Swimming Down the Sidewalk

Updated: Aug 15, 2020

The Power of Privilege, and the Eye-Opening Effects of Losing it in One Fell Swoop.

Recently I participated in an activity as part of our leadership team at work called Privilege for Sale.* This activity was a part of a larger discussion about race and social justice in the world, as well as within the educational organization where I am the Human Resources Director.

The purpose of this activity was and is to help us understand our privilege, including our blind spots where we may not even realize we have privileges or where we take them for granted.

The way this exercise works is that all participants are given a fictional amount of money ($300, $500, $700, $900 or $1100). They are then given a list of “privileges” that they have to buy with their money. They have to assume that they don’t have any of these privileges on the list in real life, and each one costs $100 to buy. There is a list of 27 privileges that participants have to choose from, and they are supposed to take their “money” and spend it on the things that would matter most, forcing a choice of certain privileges over others.

For a group of mostly white, mostly heteronormative leaders, it was a great exercise to understand not only privilege in the context of the systems that we’ve created, but also to understand intersectionality.

Being made to choose between privileges like “feeling unthreatened and safe in your interactions with authority figures and police officers” and “being accepted by your neighbors, colleagues, and new friends,” is not a fun thought experiment, and for me, it became altogether eye opening when my own privilege was exposed.