(and how to make it better…Maybe)
So, recently Buzzfeed’s video on privilege has been making the rounds. The video shows a group of folks doing the classic privilege walk exercise (many exist, here’s one and another, haven’t used either though).
Let me preface with: props to BuzzFeed for tackling the issue at all. Not enough organizations are even broaching the topic, and it’s a commendable start.
That said, this version of the exercise is unfinished. In fact, most people do this exercise in a way that may have some tough consequences for the PoC involved– me included. I have done and led this exercise multiple times, and each time I have done it much the same way, because that’s how I saw it done. Then, I saw the below reaction, as well as some reactions from folks online:
Someone else from my Twitter TL talked about this, but for the life of me I can’t find the tweet or remember who. If I’m straying too close to someone else’s work, please let me know!
Essentially, when you’re a PoC or from another oppressed background, you inevitably end up in the back.
And you know that you will.
Lack of privilege, for those who experience that, isn’t new. We don’t usually need that constant reminder– we know. Privilege and “power” as defined by larger society are obvious markers for those of us who lack them. The exercise itself centers on whiteness, and the PoC often end up as props to help White people see how privileged they are.
Which… I get. I get often needs to be done. WP need to see, somehow, the privilege they live in, and if this does it, then that might be a start. Still, by refocusing on whiteness, we only (as Brittany Packnett says) “reproduce White privilege” within the context of the exercise, and that rubs me the wrong way.
But here’s what else we can do:
When I do this exercise from now on, I want to start doing the line again, but with a different version of the questions. Something that centers on and calls out the unique ways PoC have their own forms of power, questions that uplift communities and also pushes PoC to question their own experiences with each other. Questions like:
- Step forward if you have a strong understanding of your family’s history and culture.
- Step forward if you speak a second language.
- Step forward if you have a specific community of people who share similar familiar and cultural contexts with you?
I don’t know. I feel like if, the second time, the exercise were done but “power” were REdefined away from common ideas of “privilege,” it’d be an interesting look at where we SHOULD be headed and how we could recenter on something other than the hegemony.
Is that crazy? A horrible idea? Can you think of other, community-empowered questions? Let me know in the comments or something. I’d love to share.