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Privilege Exercise

Jen Thomas supports real life learning by facilitating a reflective exercise that allows students to identify their privilege.

This resource supports: Real Life Learning. Read more about real life learning >

Adopted from Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” and the “Privilege Walk Activity”

As a group, read and re ect upon the statements below. Take your time with each statement. Ask each other questions if you are confused by the meaning of the statements. You are not required to share your answers with the instructor or anyone else in class, especialyy if you feel it may “out” you as a minority and make you feel triggered or vulnerable. At the end of this exercise, you will have a chance to re ect on your answers with your group members.


  1. I have access to a computer and the internet to complete my coursework.

  2. I was familiar with classical European literature, art and music before attending university.

  3. Other family members before me have attended college or university.

  4. I have never had to skip a meal because I could not afford food.

  5. My family had health and dental insurance when I was growing up.


  1. The campus was constructed in a way that is accessible to me; I have easy access to buildings, within classrooms, and in bathroom stalls without trouble or assistance.

  2. I can see the front of the classroom and hear the instructor speak.

  3. I can easily nd food on campus (in the dining hall, during club activities, or during catered

    events) that won’t cause an allergic reaction, blood glucose spike, or otherwise harm my body.

  4. The font and format of exams and assignments are accessible to me. The time allotted to com-

    plete exams and assignments is suf cient.

  5. Ableist language doesn’t exclude me from the classroom (such as “this was an insane amount of

    reading” or “this assignment is so lame’).


  1. At meetings when the group needs a note-taker, no one looks at me expecting me to serve as a secretary because of my gender.

  2. People whose gender is similiar to mine are widely represented as authors, scholars or scien- tists in my courses.

  3. I can use a public washroom without having others stare, glare, yell or physically accost me (be- cause they think I’m in the wrong bathroom).

  4. I have never had a student or instructor give me unwanted romantic or sexual attention.

  5. Starngers have never asked what my genitals look like (because they wonder how my affirmed

    gender relates to my body)


  1. The holidays I celebrate from my culture I also have off from work and school.

  2. English is my primary language.

  3. It is likely that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

  4. The media positively and widely represents people of my race.

  5. My ancestor’s history has not been erased nor appropriated (in the form of racialized costumes,

    commodities, or traditions and food that are emptied of cultural meaning, etc.)


  1. No one has ever tried to study if (a)sexual orientations like mine come from a particular gene, hormones, from abuse or neglect.

  2. I can be affectionate toward my partner(s) in public without worrying about our safety.

  3. My (a)sexuality is never referred to as unhealthy, unnatural or pathological.

  4. Sexual slurs - like “faggot”, “whore”, “slut” or “homo” - are not used to hurt me.

  5. Strangers have never asked me how I have sex.


  1. People who are like me are widely represented as instructors/professors at SFU.

  2. There are other people who are similiar to me (in terms of gender, race, ability, etc) in my labs

    and classes.

  3. I feel safe walking alone at night.

  4. When I say “no”, people respect my boundaries.

  5. People listen to me when I have something to say; I rarely, if ever, get interrupted when I speak.

  6. People don’t say I am “biased” because I represent a particular group of people or minority


Questions to Consider

In what ways, if any, did this exercise make you feel uncomfortable? How do you make sense of this discomfort / what meaning does this have for you?

In what ways do you experience oppression?
In what ways do you experience privilege?
How do these privileges shape your experience in the classroom?
How does your privilege affect your interactions with students, colleagues or with instructors? How can you work to be aware of privilege and oppression so as to not perpetuate oppression?