Invisible Privilege

A Memoir About Race, Class, and Gender

Paula Rothenberg

Life began for Paula Rothenberg in a privileged home in New York City, but it took her to the battlefields of the culture wars on behalf of the underprivileged. Now this veteran of that cultural clash examines the subtle and complex ways in which issues of race, class, and gender impact people's lives.

A prominent figure in the creation of women's studies and multicultural studies as academic disciplines, Rothenberg is perhaps best known for her textbook Race, Class and Gender in the United States, which was widely attacked by conservatives defending traditional curricula. Now she shows how higher education upholds race, class, and gender bias and, more generally, analyzes the ways in which many white people's unwavering belief in their own good intentions leaves them blind to their societal privilege and their role in perpetuating class difference.

“Rothenberg tells about growing up female in New York City in the 50s and 60s, years when racial and sexual prejudice were the norm. . . . The stories—especially concerning her parents—are moving.”

Washington Post Book World

“Rothenberg unflinchingly uses her own life to teach about the personal, political dangers of accepting the role of exception.”

The Women’s Review of Books
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In this candid look at social and academic realities, Rothenberg shares incidents from her own life and the lives of family and friends to show how privilege is constructed and to reveal the forces that make us unaware of it. Through recollections of her childhood in an upper middle class Jewish family and her college years in the early sixties, she tells how she discovered that the world one takes for granted as "everyday life" is in fact riddled with privilege of which we are unaware.

Reviewing the social upheaval of the seventies that challenged fundamental assumptions about gender roles, race relations, and even the nature of the family, Rothenberg tells how she gained a new understanding of what it meant to be an educator and activist. In sharing events surrounding the publication of Race, Class and Gender, she offers an inside look at the culture wars and brings her story into the '90s with a cogent discussion of hate speech and the "political correctness" controversy.

Rothenberg recalls the early mobilization against sexual harassment and recounts what it was like to create one of the first feminist philosophy courses. She also offers a hard-hitting critique of current teaching practices and a response to critics of multiculturalism and feminism—as well as a look at how de facto segregation continues in American education in the form of tracking.

Both deeply personal and broadly social, this finely crafted memoir will capture the interest of anyone who cares about the future of education, race relations, feminism, and social justice.

About the Author

Paula Rothenberg is a professor of philosophy and women's studies at The William Paterson University of New Jersey and director of the New Jersey Project on Inclusive Scholarship, Curriculum, and Teaching. In addition to her widely used texts in feminist and multicultural studies, she is also coeditor of Feminist Frameworks, Philosophy Now, and Ethics in Perspective.

Additional Titles in the Feminist Ethics Series