The Privilege Walk (Game)
The Privilege Walk (Game) is a template to carry out remotely a group activity designed to help players talk about and share their understanding of the impact of systemic privilege. The activity is recommended for groups of between 20 and 50 people.
Why organise a Privilege Walk activity?
This activity is useful as an icebreaker and is also valuable for diverse groups to reveal the effects of systemic privilege in an uneven playing field. As a facilitator or teacher, you will need to customise the list of questions to be suitable to your audience’s age, ethnicities, education levels, etc. We have found that The Privilege Walk is a great tool to initiate meaningful conversations about empathy, merit, and perseverance.
How does The Privilege Walk (Game) template work?
Once you are familiarised with the ‘in person’ version of The Privilege Walk, you can use this Miro template to organise synchronous remote versions of the activity/game.
Invite a group of between 20 and 50 players to play the game. Allocate between 30 to 60 minutes for this activity including debriefing.
Explain to your players that this is an activity to open up conversations and is not a game where individual players ‘win’. Warn them that some topics may be sensitive to them and that they can choose to not play a turn if they feel uncomfortable.
All shapes start on the far left of the board (white box). Each participant chooses one shape, they can add their initials, a nickname or a pseudonym to identify their shape during the game.
At every turn, the host reads a question or statement resulting in each participant moving their shape (left or right) -or leaving their shape where it is.
Only the horizontal position of the shape counts, the vertical placement is arbitrary. In other words, the game consists only of moving your shape left/right along a row or lane.
After 15 to 20 questions have been asked, players are typically distributed across the board. There is no ‘winning’ position for the game, but it is a good idea to prepare 30+ questions and to stop the game once visible gaps exist within the players’ positions.
Stop the game and open the floor to conversations and reflections about the players’ experience playing this game.
Here is a list of sample question to ask, but bear in mind that you may need to adapt them or create your own depending on your audience:
If you are right-handed, take one step forward.
If English is your first language, take one step forward.
If one or both of your parents have a college degree, take one step forward.
If you can find Band-Aids at mainstream stores designed to blend in with or match your skin tone, take one step forward.
If you rely, or have relied, primarily on public transportation, take one step back.
If you have worked with people you felt were like yourself, take one step forward.
If you constantly feel unsafe walking alone at night, take one step back.
If your household employs help as servants, gardeners, etc., take one step forward.
If you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward.
If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school, take one step forward.
If you were ever made fun of or bullied for something you could not change or was beyond your control, take one step back.
If your family ever left your homeland or entered another country not of your own free will, take one step back.
If you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.
If you have ever been able to play a significant role in a project or activity because of a talent you gained previously, take one step forward.
If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.
If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food, take one step back.
If you feel respected for your academic performance, take one step forward.
If you have a physically visible disability, take one step back.
If you have an invisible illness or disability, take one step back.
If you were ever discouraged from an activity because of race, class, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, take one step back.
If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to fit in more, take one step back.
If you have ever been profiled by someone else using stereotypes, take one step back.
If you feel good about how your identities are portrayed by the media, take one step forward.
If you were ever accepted for something you applied to because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.
If you have health insurance take one step forward.
If you have ever been spoken over because you could not articulate your thoughts fast enough, take one step back.
If someone has ever spoken for you when you did not want them to do so, take one step back.
If there was ever substance abuse in your household, take one step back.
If you come from a single-parent household, take one step back.
If you live in an area with crime and drug activity, take one step back.
If someone in your household suffered or suffers from mental illness, take one step back.
If you have been a victim of sexual harassment, take one step back.
If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.
If you are never asked to speak on behalf of a group of people who share an identity with you, take one step forward.
If you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial or gender group, take one step forward.
If you went to college, take one step forward. If you have more than fifty books in your household, take one step forward.
If your parents told you that you can be anything you want to be, take one step forward.
Source of these questions: https://opensource.com/open-organization/17/11/privilege-walk-exercise
Related research sources:
Sassi, K., & Thomas, E. E. (2008). Walking the talk: Examining privilege and race in a ninth-grade classroom. English Journal, 25-31.
Parker, M., Black, J. T., Hu, H. H., & Lewis, C. M. (2019, February). Exploring our Privilege: Activities and Discussions. In Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (pp. 651-652).
Silverman, K. (2013). Lessons in injustice: Privilege walks. The Intellectual Standard, 2(2), 3. Jacob, S. A., Palanisamy, U. D., & Chung, C. M. C. (2017). Perception of a privilege walk activity and its impact on pharmacy students’ views on social justice in a service learning elective: a pilot study. Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, 47(6), 449-456.
Siliman, S., & Kearns, K. (2020). Intersectional approaches to teaching about privileges. Radical Teacher, 116, 47-54.