Who Am I?

*gratitude the UU College of Social Justice for their learning resources.

For this session, members of the group will begin to dive into parts of their individual identities as the full group develops common definitions for common terms in justice work.

Chalice Lighting: Why We’re Here – by Erik Walker Wikstrom

Here, today, in this place and with these people,

May we listen so that we can hear;

May we hear so that we can feel;

May we feel so that we can know; and

May we know so that we can change ourselves and this world.

May this chalice we light,

Light our Way.

Defining Power, Privilege, Discrimination, and Oppression

Part of the purpose of these sessions is to help us understand ourselves better and to understand the way we interact with people around us and other cultures around us, so that we can be prepared to be better allies for change in this world.

One important aspect of contributing to social change efforts is that we gain a deeper understanding of the realities of the world, realities that are sometimes hidden unless we intentionally think about them. In order to effectively confront systems of oppression, we must also address issues of power and privilege. It is often easier to focus on how people are oppressed, disadvantaged and discriminated against than it is to address how we as individuals may have privileges, and as a result are able to exercise our power at the expense of others. The kind of self-scrutiny needed to look at ourselves and examine the ways we have benefited from different forms of privilege is difficult. Let’s take some time to get basic definitions for some of the words we’ll be talking about.

Discussion: Let’s share what we know about the following words. If you are unsure of what someone is trying to say, ask for clarification or for others to help explain. Facilitator will take notes on a large sheet of paper as they share. 

After a discussion about the definitions, ask the group to share examples of each:

[Facilitator: There are definitions included here, but try to let the group come up with the definitions, use the suggestions here if something is missing from the conversations generated.]

Video: Sometimes you’re a Caterpillar, Chescaleigh: http://bit.ly/1CVoikZ [3:18 minutes]

[After screening the video, invite any further thoughts on power, privilege, and discrimination.]

Example questions:

  • What comes to mind when you hear the word power/ privilege/ discrimination?
  • How have you seen these terms manifesting in today’s society?

Understanding Privilege

Peggy McIntosh is a scholar who has written about both male privilege and white privilege, suggesting that cisgender men and people who are white carry around “invisible knapsacks” of unearned, and often unnoticed, advantages that make their lives easier. The privileges in one’s knapsack help create more access to power and opportunities, which perpetuate and exacerbate inequality. Let’s look at some examples:

White Privilege

  • I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  • I can find TV shows with people of my race represented in different roles.
  • I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race
  • I can be pretty sure that if I talk to the person in charge, I will be facing a person of my own race
  • I can chose blemish cover or band-aids in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin
  • When I am taught about our national heritage or about “civilization” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
  • If a traffic cop pulls me over, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race

Male Privilege

  • When I make a mistake while playing I don’t worry about how this will reflect on my gender’s abilities
  • The majority of competitive sports in the US show preference towards my gender
  • I am rarely asked to speak on behalf of my gender
  • If I’m careless with my driving, it won’t be attributed to my gender
  • The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively inexpensive and consumes little time
  • I can be aggressive with no fear of being called a bitch
  • My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never be questions depending on the “time of the month” it is

Video: Why Does Privilege Make People So Angry? https://bit.ly/1UY3cGR [4:51 minutes]

Small Group Discussion:

As you listened to the list of examples of privilege, did any of the privileges surprise you? Were you experiencing any without realizing it?

What are other ways that some groups of people may experience privilege over others, as a result of:

  • Sexual or affectional orientation
  • Gender expression
  • Physical abilities
  • Mental health
  • Faith tradition
  • Citizenship
  • Education
  • Economics
  • Age
  • Other examples?

Individual Reflection

Take some time to think about the various identities you hold. Common factors to consider include race, class, gender, religious affiliation, age, or sexual or affectional orientation. You might also consider roles that you identify with (i.e., daughter, brother, student, athlete, volunteer) as well as experiences you’ve had (e.g. overcoming an illness or challenge, moving to a new country or city, having the opportunity to develop a talent or be part of a club) and traits (outgoing, shy, creative, optimistic, etc). Once you’ve given some thought to your identity, take a blank piece of paper and write your name in the center. Next, in a web-like fashion, quickly jot down the many identities you hold. Show identities that are more important to you in larger print with smaller print for identities that are less important.

Facilitator Ask: Did anyone write down their economic status? That they come from a blue-collar or white-collar family? Why or why not? Why would it be particularly important to acknowledge our economic status before taking this journey?

Closing Video: Lost Voices by Darius Simpson & Scout Bostley: http://bit.ly/1Nix2Tk 

– This poem demonstrates the power of recognizing and speaking from our own lived experiences, and creating space for others to do so, too, as we work together to create social change.