The Invisible Backpack
of White Privilege
from L.L. Bean
BY JOYCE MILLER
[Originally published December 18, 2014.]
The Invisible Backpack of White Privilege is pretty decent, I guess. I’ve had one as long as I can remember. My parents said it just showed up in the mail when I was born, and L.L. Bean’s policy is to replace the backpack for free if it ever breaks, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. It’s $8 extra to get your initials monogrammed, which I personally think should be free of charge. The backpack comes in different colors, more recently Irish, Italian, and Buffalo Plaid.
The Invisible Backpack of White Privilege is great for carrying questionable things like weed, Ponzi schemes, and sex crimes. I have lived in dense urban areas my whole life, and the cops never once search my Invisible Backpack. Then again, that’s probably just because, like people always tell me, I have a really trustworthy vibe as a person.
My roommate Sam has a visible backpack from The North Face, which he says cost him so much that he and his family are still paying for it, whatever that means. Personally, I prefer function over trend. Sam had the nerve to suggest that if I were to trade my backpack for his backpack, I’d see what he means. I told him if he’s really that dissatisfied with his own backpack, he should just return it to the store and buy one like mine instead of criticizing me all the time, because from what I can see, my backpack’s only advantage is that it comes with a more positive attitude and frugal spending habit than all the other backpacks. He got really quiet and things between us have grown uncomfortable.
The backpack also includes one or more upwardly mobile forefathers who had special opportunities to garner and accumulate family wealth during times of legalized overt discrimination against people without Invisible Backpacks. According to the L.L. Bean catalogue, my great-grandfather was “A poor country boy who put himself through Harvard in the 1800s and worked incredibly hard to build a fortune on nothing but his own merits.” I guess that’s one of the backpack’s cooler features, but it’s not like it changes the fact that I have to do the work of picking up and putting on and walking around with a backpack on my back, just like anybody else.
The Invisible Backpack of White Privilege is by no means immune to hardship. As an inner-city youth, my artist mom and small business-owner dad struggled financially with no margin for luxury. Having one of the shabbiest Invisible Backpacks at private school and college gave me a complex, and I perpetually felt like “a poor boy in a rich boy’s school,” to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In fact, The Invisible Backpack contains the complete works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with the Western Canon, largely written by people with my same Backpack. In rough weather, it’s handy to have a rich literary tradition to provide a validation of selfhood verging on the grandiose. Combined with a detachable Gore-Tex underdog mentality that serves to justify the backpack’s pathological egotism, it often makes me consider writing a novel of my own. Should I choose to do so, the Invisible Backpack of White Privilege comes with the instructions and encouragement to create a writing career/funny video/indie band/online satirical essay based on various unpleasant situations experienced while wearing the backpack.
The Invisible Backpack of White privilege can occasionally get pretty heavy. Its one design flaw is a hidden zipper compartment on the bottom containing anonymous multitudes slaughtered in the name of Western Civilization, yet I have no idea who these people are or where they come from. I inquired about it with an L.L. Bean customer service representative, who seemed to know nothing about the product. Thankfully, the manager was very familiar with the demands of my backpack, and explained to me that without this secret pocket, the backpack could not exist. It is a burden I complain about often, but could never imagine actually taking off.
A nice little detail about The Invisible Backpack is its built-in cosmetic mirror. The mirror enforces the basic conformity of my facial structure to an arbitrarily Caucasian globalized standard of looks. When I gaze into this mirror, it fills the void of human longing with the subconscious Pavlovian reassurance: I am a valued citizen, I can have love. Regardless of weight, age, injury, disability, a thoughtful nature, and other characteristics alienated by modern society, I can strain my features to approximate an internalized construct of what advertising defines as the default human face. I can garner instant trust and acceptance despite countless unexamined character deficiencies. Deficiencies such as always wearing a backpack, even in the shower.
All in all, The Invisible Backpack of White Privilege is a satisfactory product. To be completely honest, I kind of have trouble connecting with people who don’t own one. I’m giving 2 ½ out of 5 stars because I have really high standards. I’d give 3 stars except there’s no mesh water bottle holder on the side (wtf). I am a big fan of L.L. Bean and just ordered the Heteronormative Long Johns as a Christmas gift for my daughter.
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