Analyzing Privilege


In our current, cultural landscape there are many divisive topics that individuals associate with while dismissing contrary perspectives.  It is easy to disregard what someone else has to say when there is a gap in empathy and connectivity.  The goal of this exercise, in dismantling, or “checking one’s privilege”, is to allow students to see what kind of advantages they may take for granted while overlooking some of the obstacles others may have to face on a daily basis.

What I enjoy most about this particular prompt is that it is flexible and can be utilized as an individual assignment or group activity.  With a minor tweak, you can utilize this exercise as a personal reflection or rework it as a group building activity to help develop peer understanding.  Below is a breakdown of how I approach the assignment:

1.)    Typically, I prefer to have my students work in groups for this prompt so they can hear the emotion and feel the ethos that their contemporaries bring to the table.

2.)   I open with my group worksheet titled, “Analyzing Privilege” (see below) that starts them off with some general questions about their personal experiences involving privilege or being under-privileged

3.)   The prompt will then ask them to read a Huffington Post article, “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person” by Gina Corcoran.  I enjoy utilizing this article because it is a useful gateway to show that privilege expands far beyond just one’s race.

4.)   If you are working in a computer lab or your students have access to the internet, part four of the prompt asks them to research disenfranchised or underprivileged communities.

5.)   Finally, the last section of the exercise asks the students to take the BuzzFeed “Privilege Quiz.” This quiz asks 100 questions and then scores them based on a range.  It allows them to see some of the daily advantages they may overlook or potentially take for granted.  I have printed out the quiz questions in the past and used them in class when a computer lab was not available.

Once the groups have had adequate time to interact and complete the exercise, I address the questions with each group and talk about their privilege quiz scores.  This particular activity can work in an hour or two-hour class.  In my experience, my classes have been receptive to this activity as it gives them the opportunity to learn about their classmates’ personal journeys and reflect on the advantages they have that could potentially be used to benefit others.






Feature image courtesy of
English Lecturer & Adjunct Instructor at College of Dupage & Elmhurst College

Eric Tan is an English Lecturer at the College of Dupage and an Adjunct English Instructor at Elmhurst College.  He has taught English composition, rhetoric, creative writing, and has also worked as a writing center tutor.   Eric graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and received his Master’s Degree from Elmhurst College.  He is an advocate for creative expression and encourages his students to reach their inspired potential through ventures beyond traditional essays. Currently, Eric is working on a Podcast project, that tries to teach teachers to not take teaching so seriously, with a colleague in Philosophy and Religious Studies.


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