Checking Your Privilege

Published on Jun 8, 2019

A few months back, I attended a discussion on privilege. 

I knew quite a few people in the room; the English-speaking community interested in discussions and cultural activities in Kuwait—although diverse—is pretty small, and you're very likely to run into someone you know wherever you go.

After a brief discussion on race and privilege, the moderator asked us to participate in a privilege walk, where we lined up next to each other across the room. She then asked us to take a step forward or backward depending on the statements she'd read and whether they applied to us.

These are some I remember (roughly):

- Take 3 steps forward if you could afford private school.

- Take a step backward if you don't speak the language of the country you live in.

- Step back if you were ever afraid of being deported.

- Step back if there were times your family didn't know where the next meal would come from. 

...and so on.

It shook me to see someone take a step back for that last one. What shook me even more is that I knew them; we'd participated in a life-changing workshop together, they'd attended some of the events I'd helped curate, and we'd had a few conversations catching up.

By the end of the activity, no one was in their original spot. I was somewhere in the middle, a local was way up ahead close to the front wall, while the person I mentioned was way back. 

And it made me wonder. There is so much we don't know about other people, people we know, people we may have brief encounters or casual conversations with. Where they come from. What kind of situation they be in at home, or where their next meal may be coming from. It's so important to remind ourselves never to assume their stories because of the little we may be exposed to about them.