Privilege Awareness Exercise

This exercise was developed for the Leadership Center for Excellence, Education Day curriculum presented in March 2021 to community members in Arlington, Va.

For the purpose of this exercise, privilege is defined as “the unearned and mostly unacknowledged societal advantage that a restricted group of people has over another group.”[1] We don’t choose to have these privileges and when one person has a particular privilege and another does not, it shifts the power dynamic of their relationship.

 The following are examples of types of privilege that confer more power to some groups of people over others. Please read through them with an open, learning mindset.

- How many do you identify with?

- Did any surprise you?

- How can you use these privileges and the power that comes with them to influence your work?


o   Being right-handed

o   If English is your first language

o   If one or both of your parents completed a college degree

o   Being able to find products that match your skin tone/hair texture at mainstream stores

o   Feeling safe walking at night

o   Studying the culture of your ancestors at school

o   If you are a citizen of this country

o   If you trust the police to protect you

o   Access to reliable internet and technology

o   Access to personal or reliable transportation

o   Being able to show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear

o   Having enough food to eat

o   Being/presenting as able-bodied, neurotypical, healthy, without any illness or disability

o   Identifying or presenting as racially White and/or male

o   Having health insurance

o   Seeing people who you identify with being portrayed positively in media, movies and books

o   If your parents are still married

o   Access to books in your home

o   Your religious/spiritual holidays coincide with holidays on your work/school calendar

o   Access to employment opportunities through personal networks

o   If you have inherited wealth or property

o   Having supportive adults in your childhood who encouraged you

o   Being able to trust that people in positions of authority will believe you

o   Being able to use public restrooms or restrooms at work without fear

o   Being able to assume that you will receive quality medical care

o   Being accepted by your neighbors, colleagues, and new friends


For a shift in perspective, away from privilege and towards what our society values in its community members, what would change if our society placed higher value on experiences that come from overcoming barriers and creating resilience such as:[2]


o   Speaking up or taking action to interrupt a microaggression you witness

o   Earning an advanced degree despite someone telling you that you couldn’t

o   Organizing, protesting, and resisting systems of oppression

o   Working, caregiving, and going to school at the same time

o   Learning and practicing proactive coping skills to help you navigate discrimination

o   Pride and joy in your culture and traditions

o   Fluency in more than one language

o   Continuing to show up despite experiencing stigma

o   Holding a position of power that has traditionally been held by people with a dominant identity

o   If the struggles of your ancestors/communit(ies) are a source of your resilience

o   If your family immigrated to this country


- How many do you identify with?

- Did any surprise you?

- How would valuing these things as well as the types of privilege in the first question influence your work?


[2] Inspiration from and (accessed 2/18/21)