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Power and Privilege: Crossing the Line




List of diversity comments (below)


Full Class Period


Allows students to see how each peer is different; even if they may look similar on the outside. Also provides students with an opportunity to understand the intricacies of privilege in American society.


Participants should stand shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction in a straight line without speaking. Ask participants to listen carefully to each statement, and take the step required if the statement applies to them.

This is a boundary breaking activity. Students are asked to participate by choice but to challenge themselves to step out of their comfort zone. Remember this room is a safe zone, please do not repeat any information shared by people outside of this room. Please respect people if they share something personal or have different views than you may have. If people ask for clarification for a statement, you may tell them "it means whatever you think it means".

           ***Please Note that this is a high risk activity and should be taken very seriously.***

Read the following list:

1. If you have attended a private school, take one step forward.

2. All those who were or are now educated in schools where the vast majority of the faculty members and staff were or are of your ethnic or racial group, take one step forward.

3. If you studied history and culture of your ethnic ancestors in elementary and secondary school, take one step forward.

4. If you started school speaking a language other than English or the dominant language of that school, take one step back.

5. All those who come from, or whose parents came from rural areas, take one step back.

6. All those with immediate family members who are doctors, lawyers, o "professionals," take one step forward.

7. All those who were given a car by their family, take one step forward.

8. All those who were told by their parents that you were beautiful, smart, and capable of achieving your dreams, take two steps forward.

9. If prior to your 18th birthday, you took a vacation outside of the US, other than Mexico or Canada, take one step forward.

10. If your parents had to sit you down when you were young and explain to you, "this is what people might call you, and this is how they may treat you, and this is how you should deal with it", because they knew you were going to encounter it and because it was an important issue in your family and community, take one step back.

11. If you had negative role models of your particular identity (religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, physical or mental ability) when you were growing up, take one step back.

12. If school is not in session during your major religious holidays, please take a step forward.

13. If you ever had to take a final or other type of test on one of your religious holidays or other cultural event you observe, take one step back.

14. If one of your classmates or RA wished you a Merry Christmas when you left for the break, forgetting or not knowing that you do not celebrate Christmas, please take one step back.

15. If you have ever felt like no one else looked or acted like you in school, please take one step back.

16. If you have ever been afraid to walk around campus alone at night, please take one step back.

17. If you can arrange to be in the company of people of your identity (religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, class, or ethnicity) most of the time, please take one step forward.

18. If you have ever had a crush on someone but were unable to tell anyone for fear that they would judge you, please take one step back.

19. If you wanted to go on a ski trip, camping trip, or activity sponsored through school but you just did not have the money to go, take one step back.

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

21. If there is not a faculty member at your current institution who looks like you, please take one step back.

22. If you took an SAT prep course before taking the SAT, please take one step forward.

23. If you were afforded the opportunity to take a summer prep course at a local community college before entering your current institution, please take one step forward.

24. If you can turn on the television or open the front page of the paper and see people of your race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation widely represented, please take one step forward.

25. If you have difficulty finding products for your hair or someone to cut your hair in your college community, please take one step back.

26. For every dollar earned by white men, women earn only 72 cents. African-American women earn 65 cents and Hispanic women earn 57 cents to the dollar. All white males take a step forward. (The Arizona Republic, August 4, 1996).

For additional statements, click here.



Ask participants to remain in their positions and to look at their position in the room and the positions of the other participants.  There are two ways to process this activity.  You can either do one or both of them depending on your assessment of the exercise.

Group Process:  Ask these questions while participants are standing in their positions.

    • How are you feeling right now?
    • What were some statements that triggered certain emotions?
    • What do you think was the purpose of this exercise?
    • What did you learn from it?
    • What happened during the exercise?
    • Anything in this exercise surprise you?
    • What did you observe in this exercise?
    • How did it feel to be in the group that took a step forward or backward or that ended up in the front or back of the room?
    • Did you want to be a part of the group moving forward or backward?
    • What might we draw from this exercise that might help us in the work that we do as leaders?

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