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Conducting a privilege walk
Taking steps toward greater inclusivity
This exercise helps your team members become aware of the various privileges they might possess—a great way to begin dialog about diversity and inclusion.
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This "privilege walk" exercise helps participants develop awareness of themselves, which can improve how they relate to others. In this way, it invites people to think about ways inclusivity can create positive changes in their organizations.
Step 1. Explain to the group that we all have certain privileges others have not had. You might say something like:
"Sometimes we don't notice privileges because they're so ingrained in our culture. We are confronted on a daily basis with cultural and social norms that may be related to a certain groups' privilege. We are also confronted with marginalized communities and perspectives that deserve to have a voice. Understanding and acknowledging privileges is key to understanding why and how we react and perceive our surroundings. In order to objectively reflect on our interactions we need to focus on the intersectionality of privilege. It is an essential framing that can help us understand how every privilege or marginalization exists in a different but related place."
Step 2. Ask participants to stand in a line at one end of the space. Explain that you will read a series of statements aloud.
Step 3. Instruct participants to take one step forward if a statement applies to them. Tell your participants that if they're uncomfortable admitting that a certain statement applies to them, then they can simply wait for the next statement. No one has to move.
Step 4. Read each of the following statements aloud, and pause between each one to allow participants to take the steps that might pertain to them.
- If you are right-handed, take one step forward.
- If English is your first language, take one step forward.
- If one or both of your parents have a college degree, take one step forward.
- If you can find Band-Aids at mainstream stores designed to blend in with or match your skin tone, take one step forward.
- If you rely, or have relied, primarily on public transportation, take one step back.
- If you have worked with people you felt were like yourself, take one step forward
- If you constantly feel unsafe walking alone at night, take one step back.
- If your household employs help as servants, gardeners, etc., take one step forward.
- If you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward.
- If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school, take one step forward.
- If you were ever made fun of or bullied for something you could not change or was beyond your control, take one step back.
- If your family ever left your homeland or entered another country not of your own free will, take one step back.
- If you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.
- If you have ever been able to play a significant role in a project or activity because of a talent you gained previously, take one step forward.
- If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.
- If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food, take one step back.
- If you feel respected for your academic performance, take one step forward.
- If you have a physically visible disability, take one step back.
- If you have an invisible illness or disability, take one step back.
- If you were ever discouraged from an activity because of race, class, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, take one step back.
- If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to fit in more, take one step back.
- If you have ever been profiled by someone else using stereotypes, take one step back.
- If you feel good about how your identities are portrayed by the media, take one step forward.
- If you were ever accepted for something you applied to because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.
- If you have health insurance take one step forward.
- If you have ever been spoken over because you could not articulate your thoughts fast enough, take one step back.
- If someone has ever spoken for you when you did not want them to do so, take one step back.
- If there was ever substance abuse in your household, take one step back.
- If you come from a single-parent household, take one step back.
- If you live in an area with crime and drug activity, take one step back.
- If someone in your household suffered or suffers from mental illness, take one step back.
- If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, take one step back.
- If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.
- If you are never asked to speak on behalf of a group of people who share an identity with you, take one step forward.
- If you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial or gender group, take one step forward.
- If you went to college, take one step forward.
- If you have more than fifty books in your household, take one step forward.
- If your parents told you that you can be anything you want to be, take one step forward.
Step 5. After you've read the statements aloud, ask the participants to look around at where people are in the room. Then ask everyone to help move the chairs back into a circle and sit down.
Step 6. Transition to the reflection phase of the exercise by explaining that both privilege and marginalization are part of who we are.
During the exercise, participants might feel a number of things—particularly if, at the end of the exercise, they realize they've experienced more or less privilege than other participants. For the reflection round, facilitate a discussion that explores how people are feeling. Ask these questions:
- What did you feel like being in the front of the group? In the back? In the middle?
- What were some factors influencing your privilege that you have never thought of before?
- If you found yourself getting farther and farther away from someone, how did you feel in that moment?
- What statement made you think most?
- If you could add a statement, what would it be?
- What do you wish people knew about one of the identities, situations, or disadvantages that caused you to take a step back?
- How can your understanding of your privileges or marginalizations improve your existing relationships with yourself and others?
This article is part of the Open Organization Workbook project.