This teacher’s tactic makes effects of privilege clear
In 2017, the concept of privilege is a hot button issue. Yet despite how frequently the term is invoked, many people struggle to grasp it, or to understand how insidious it is to everyday life.
This video should help.
Using nothing more than a field, his class of students, and some simple commands, a college professor educated a group of young kids on the concept of privilege. And now that the video has gone viral, with over 200,000 shares on Facebook, it’s educating a lot of others as well.
In the video, the teacher lines up his class at the edge of a grassy field. He tells them they’re going to have a race, and the winner will receive a 100 dollar bill. But there’s a catch.
Some of the students are going to get a head start.
Before the race begins, he tells his class that when one of the statements applies to them, they can take two steps forward. Otherwise, stand put.
Patiently and methodically, the teacher begins to make a series of statements. Statements like, “Take two steps forward… if your parents are still married,” and “if you grew up with a father figure in the home,” “if you had access to a private education,” “if you never had to help Mom or Dad with the bills.”
Slowly, the students begin to separate.
”Take two steps forward if it wasn’t because of your athletic ability that you don’t have to pay for college.”
“Take two steps forward if you never wondered where your next meal was gonna come from.”
As a handful of students start to make it closer to the front, the teacher begins to break down what’s happening, instructing them to turn around and look behind them. Then he drops the hammer.
”Every statement I’ve made has nothing to do with anything any of you have done…We all know these people up here have a better opportunity to win this hundred dollars…We would be fools to not realize we’ve been given more opportunity.”
Privilege is a complicated issue, and it’s not about to be solved by a teacher with a small class of students.
Diverse as the group in the video may be, it can’t possibly capture the full range of different ethnicities, class backgrounds, sexual identities and other signifiers that factor into the conversation and add many more wrinkles than simply male/female, or white/black.
That said, the video does a masterful job of communicating how privilege works. Some people, by virtue of little more than genetics and circumstance, simply start life in a more advantageous position than others.
This is not an easy thing to change. But we can change our awareness of the things that put us where we are. We need to acknowledge that the playing field is not level, adjust our attitudes accordingly, and do our best to use our privilege to boost others.
“You still gotta run your race but whoever wins this hundred dollars, I think it would be extremely foolish of you not to utilize that and learn more about someone else’s story.”