Check Your Privileges!

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  • Number of participants = 10 – 20
  • Theme = Privilege, discrimination
  • Duration = 2.5 hours
  • Difficult for participants = Level 3
  • Difficulty for facilitator = Level 3

Summary

This workshop is about understanding and perceiving privilege, not about shaming or moralising. Participants should become aware of their own biography and how they are positioned in society; where majorities and minorities exist and could to some extent be considered oppressive. They become aware of who holds power, the responsibility that comes with it and how action can spark change. The intention is not to make them feel guilty. Rather, this method is about taking responsibility for and reflecting on personal privilege. Participants get to know the type of action they could take, e.g. for when they are abroad. They learn about different levels of discrimination and how they are intertwined.

Goals/Learning Objectives

The method is an introduction to ‘privilege’. The group becomes aware of positions of power in society and of mechanisms of oppression. Help participants come to terms with any guilt they may have, give feedback and empower them to take action. Try to connect this workshop with everyday life, going abroad or volunteer work, etc.

Materials

  • Papers for participants
  • Pens and permanent markers
  • Flip chart, flip chart papers
  • Handout: ‘Check Your Privileges Quotes’
  • Worksheet: ‘Biography Work on the Subject of Privilege’

Preparation

Prepare the 13 quotes or quotes within your national context that deal with privilege and put them on the floor, on a flip chart or on a wall for PART 2.

On flip chart paper write questions for PART 2:

  • Which quote appeals to me/do I like?
  • Which quote surprised me?
  • Which is, in your opinion, a quote from a person who talks about the subject from a privileged position, and who does not?

Print out the worksheet ‘Biography Work on the Subject of Privilege’ for each participant for PART 3.

For PART 4, prepare a flip chart page with the key phrases:

  • Be aware of your own position
  • Recognise your possibilities
  • Take responsibility
  • Act!

For PART 5 write on a flip chart page the question:

  • What could a concrete action look like?

Flow of the Exercise

PART 1: Introduction

Time: 10 minutes

  1. Explain the topic and why you are talking about it (see summary above) for about five minutes.
    • This unit should be about the privileges you have or do not have. It is not about blaming each other. Rather, it is about understanding and reflecting on what is meant by ‘privilege’.
  2. Briefly explain the structure of the method:
    • Based on the quotes on privilege that are being used, you will get an introduction to the topic through other people´s view and experiences.
    • You will then look, on your own and in pairs, at your own biography to understand where deprivation/privilege becomes visible. Consider together what conclusions can be drawn from it.
PART 2: First Exercise – Quotes

Preliminary goals: Introduction to privilege
Time: 30-40 minutes
Method: Reflection and discussion
Materials: Printed quotes, optionally a printed overview of the quotes for each participant, paper and pens for the participants, flip chart, flip chart paper with the pre-written questions

Content:

  1. Put the quotes up on a wall or on the floor and give participants 15 minutes to read them. The participants are asked to go through the room without speaking, reading the quotes. Participants are asked to take a paper and a pencil or pen with them to take notes on the questions written on the flip chart paper:
    • Which quote appeals to me/do I like?
    • Which quote surprised me?
    • Which is, in your opinion, a quote from a person who talks about the subject from a privileged position and who does not?
  2. After 15 minutes, facilitators call the participants back to sit down again. Afterwards, the plenary session will discuss the questions that were asked during the time.
  3. Further questions should be asked. Collect answers from the participants on a flip chart paper:
    • ‘What did the quotes have in common?’ (If they do not know the answer to this, tell them that it is about having or not having privileges.)
    • ‘What are privileges?’

Possible answer/definition of ‘privilege’:

The different distribution of and limited access to goods, resources, services, recognition, as well as limited access to full and equal social participation. Privilege is related to positions of power. Likewise, privilege has something to do with forms of discrimination. A person is unprivileged because of who they are, e.g. being a woman. Some privileges you are born into you cannot lose e.g. ‘white’ man.

PART 3: Second Exercise – Biography

Preliminary goals: Reflection on own privilege. Participants become aware of their own position in existing power relations by considering their own biography.
Time: 60 minutes
Method: Biography – Method from the social justice and diversity training
Materials: One worksheet ‘Biography Work on the Subject of Privilege’ per participant, pens

Content:

  1. As a transition to the next method, explain to participants that the following exercise is about dealing with their own privilege. It may also be mentioned that people who are in privileged positions may be unaware of their privilege. A person can hold various privileged positions and non-privileged positions at the same time.
  2. The participants each receive the worksheet ‘Biography Work on the Subject of Privilege’.
    • Explain the work assignments (first on their own for 20 minutes, then in pairs for 20 minutes). The facilitators should pay attention to the time and keep the participants updated.
    • It is important to point out that this experience should provide a safe space: things discussed do not go outside the small groups/pairs. It is about their own learning process and not about telling other participants what to do and how to behave correctly, they should refrain from comment.
    • For the work in pairs, mention again that listening is important. This exercise encourages listening, so that each person in the pair really perceives the different story and perspective of the other person.
  3. After the reflection in pairs, the following questions are discussed in the plenary:
    • What was it like to talk about your experiences in a small group?
    • Did you find it difficult to listen to the other person without commenting?
    • What were the similarities and differences between your stories?
  4. As a conclusion, explain that the exercise was not about retelling individual experiences from the small groups, but sharing on a ‘meta’ (or higher) level about HOW it was to do this exercise and HOW you could deal with privilege.
PART 4: Input

Preliminary goals: Summary of the previous steps. Participants are dealing with their own feeling of guilt. If that is the case, facilitators try to overcome the guilt and to encourage the participants to take responsibility.
Time: 10-15 minutes
Method: Presentation
Materials: Flip chart, flip chart paper with the four written key phrases: Be aware of your own position, Recognise your possibilities, Take responsibility, and Act!

Content:

Explain every step of the process of becoming aware of your own privilege to the final step of being active.

  1. Be aware of your own position:
    Through this exercise, participants try to deal with their own position within prevailing oppressive structures. Being aware of and sharing your own position helps someone develop empathy for others and to act responsibly.
  2. Recognise your possibilities:
    It is not about conjuring up feelings of guilt over ‘innate’ privilege, but about encouraging a conscious use of one’s own advantage and calling for a positive interpretation of power and its use for justice.
    Guilt can prevent us from taking responsibility. In order to assume responsibility, you must first deal with your own privilege! Encourage participants to recognise the difference between ‘Out of guilt and shame, I do not know what to do‘ to ‘I recognise and use my privilege, e.g. by giving up my power.‘ Find good examples from daily life, such as ‘I know this band that stops playing if things get too rough for their fans‘ or ‘My German teacher invited a refugee from Syria into class to tell us about his/her experiences‘.
  3. Take responsibility:
    Taking responsibility supports change and learning. Embarrassment or moralisation of injured people is not helpful.
  4. Act!:
    Transfer to PART 5 to discuss the possibilities how participants can take responsibility and start to act.

Note: Handling privilege is a lifelong process that never stops. Maybe it will help the participants if the team leaders share where they are in this process themselves.

PART 5: Third Exercise – Develop Ideas for Action

Preliminary goals: In a plenary, participants think about possible actions regarding privilege they have and they do not have.
Time: 15 minutes
Method: Brainstorming
Materials: Flip chart paper with the written question ‘What could a concrete action look like?’, flip chart paper for collecting answers, flip chart, permanent marker
Content:

  1. Suggested transfer message: Now, we want to think about how you can take responsibility in your everyday life (if applicable, voluntary service, exchange or going abroad). This works well by collecting ideas in a plenary.
  2. Discuss the question ‘What could a concrete action look like?’ and collect the ideas from the participants for actions to take on a flip chart paper.

Tip for encouraging ideas:

Think of where you, the facilitator, may have taken responsibility, where you have used your privilege, or allied yourself with others to do something for ‘non-privileged’ people, or what you could have done in response to your own discrimination. Also, giving examples of successful campaigns (e.g. videos) can be helpful.

Variations

Find different quotes according to your group and the focus of your particular theme. The method Change Your Glasses is another way to explore and to reflect on privileges and inequality in their own community.

Possible Follow up Activities

More in depth discussions and methods can follow this method on racism/colonialism/etc.

Discover what are the consequences of stereotypes, prejudice, oppression and discrimination from the experiences of the participants with the method Image Theatre.

A deeper discussion about privilege, inequality and how to overcome them makes a good drama activity for Forum Theatre. Ask two, three or four people to develop a short roleplay of an incident. The rest of the group observe. You can stop the role-play at intervals and ask the audience to comment or to make suggestions about how the role-play should continue. Alternatively, members of the audience can intervene directly to take over from the actors and develop alternative outcomes.

If the group wants to continue talking about discrimination and racism which are based on privileges, you can use the method Do Not Act Like Me! which focuses on understanding discrimination, reflecting on your own prejudices and exploring your own experiences of interpersonal discrimination during everyday life.

There should be the possibility to empower Black People and People of Colour who are facing racism. Provide a safe space just for them, empower them and help find and share coping strategies by using the method Empower Yourself. Individual experiences are shared among participants about racism, identity, etc. The reflection during the method Check Your Privileges! can be developed as part of the empowerment process.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the topic is new to the group and that proper research about the used quotes and its authors/speakers is done beforehand.

The quotes can be adapted to your own country and its politics (e.g. sexism/gender, ableism/handicap, age/adultism, racism/Black People and People of Colour, etc.).

Source: ICJA Freiwilligenaustausch weltweit e.V.

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