Recently I came across a most intriguing lesson in how to help people understand privilege. I thought the exercise was extremely thought provoking, simple, and yet profound at the same time. A high school teacher used a simple exercise to illustrate privilege brilliantly. The article didn’t point any fingers at any privileged groups nor did it paint any group as unprivileged and yet based on the comments it certainly ruffled a few feathers. Several key points emerged; one was that privilege is unearned. I encourage you to take a look at the exercise and draw your own conclusions so I won’t say much more until you experience it yourself.
In this life we all have privileges and disadvantages. Just as we are all challenged in some way, we are also all privileged in some way. I lovingly challenge you to remember and be grateful for the unique privileges you have! It humbles you and makes you more grateful and less judgmental. I know it does for me. Even in the worst of times, I always had some privilege that someone else didn’t. When I lost my mother at aged three, I was privileged to have a father and sisters. When we lived in an old raggedy shack, at least we weren’t homeless. When we were forced to work in the fields or knock on doors and sell fish and produce, we were privileged to be learning the value of work and we always had food to eat. Remembering the challenges I’ve overcome makes me grateful. Understanding my unique privileges helps keep me humble. “There but by the grace of God, go I.”
HERE’S THE LESSON ON PRIVILEGE
“A high school teacher leads a simple, powerful exercise to teach his class about privilege and social mobility. He started by giving each student a scrap piece of paper and asked them to crumple it up.
Then he moved the recycling bin to the front of the room.He said, “The game is simple — you all represent the country’s population. And everyone in the country has a chance to become wealthy and move into the upper class.”
“To move into the upper class, all you must do is throw your wadded-up paper into the bin while sitting in your seat.”
The students in the back of the room immediately piped up, “This is unfair!” They could see the rows of students in front of them had a much better chance.”
Click here to see the results of his exercise and to peruse the comments. The comments for me were even more telling about how people view and protect privilege and put down others who don’t enjoy it.
Barbara S. Talley
The Poet Speaks