Describe – The privilege walk was an event coordinated by the Honors class, as well as the CHUSA and UMOJA groups. This event was designed to help raise awareness of privilege by creating a visual representation of privilege. The event started with all of us standing in a line in the center of the room. Then respondents were asked to step forward or backwards in response to a series of questions. For example “If you ever received admission, a job, etc. because of a parent, step forward.” Another example is “If you are a first-generation college student, take a step back.” Throughout the event, participants were asked to look around and take note of the people behind them, the people who were by them, and the people ahead of them. After we had completed the actual event, all participants took part in a debriefing during which we discussed how the experience had impacted us and sharing experiences and viewpoints.
Integrate – The topic this event sought to bring into the light, that is privilege and hearing the voices of the marginalized, is the primary focus of the Honors class this semester. I think this event did a good job of raising awareness of and conversation about privilege and related factors, definitely that night and hopefully into the future as well.
Evaluate – I will not deny that at the end of the privilege walk I felt rather upset. I have been the beneficiary of much privilege and had stepped almost exclusively forward. This made me rather upset because it felt as though it was being implied that all I had was given to me and that the struggles I had faced were not “real” difficulties or I hadn’t earned any of the things I have had. Now, I freely admit, there are many who have suffered much worse than I have with much less. I don’t want to overshadow their struggles or claim that I have suffered in the same way or even to the same extent. However, as I have mentioned in passing in previous blogs, I have had to deal with issues in my personal life such as the addiction and early death of my sister and the death of some of my grandparents soon after. Because these experiences were so formative for me, to have someone suggest, albeit indirectly and unintentionally, that I had faced no real struggles made me angry.
I did not mention this at the event because it took me awhile to process and, despite being upset about the walk, I did not want to put off others from sharing their emotions and experience. As I thought that starting off with this would come off as confrontational or even hateful, I didn’t share it. I also found myself somewhat less upset after hearing some other people’s experiences, not necessarily because it really acknowledged any of the things that had made me upset, but because I got to gain some new perspective on how others who were on the other side of the starting line viewed the world and I saw that the opportunity to take part in this event both gave them hope that these important issues were being acknowledged and discussed and had a tremendous emotional impact on them. Hearing other’s struggles and thoughts about a sensitive and important topic was an experience that made them less “other” and made them more approachable.