S., & Ferber, A. L. (Eds.). (2009). Privilege: A Reader.Cambridge MA: Westview Press.

This anthology includes classic and contemporary, academic and personal, essays exploring the multiple and interacting forms of privilege based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and location.  Essays in the final section  explore strategies for addressing inequality, including the use of allies.

Book Chapters

D'Andrea, M. (1993). Expanding our understanding of white racism and resistance to change in the fields of counseling and psychology. In J. S. Mio & G. Y. Iwamasa (Eds.), Culturally diverse mental health: The challenges of research and resistance (pp. 17–37). New York: Brunner-Routledge.

The author categorizes more than 1,500 White individuals he has encountered over the years from those blatantly racist to those whom he feels are activists against racism. The categories he uses are Affective–Impulsive Disposition, Rational Disposition, Liberal Disposition, Principled Disposition, and Principled Activistic Disposition. He also discusses intervention strategies with each of these dispositions in order to encourage growth to the next level or support in the final level.

Herek, G. M. (2003). Why tell if you’re not asked? Self-disclosure, intergroup contact, and heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. In L. D. Garnets & D. C. Kimmel (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian, gay, and bisexual experiences (2nd ed., pp. 270–298). New York: Columbia University Press.

In this writing, Herek addresses the stigma of homosexuality and how it influences gays and lesbians decision about whether and when to self-disclose their sexual orientation. The issues he raises are rooted in heterosexual privilege, including the societal assumption that “heterosexual=normal” and the anti-gay prejudice that stems from this assumption. Herek discusses the coming-out process and possibilities for societal attitude change.

McIntosh, P. (1995). White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies. In M. L. Andersen, & P. H. Collins (Eds.), Race, class, and gender: An anthology (2nd ed., pp. 76–87). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

This often-cited essay can be credited for bringing the concept of White privilege to the forefront. It is reprinted in several courses, including Rothenberg, P. S. (2005). White privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism. New York: Worth. However, please note that permission to duplicate this essay must be obtained from the author and excerpting is not authorized. Note also that you can contact Peggy Mcintosh, Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02181, for a longer analysis and list of privileges (Fee: $6.00).

Mio, J. S., & Awakuni, G. I. (2000). Resistance to multiculturalism: Issues and interventions. Philadelphia, PA: Brunner/Mazel.

This book is designed for those who teach multicultural psychology. It discusses historical resistances to multicultural psychology and offers suggestions on how to overcome some of these resistances.

Nakayama, T. K., & Martin, J. N. (Eds.). (1999). Whiteness: The communication of social identity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

In this edited book, authors discuss issues of White privilege. Many chapters cover how this power is a social construction, much as race itself is a social construction.

Robinson, T. L. (2005). The convergence of race, ethnicity, and gender: Multiple identities in counseling. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

This student-centered textbook is designed for counseling and psychology graduate students in cultural diversity courses. Story bars and case studies encourage students' connection with the material and address biracial identity, people from the Middle East, men and disability, and people of color who are also gay, lesbian, and/or questioning. There is a chapter on multicultural competencies, on each of the groups of color in the United States, sexual orientation, physical attractiveness, socioeconomic class, relationships, mutuality, and healing strategies. Although the text is rich in census data and statistics regarding the population, it is simultaneously hard–hitting, humorous, and moving, with true stories that privilege the narrative voice.

Rothenberg, P. S. (2005). White privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism. New York: Worth.

This volume includes essays and articles that are accessible to students at all levels. As the author states in the preface, the goal of these readings is to “make white privilege visible, to analyze the nature of white privilege, and to offer suggestions for using that privilege in order to combat racism.” The book is divided into four sections, each focusing on a specific area of the power of whiteness: invisibility, the past, privilege, and resistance. At the end of each section, Rothenberg provides questions for thinking, writing, and discussing.

Sue, D. W. (2003). Overcoming our racism: The journey to liberation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This empathic but challenging invitation to explore issues of racism and race privilege is appropriate for individuals with and without race privilege.

Sue. D. W. (2006). The invisible whiteness of being: Whiteness, white supremacy, white privilege, and racism. In M. D. Constantine & D. W. Sue (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (pp. 15–30). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Addresses the societal assumption that “whiteness” is the default standard to which all other groups are compared. The author further discusses the invisibility of whiteness and how this invisibility leads to the oppression of people of color.

Swim, J. K., & Stangor, C. (Eds.). (1998). Prejudice: The target’s perspective. San Diego: Academic.

This edited volume has a number of articles that describe how members of underrepresented groups experience discrimination. The chapters include general discussions of theories and data as well as articles devoted to specific stigmatized groups, such as the overweight, women, or specific racial groups.

Journal Articles

Branscombe, N. R. (1998). Thinking about one's gender group's privileges or disadvantages: Consequences for well-being in women and men. British Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 167–184.

This empirical research addresses the consequences of thinking about either group-based privileges or disadvantages. Participants were women or men who considered whether their group members resulted in either beneficial or detrimental outcomes. Results suggest that, for members of high status groups (in this case men), thinking about privilege produces lower scores on measures of group-related well-being, compared to members of low status groups (in this case, women).

Case, K. A. (2007). Raising male privilege awareness and reducing sexism: An evaluation of diversity courses. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(4), 426-435. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00391.x

A pre-post comparison of courses found that participants in diversity and women's studies courses had greater male privilege awareness and support for affirmative action by the end of the term. Students in diversity and women’s studies  courses did not differ significantly from those in other courses in terms of change in support for affirmative action, although support for affirmative action increased in both groups.

Case, K.A. (2007). Raising white privilege awareness and reducing racial prejudice: Assessing diversity course effectiveness. Teaching of Psychology, 34, 231-235.

A pre-post evaluation of a diversity course indicated greater awareness of White privilege and racism,  more support for affirmative action, and greater White guilt by the end of the term.

Case, K. A., Stewart, B. (2010). Changes in diversity course student prejudice and attitudes toward heterosexual privilege and gay marriage. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 172-177.

An evaluation of several diversity courses indicated greater heterosexual privilege awareness and support for same-sex marriage by the end of the term. Students in diversity courses did not differ significantly from those in other courses in terms of prejudice reduction, although prejudice reduction occurred in both groups.

Case, K. A., Iuzzini, J., & Hopkins, M. (2012). Systems of privilege: Intersections, awareness, and applications. Journal of Social Issues, 68(1), 1-10. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01732.x

Articles in this special issue of the Journal of Social Issues, address the psychology of privilege, including policy implications.  Authors advocate the use of multidisciplinary, multi-method approaches that incorporation a consideration of intersectionality.

Case, K. A., Stewart, B., & Tittsworth, J.  (2009). Transgender across the curriculum: A psychology for inclusion. Teaching of Psychology, 36, 117-121

Despite increased attention to and inclusion of diversity in psychology courses, transgender people have remained absent.  The authors explain that this invisibility allows for perpetuation of myths, stereotypes, and oppression.  They provide strategies for infusing relevant transgender content into lectures and reading materials.

Cole, E. R., Avery, L. R., Dodson, C., & Goodman, K. D. (2012). Against nature: How arguments about the naturalness of marriage privilege heterosexuality. Journal of Social Issues, 68(1), 46-62. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2012.01735.x

This article describes a content analysis of newspaper articles focused on same-sex marriage issues.  Articles were coded for four dimensions of naturalness: change over time, norms, procreation, and welfare of children.  The authors suggest that the concept of naturalness  is used to legitimize and maintain privilege.

Coston, B. M., & Kimmel, M. (2012). Seeing privilege where it isn’t: Marginalized masculinities and the intersectionality of privilege. Journal of Social Issues, 68(1), 97-111. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2011.01738.x

Using a Symbolic Interactionist approach, this article challenges the all or nothing characterization of privilege in the literature by considering three domains in which male privilege is compromised by marginalization by other statuses: disability status, sexuality, and class.

Dundes, L., & Harlow, R. (2005). Illustrating the nature of social inequality with the simulation, "Star Power." Teaching Sociology, 33, 32-43.

This article describes the simulation called Star Power which is used to help students understand issues of structural social inequality.

Israel, T. (2012). 2011 Society of Counseling Psychology presidential address: Exploring privilege in counseling psychology: Shifting the lens. The Counseling Psychologist, 40(1), 158-180. doi:10.1177/0011000011426297

This presidential address highlights the importance of understanding privilege for counseling psychology practice, research, training, and professional organizations

Liu, W. M., Pickett, T., & Ivey, A. E. (2007). White middle-class privilege: Social class bias and implications for training and practice. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 35(4), 194-206. doi:10.1002/j.2161-1912.2007.tb00060.x

This article discusses social class and its intersection with multiple social identities in this exploration of the implications of  privilege for counseling practice. 

Messner, M. A. (2011). The privilege of teaching about privilege. Sociological Perspectives, 54(1), 3-13. doi:10.1525/sop.2011.54.1.3

Responding to the lack of available publications on how to teach about privilege, the author describes a story-telling technique that may be used to encourage students to better analyze the role of privilege and oppression in their own lives.

Mindrup, R. M., Spray, B. J., & Lamberghini-West, A. (2011). White privilege and multicultural counseling competence: The influence of field of study, sex, and racial/ethnic exposure. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work: Innovation in Theory, Research & Practice, 20(1), 20-38. doi:10.1080/15313204.2011.545942

This research demonstrates an association between white privilege attitudes and multicultural counseling competencies among white European-American graduate students in clinical psychology and social work. Social work students reported significantly greater levels of white privilege awareness in comparison to clinical psychology students. Female participants reported greater levels of multicultural awareness than male students.

Nenga, S. K. (2011). Volunteering to give up privilege? How affluent youth volunteers respond to class privilege. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40(3), 263-289. doi:10.1177/0891241611400062

Based on interview data from affluent youth volunteers, this article details both the strategies used in response to privilege and the conditions under which youth volunteers are likely to gain greater understanding of issues of privilege.  The author concludes that key components include volunteering for long periods of time and completing trainings that identified structural causes of poverty.

Neumann, S. L. (2005). Creating a "safe zone" for sexual minority students in the psychology classroom, Teaching of Psychology, 32, 121-123.

This article provides suggestions for creating a safe zone for sexual minority students in the psychology classroom through self-examination, language, climate, and course content.

Pinterits, E. J., Poteat, V. P., & Spanierman, L. B. (2009). The white privilege attitudes scale: Development and initial validation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56(3), 417-429. doi:10.1037/a0016274

This article describes the construction and validation of the White Privilege Attitudes Scale (WPAS), which assesses  affective, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions of White privilege.  

Piper, J., & Treyger, S. (2010). Power, privilege, and ethics. In. L. Hecker (Ed.). Ethics and professional issues in couple and family therapy (pp. 71-87). New York, NY: Routledge.

This chapter explores the role of power and privilege in therapeutic interactions, including the client-therapist power differential,  as well as gender inequities, racism, and oppression.  Emphasis is given to the therapists responsibility for assuring that issues of privilege are adequately addressed.

Riggs, D. (2007). Queer theory and its future in psychology: Exploring issues of race privilege. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1(1), 39-52. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00033.x

This article discusses the need for further attention to specific issues that relate to the use of queer theory within psychology:  These include: “(i) a greater recognition of the histories on which queer theory builds, (ii) an understanding of how racial hierarchies shape accounts of individualism and universalism, (iii) a continued focus on the operations of a racialised queer desire, (iv) an investigation of the implication of critiques of essentialism, (v) ongoing explorations of language use within queer theorising, and (vi) greater acknowledgement of tensions within queer community building.”

Shine, P. (2011). White professors taking responsibility for teaching white students about race, racism, and privilege. Journal of Progressive Human Services, 22(1), 50-67. doi:10.1080/10428232.2011.564972

This article describes specific pedagogical strategies for white professors  teaching a predominantly white class about issues of  race, racism, and privilege. 

Stark-Rose, R., Lokken, J. M., & Zarghami, F. (2009). Increasing awareness of group privilege with college students. College Student Journal, 43(2), 537-546.

This study evaluated the impact of a simulated discrimination experience on a large number of students from different disciplines at a university in the Midwest.  Content analysis of students’ reflections yielded five major themes:” awareness of differential application of rules based on group identity; the emotional impact of being treated unfairly; the effect of a person in power's nonverbal and verbal behavior on participants; individual reactions within and between groups; and what makes it hard to talk about race.”

Web Sites and Other Resources

The invisibility of upper class privilege.

This list of upper class privileges was compiled by Class Acts, a program which explores issues of spirituality, ethics, and theology for women of wealth. The group specifically focused on the relationship between elitism and racism.

Articles on race, racism, and white privilege

This is list of essays on race, racism, and white privilege is maintained by Robert Jensen, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

What’s Race Got to Do With It?

The “privilege walk” is such a commonly used exercise that it is difficult to know who deserves credit for its development. The general form of this exercise is to line students up and ask them to take a step forward each time a statement indicating privilege applies to them. Students see a visual representation of the cumulative effects of privilege. The set of statements can reflect privilege based on social class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Regardless of which set is chosen, we find students want to discuss other groups that are privileged.

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