- To build awareness of the variety of rank and privilege that are present in a group or workshop
- To assist individuals to take their next step in coming to terms with their own rank and privilege or lack of it
- To invite participants to learn to be allies and motivate them to do so.
Line everyone across middle of the room, at about the “40 yard line.” OK to have double/triple line.
Read a list (see below) which instructs individuals to take a step forward/back according to criteria. Important to emphasize this exercise is done in silence, to allow reflection and awareness of their inner experience.
Important to allow a substantial pause after reading each one, because participants are doing their valuable inner work in response to the question.
When list is completed, ask participants to talk with those nearest to them in the room about their experience — to share how it felt and insights they gained. After 4-6 minutes, ask for a sample of these for the whole group to hear. Be sure to get a representative sample.
Make appropriate comments that underline important, movement building insights that were shared. Emphasize that whether we feel we’ve earned our position in life or not, the reality is that we are now wherever we are. The question is: how to use that position to be a better ally?
“I’m going to read a series of characteristics and ask you to take a step forward or backward as each applies to you. When something I read is ambiguous in your case, you get to decide how it applies to you. There are no “right and wrong” answers; this is to support your own awareness.
“Remember, this exercise is to be done in silence so you can experience your own feelings and reactions.”
(adapt this list based on the group you are working with)
(Pause between each one.)
- If you are a U.S. citizen, take a step forward.
- If you were brought up working class, take a step backward.
- If you graduated from college, take a step forward.
- If you are female, take a step backward.
- If you are European American, take a step forward.
- If the breadwinner in your family was ever unemployed while you were a child, take a step backward.
- If you went to sleep-away camp as a child, take a step forward.
- If you are under 21 years old or over 60, take a step backward.
- If you are able-bodied, take a step forward.
- If you are gay or are sometimes believed to be gay, take a step backward.
- If you have travelled outside the U.S., take a step forward.
- If you are Jewish, take a step backward.
- If you attended a private liberal arts college or Ivy League university, take a step forward.
- If you or members of your family have been on welfare, take a step backward.