I Took The Privilege Walk

I Took The Privilege Walk

I watched a recent episode of Degrassi New Class on Netflix, where my favourite character, Miles Hollingsworth III was offered the chance to attend the London Writers Academy on a diversity placement because of his bisexuality. Miles doesn’t like the idea of being accepted because of his apparent diversity and wants to be accepted on merit alone. He can’t see how he is diverse because he is a rich, white male, who just happens to be attracted to both men and women.

In order to help Miles see how each person’s life is diverse, his English teacher conducts a class exercise known as the Privilege Walk, which is designed to teach students that each of their lives if unique, but to make them aware that their life circumstances make them more privileged than others. I have long accepted the idea of privilege, especially white privilege, but I do dislike the idea that I should be judged solely on my privilege.

However, watching that episode made me think about what exactly being privileged means. I decided to answer the questions on the Privilege Walk and see how I faired. I will be honest, I was surprised by some of my results.

The Privilege Walk Questions

  1. If your ancestors were forced to come to the UK, not by choice, take one step back – No, my parents were born and bred in the United Kingdom.
  2. If your primary ethnic identity is “British” take one step forward – I am a white Britain, so that would be another step forward.
  3. If you were ever called names because of your race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back – I am gay, so I have had both jokes and insults hurled my way including faggot and poof.
  4. If there were people who worked for your family as servants, gardeners, nannies, etc. take one step forward – Nope never had servants.
  5. If you were ever ashamed or embarrassed by your clothes, house, car, etc. take one step back – I have had some appalling clothes in the past, so yes, I have been embarrassed.
  6. If one or both of your parents were “white collar” professionals: doctors, lawyers, etc. take one step forward – Both my parents were teachers, with my dad being a head teacher.
  7. If you were raised in an area where there was prostitution, drug activity, etc., take one step back – No, I lived in the middle-class suburbs of Preston.
  8. If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behaviour to avoid being judged or ridiculed, take one step back – I have done this multiple times for a variety of different reasons. These have included certain feminine mannerisms I picked up at university when I almost spent three months solely with three girls. I deliberately for a time tried to be as masculine as possible to avoid appearing camp or feminine.
  9. If you studied the culture of your ancestors in school, take one step forward – I did study British histories such as the Tudors, both World Wars and some Norman, medieval history.
  10. If you went to school speaking a language other than English, take one step back – No, my first language is English.
  11. If there were more than 50 books in your house when you grew up, take one step forward – There were and in recent years, the sharp increase in a number of books in my house is mostly down to me.
  12. If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back – This was back in the student days and in my case was the result of bad choices rather than poverty.
  13. If you were taken to art galleries or plays by your parents, take one step forward – I was fortunate to visit galleries, museums and the lot.
  14. If one of your parents was unemployed or laid off, not by choice, take one step back – This hasn’t occurred to my knowledge.
  15. If you have health insurance take one step forward – In the UK, we have the National Health Service so health insurance is not necessary.
  16. If you attended private school or summer camp, take one step forward – I attended a state Catholic school in Preston.
  17. If your family ever had to move because they could not afford the rent, take one step back – I have lived in the same house for twenty-five years.
  18. If you were told that you were beautiful, smart and capable by your parents, take one step forward – I received these compliments after proving my abilities.
  19. If you were ever discouraged from academics or jobs because of race, class, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – To my knowledge, I do not think that has happened yet.
  20. If you were encouraged to attend university by your parents, take one step forward – I was. In fact, I was discouraged at the time from doing any other form of work or education, but the university.
  21. If you have a disability take one step backwards – I do not have a disability.
  22. If you were raised in a single parent household, take one step back – I was not.
  23. If your family owned the house where you grew up, take one step forward – My parents purchased the house a few years before I was born.
  24. If you saw members of your race, ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation portrayed on television in degrading roles, take one step back – seeing a degraded gay isn’t difficult to find on screen, but what can be frustrating is when they are degraded by the gay men directing the film itself.
  25. If you own a car take one step forward – Took a while, but I have eventually been able to afford a car.
  26. If you were ever offered a good job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward – Nope.
  27. If you were ever denied employment because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – Not to my knowledge.
  28. If you were paid less, treated less fairly because of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – Again not to my knowledge.
  29. If you were ever accused of cheating or lying because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back – Sort of. I have been accused of being unfaithful and promiscuous because of my sexuality. The actions I was accused of were correct, but the reason being my sexuality was incorrect.
  30. If you ever inherited money or property, take one step forward – Not yet.
  31. If you had to rely primarily on public transportation, take one step back – There was a long period of time where I had to rely solely on public transport.
  32. If you attended private school at any point in your life take one step forward – Nope, never.
  33. If you were ever stopped or questioned by the police because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – Nope.
  34. If you were ever afraid of violence because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – The subconscious thought that someone will violently attack you because of your sexuality is always a possibility, despite never having experienced it yet.
  35. If your parents own their own business take one step forward – No, they were both in public education.
  36. If you were generally able to avoid places that were dangerous, take one step forward – I was only placed in a dangerous situation by choice.
  37. If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back – I have heard many a gay joke and I allow it to pass over me if the situation could turn violent as a result.
  38. If you were ever the victim of violence related to your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back – Not yet.
  39. Imagine you are in a relationship if you can get married take one step forward – I can now, but a few years ago that was not possible.
  40. If your parents did not grow up in the United Kingdom, take one step back – They did grow up and have remained in Preston.
  41. If your parents attended university take one step forward – They both attended the Open University to achieve their degrees.
  42. If your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, take one step forward – No, my parents did temper my ambitions to allow me to focus on what I was good at and passionate about.
  43. If you are able to take a step forward or backwards take two steps forward – I assume this is in reference to a disability or serious injury. I can walk both backwards and forwards.
  44. If you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward – I will say that for the most part, yes I can. But we are all at risk of it, but some are definitively more at risk than others.
  45. If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward – This has been one of my main fears since coming out at gay. I have been with partners where we have relinquished holding hands because someone has appeared. We have avoided any public displays of affection just in case.
  46. If you have ever been diagnosed as having a physical or mental illness/disability, take one step back – I have both anxiety and depression, which adds a stigma of mental illness on top.
  47. If you feel comfortable walking home alone at night, take one step forward – I do now, but there was a time when that was not the case.
  48. If you get time off for your religious holidays, take one step forward – Christian country’s history means Christian holidays.
  49. If you took out loans for your education take one step backwards – Aye, I have done.
  50. If you have ever felt like there was NOT adequate or accurate representation of your racial group, sexual orientation group, gender group, and/or disability group in the media, take one step back – There was a period of time where this was most definitely the case, but it has very much improved in recent years.
  51. If you have ever been bullied or made fun of based on something that you can’t change, take one step back – Aye, I have for both glasses from nineteen months old and sexuality.

I am a privileged individual as I am white and male, therefore I do not suffer many of the injustices that ethnic minorities and women can suffer in the West. Many of my step backs resulted from my sexuality and how injustices occur against me.

However, I do not wish to be held back by those injustices. My choices in life are determined by how I react to each and ever challenged levelled against me. One of the most important things that I have learned from this exercise is how I can recognise my own struggles and use them to help others. In my case, as is with Miles in Degrassi, it is the use of writing that can help others.

I challenge each and every one of you to do the Privilege Walk. Not because someone has shouted, “check your privilege!” or anything like that. It is an exercise in empathy, but also an exercise in discovery your own voice and identity, by seeing where society helps you and where it hinders you.

Here is a blank set for you to use if you so desire.

If your ancestors were forced to come to the USA not by choice, take one step back.

If your primary ethnic identity is “American,” take one step forward.

If you were ever called names because of your race, class, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If there were people who worked for your family as servants, gardeners, nannies, etc. take one step forward.

If you were ever ashamed or embarrassed by your clothes, house, car, etc. take one step back.

If one or both of your parents were “white collar” professionals: doctors, lawyers, etc. take one step forward.

If you were raised in an area where there was prostitution, drug activity, etc., take one step back.

If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behaviour to avoid being judged or ridiculed, take one step back.

If you studied the culture of your ancestors in elementary school, take one step forward.

If you went to school speaking a language other than English, take one step back.

If there were more than 50 books in your house when you grew up, take one step forward.

If you ever had to skip a meal or were hungry because there was not enough money to buy food when you were growing up, take one step back.

If you were taken to art galleries or plays by your parents, take one step forward.

If one of your parents was unemployed or laid off, not by choice, take one step back.

If you have health insurance take one step forward.

If you attended private school or summer camp, take one step forward.

If your family ever had to move because they could not afford the rent, take one step back.

If you were told that you were beautiful, smart and capable by your parents, take one step forward.

If you were ever discouraged from academics or jobs because of race, class, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were encouraged to attend college by your parents, take one step forward.

If you have a disability take one step backwards.

If you were raised in a single parent household, take one step back.

If your family owned the house where you grew up, take one step forward.

If you saw members of your race, ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation portrayed on television in degrading roles, take one step back.

If you own a car take one step forward.

If you were ever offered a good job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.

If you were ever denied employment because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were paid less, treated less fairly because of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever accused of cheating or lying because of your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you ever inherited money or property, take one step forward.

If you had to rely primarily on public transportation, take one step back.

If you attended private school at any point in your life take one step forward.

If you were ever stopped or questioned by the police because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If you were ever afraid of violence because of your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

If your parents own their own business take one step forward.

If you were generally able to avoid places that were dangerous, take one step forward.

If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke related to your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.

If you use a TDD Phone system take one step backwards.

If you were ever the victim of violence related to your race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, take one step back.

Imagine you are in a relationship if you can get married in the State of ___ take one step forward

If your parents did not grow up in the United States, take one step back.

If your parents attended college take one step forward.

If your parents told you that you could be anything you wanted to be, take one step forward.

If you are able to take a step forward or backwards take two steps forward.

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