The Privilege Walk was an event hosted by Concordia Saint Paul’s United Minds Of Joint Action club, Concordia’s Hmong Unity Student Association, and Honors 120 on March 27, 2017. The event started with Dr. Chatman and Dr. DeVríes introducing the Privilege Walk by ensuring a safe space and explaining that this walk is a visual representation of the privileges that each individual has. Many questions were asked about privileges in social, financial, gender, racial, and economic status. These questions were very generalized, but they still created a heavy effect on everyone in the room. Throughout the walk, Dr. Chapman instructed the participants to look around the room and see who was around each them. When looking around the room it was easy to see a “clear-group” of people clumped together throughout the room. After the walk, each person was invited to share one word that summed up their experience. The most common response from both spectrums was “blessed.” Next, everyone was placed in a big circle to discuss what just happened. Many people, including me, were heavily impacted by this event. Most people were impacted by the questions about being financially unstable to the point where the participant would miss meals, about parallel construction housing issues, and about participants’ ancestors coming to America by force or against their will. Questions like these helped bring up the fun fact that Concordia Saint Paul is one of, if not the most, diverse Concordia University. As a community of students, all should welcome one another and rejoice in each other’s diverse backgrounds, being aware of the experiences each person faces and continuing to support and encourage one another by letting our Christ-like light shine to one another.
Since the Honors class was so involved in planning and hosting the Privilege Walk, this walk brought to light how privilege and race affects daily life, even in diverse cities like Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Dr. DeVríes brought up the point that it was by chance who she was and the Lord placed her where she was in that situation for a reason. There is no way for a person to control when they will be born or to what family, but a person’s experience allows learning and achievements. The Honors class has been discussing how to make a difference in the world when most are unknowingly tied to racist actions. Over break, the Honors class took home a midterm article written by Peggy McIntosh. She explained white people’s unconscious privilege and brought to light some simple solutions that one faculty member brought at the debriefing. Since the Honors class is learning about this controversial subject, it means that society has made advances, but there is still more to be done.
After the Privilege Walk, everyone shared one word about the impact of this event. Some words were those such as “clearly-grouped,” “embarrassed,” “blessed,” and (my initial thought) “disgusted.” These words stuck out and made me feel bad about my privileges. I initially thought the word disgusted because as Christians we are called to encourage and support one another in the faith. It was hard to see me walk forward and leave my brothers and sisters in Christ behind. Every step forward I took felt heavy. At the debrief, I heard most people who were further behind me in the line say that they were very blessed and that life is hard, but they are very blessed to be where they are now: getting a good education and having the opportunity to make it through the hard times and share these experiences with others. Most people who had to make many steps back said they started feeling bad about themselves, but when they remembered where they were in that moment and how they got there, that kept their spirits high. I, personally, felt disgusted by the privilege I have and every step I took forward I realized it not only defines and shapes who I am, but it also put a weight on my heart for the people I left behind. One teacher pointed out that the questions that were asked were out of the participants’ control. The answers were not caused by the people in the room, but from our history, environment, or family that shaped our experiences. Another faculty member said that taking the time to learn about these issues is good and if people want to help, they can stick up for another person or facilitate another person in little ways. It is not about making someone more like ‘us,’ but interceding when something goes against moral and ethical justices.