One Anti-Racist Action You Can Take Today: Explore Your Privilege

One Anti-Racist Action You Can Take Today: Explore Your Privilege

By Guimel DeCarvalho
Vice President of People & Culture, Chief Diversity Officer

Privilege in its simplest form is getting things you haven’t earned because there are no obstacles in your way. According to privilege is:

  1. a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person or a restricted group of people beyond the advantages of most: the privileges of the very rich.
  2. the unearned and mostly unacknowledged societal advantage that a restricted group of people has over another group: white privilege based on skin color; male privilege; children of privilege.

Below is an easy exercise that can show you what privilege looks like. Commit to doing this activity with five or more people. This exercise is usually outside with a group of people taking a step forward for every “yes” question. If that is not possible or if you want to do this activity virtually, use a white board and mark where each participant moved based on their responses. At the end of the 30-minute exercise, you will have learned how privilege works.

Check Your Privilege

Ask participants to stand in a line next to each other in the middle of the room. Read the following statements to the group, but give people a second to think before they move. Ask participants to observe how other people are moving as the statements are read. Tell participants that if their parents or grandparents had different experiences, then they should do the exercise with one parent or grandparent in mind.

After you have read the last statement, have people stay where they are standing, and look to see where others are standing, and where they are in relation to other people.

Read the following statements:

  1. If your parents, grandparents or ancestors were not allowed to attend a college or university because of their race, take one step back
  2. If you expect to inherit some type of asset (property, cash, stocks, bonds, etc.) from a relative, take one step forward
  3.  If your grandparents or ancestors were ever enslaved, take one step back
  4. If your grandparents’ first language is English, take one step forward
  5. If you have a parent or grandparent that earned a graduate degree, take one step forward
  6. If members of your race or ethnicity were legally prevented from voting, take one step back
  7. If most of your teachers were from the same racial or ethnic background as you, take one step forward
  8. If you routinely see people from your racial or ethnic group heading up companies and organizations, take one step forward
  9. If you come from a racial group that has ever been considered by scientists as “inferior,” take one step back
  10. If your parents, grandparents, or ancestors were forced to come to the U.S., take one step back
  11. If your parents or grandparents have inherited wealth, take one step forward
  12. If you had a parent, grandparent, or family member that was ever beaten or lynched because of their race, take one step back
  13. If you have a relative that earns more than $250,000 per year, take one step forward

Debrief: What patterns or themes did you notice about where people were standing?

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