Step 5: Understanding Access to Power
This exercise involves looking at how privilege works, with a focus on race and white privilege. Privilege is generally invisible to those who have it, but it is painfully obvious to those who don’t. If you do this exercise with a group, only white people should participate; people of color may observe.
This exercise is more advanced than the previous steps and it generally requires a higher degree of trust and safety within a group. It has been used in extended antiracism trainings with white people who already understand the issue of oppression and are willing to look deeper in the mirror. This and similar exercises can elicit difficult feelings and should be conducted only when there is ample room for processing.
Part 1: Read Peggy Mcintosh’s article, “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”
Part 2: After reading the article, each person should try to construct a list similar to the one in the article identifying at least 10 ways in which white privilege operates in their lives. This exercise should not be rushed. It works well if people take several days to reflect on their privilege as they go about their daily lives.
When the exercise is conducted in a group, participants can share their lists and discuss how they feel about them. In an organization, white staff members could collectively create a list of how privilege affects the work of the organization. This can be a very enriching conversation, but since privilege is hard to see for the privileged, it can also be a difficult one.
- How can white people make sure that they are not overlooking major areas of privilege?
- How can white people and organizations be accountable to communities of color without continuing to put the burden of antiracism education on people of color?
- Go back to the lists from Step 2. Do the values you identified help perpetuate the benefits that your social or cultural group derives from access to power? How?
- How can you use your privilege as an individual and as an organization to work toward social justice?
Exercise: The Benefits of Being White
This provides an example of how those of us who are white or in other privileged groups can acknowledge the extent of those benefits.
Share your responses and see what other people are saying about privilege and Access to Power.
Last modified 2004-08-29 04:34 PM