Campus privilege walks teach students active sex life, big libraries put you ahead

At least two universities will be hosting “privilege walks” this year in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A “privilege walk,” according to a resource at the University of Michigan, is an exercise in which students “stand in a straight line in the middle of an empty room” while a moderator reads from a list of examples of privilege and students correspondingly “take one step backward” or “one step forward.” Some examples the University of Michigan provides for a “privilege walk” are:

“If you ever felt unsafe because of your sexual orientation, take one step back.”

“If there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, take one step forward.”

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

“If you were sexually active with several people and it would improve your social reputation in other people’s eyes, take one step forward.”

“If you have a foreign accent, take one step backward.”

The purpose of the exercise is to “divide people into different locations” in a room in order to show students how “small privileges in society place individuals in different places in society.”

The University of Iowa will be hosting two events during their “Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week” with the theme of “exploring privilege.” The first event is a free screening of nationally known “antiracist” essayist and author Tim Wise’s film White Privilege: Racism, White Denial, and the Cost of Inequality.

The second event is an hour-long privilege walk and “discussion about the effects of societal privilege.”

Kate Burnette, member of the planning committee for the event at the University of Iowa, told Campus Reform she hopes students see how their privileges account for their status in society after attending the event.

“The intended purpose of the activity is to see where and how certain ‘privileges’ place individuals ahead of others,” she said.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be celebrating Martin Luther King with a six-day extravaganza of events, including their privilege walk demonstration entitled “Whose Shoes am I Walking in?” as a way to “identify certain privileges and their implications in today’s society.”

The University of Michigan resource warns this type of “exercise can be very triggering” and suggests setting aside “plenty of time to debrief and reflect what individuals experienced during the privilege walk.”

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