truth

Your Hardships Don’t Erase White Privilege

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I could tell she felt awkward. Concern was written all over her face. Her pale skin had turned slightly pink. Her eyebrows were furrowed. Her words were clear but filled with emotion.

“This feels awkward. And a little unfair.”

He, on the other hand, was totally relaxed. Hands in his pockets. Expressionless. A couple of shrugs and these words: “I’m a straight, white male. I kind of knew this would happen.”

Both were standing in front of the class, a significant distance from the rest of their peers who were spread out across the room, in various positions, front to back. They were all students in one of my English courses who’d just participated in our class privilege walk exercise. I’d gotten the idea from a recent video experiment conducted by Buzzfeed and wanted to use it to illustrate some of the ideas put forth in one of the articles we were reading: Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. The privilege walk exercise works like this: students are asked to stand in a straight line across one side of the room. As I ask specific questions related to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, they move forward or backward depending on their answer. The point is to use a visual to drive home the validity and complexities of privilege, in general, and white privilege, specifically.

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