A Checklist: The Cost of Racism & Privilege
I didn’t create this activity, but in my experiences facilitating with it, I’ve found it to be a good introductory exercise to start conversations on race and to help folks get started in thinking about where they might fit in terms of their own life experiences with racism and privilege.
Establishing a good foundation from the very beginning can give you something to go back to when the conversation gets tense.
Participants are to place a check by the statements that apply to them, and leave blank the statements that do not. While I’ve taken the liberty of placing checks next to the ones which apply to me, I also hope that you try it for yourself as well.
Checklist: The Cost of Racism & Privilege
My ancestors were legal immigrants to this country during a period when immigrants from Asia, South and Central America, or Africa were restricted.
My ancestors came to this country of their own free will and have never had to relocate unwillingly once here.
✔I live on land that formerly belonged to Native Americans.
My family received homesteading or landstaking claims from the federal government.
I, or my family or relatives, receive or received federal farm subsidies, farm price supports, agricultural extension assistance, or other federal benefits.
I lived or live in a neighborhood that people of color were encouraged to live in.
✔I lived or live in a city where red-lining prevents people of color from getting housing or other loans.
✔My parents or I went to racially segregated schools.
✔I live in a school district or metropolitan area where more money is spent on the schools that white children go to than those that children of color attend.
✔I live in or went to a school district where children of color are more likely to be disciplined than white children, or are more likely to be tracked into non-academic programs.
I live in or went to a school district where textbooks and other classroom materials reflected my race as normal and as heroes and builders of the United States.
✔I live in or went to a school district where there was little mention of the contributions of people of color in our society in textbooks or other classroom materials.
✔I was encouraged to go on to college by teachers, parents, or other advisors.
✔I attend, or attended a publicly funded university or a heavily endowed private university or college, and/or I receive or received student loans.
I served in the military when it was still racially segregated, or achieved a rank where there were few people of color, or served in a combat situation where there were large numbers of people of color in dangerous combat situations.
My ancestors were immigrants who took jobs in railroads, streetcars, construction, shipbuilding, wagon & coach driving, house painting, tailoring, longshore work, bricklaying, table waiting, working in the mills, dressmaking, or any other grade or occupation where people of color were driven out or excluded.
✔I received job training in a program where there were few or no people of color.
✔I have received a job, job interview, job training, or internship through personal connections of family or friends.
✔I worked or work in a job where people of color made less money for doing comparable work or did more menial jobs.
I have worked in a job where people of color were hired last or fired first.
✔I work in a job, career, or profession or in an agency or organization in which there are few people of color.
I received small business loans or credits, government contracts, or government assistance in my business.
My parents were able to vote in any election they wanted without worrying about poll taxes, literacy requirements, or other forms of discrimination.
I can always vote for candidates who reflect my race.
I live in a neighborhood that has better police protection and municipal services, and is safer than one in which people of color predominantly live.
The hospital and medical services close to me or which I use are better than those of most people of color in the region of which I live.
I see people who look like me in a wide variety of roles on television and in movies.
My skin color needn’t be a factor in where I choose to live.
My skin color needn’t be a factor in where I send my children to school.
A substantial percentage of the clothes I wear are made by poorly paid women and children of color in this country and abroad.
✔The house, office building, schools, hotels and motels, or other buildings and grounds I use are cleaned or maintained by people of color.
Many of the electronic goods I use, such as TVs, microwave ovens, VCRs, telephones, CD players, and computers are made by people of color in this country and abroad.
✔People of color have cared for me; other family members, friends, or colleagues of mine either at home or at a medical or convalescent facility.
I don’t need to think about race and racism every day. I can choose when and where I want to respond to racism.
✔I don’t know what my ancestral heritage is, or what regions or cities my ancestors are from.
I grew up, lived, or live in a neighborhood, or went to a school or camp, which, as far as I knew, was exclusively white.
I grew up with people of color who were servants, maids, or gardeners in my house.
I did not meet people of color in person, or socially, before I was well into my teens.
I grew up in a household where I heard derogatory racial terms or racial jokes.
✔I grew up in a family or heard as a child that people of color were to blame for violence, lack of jobs, or other problems.
I have seen or heard images in magazines, on TV or radio, on cassettes and CDs, or in movies of (Check all that apply):
✔Mexicans depicted as drunk, lazy or illiterate.
✔Asians depicted as exotic, cruel, or mysterious.
✔Asian Indians depicted as excitable or “silly”.
✔Arabs depicted as swarthy, ravishing, or “crazed”.
✔African-Americans depicted as violent or criminal.
Pacific Islanders depicted as fun-loving or lazy.
✔American Indians depicted as drunk, savage, or “noble”.
✔Any character roles from non-white cultures depicted by white actors.
I was told not to play with children of other ethnicities when I was a child.
I have sometimes felt that “white” culture was a “wonderbread” culture—empty and boring—or that another racial group had more rhythm, more athletic ability, was better at math and technology, or had more musical or artistic creativity than my own.
I have felt that people of another racial group were more spiritual than white people.
I have been nervous and fearful or found myself stiffening up when encountering people of color in a neutral public situation (for example, in an elevator, on the street, waiting for a cab)
I am not in a close significant relationship with any people of color in my life right now.
I have been sexually attracted to a person from another racial group because it seemed exotic, exciting, or a challenge.
I was in a close friendship or relationship with a person of color, where the relationship was affected, stressed, or endangered by racism between us or from others.
I have felt embarrassed by, separate from, superior to, or more tolerant than other white people.
✔I have been in a close friendship or relationship with a white person where that relationship was damaged or lost because of a disagreement about racism.
I have worked in a job where people of color have held more menial jobs, were paid less, or were otherwise harassed or discriminated against and I did nothing about it.
I have participated in an organization, work group, meeting, or event which people of color have protested as being racist or which I knew to be racist and did nothing about.
I have had degrading jokes, comments, or put-downs about people of color made in my presence and did not protest or challenge them.
✔I have felt racial tension or noticed racism in a situation and was afraid to say or do anything about it.
I have seen a person of color being attacked verbally or physically and did not intervene in any way.
I am concerned that there is not enough attention paid to family violence and sexual assault in my community because of the focus of police and criminal justice resources on communities of color.
I am concerned that drug abuse in my white community is not taken seriously enough because disproportionate attention is on drug use in communities of color.
✔I experience a heightened and intrusive state of surveillance and security in my neighborhood, where I shop, in my school, when I cross borders, or when I use airports because of social fears of the dangers of people of color.
✔I have had to accept what I feel are unnecessary limits on my basic civil liberties because of social fears that people of color are dangerous.
✔I have felt angry, frustrated, tired, or weary about dealing with racism and hearing about racial affairs.
I live in a community where, for whatever reason, no people of color are present, so that some of these questions do not apply.
I did this activity in class a few years ago when I was in undergraduate school, but I can already see that it is just as thought-provoking for me now as it was then.
I really hope that you take some time out to try it for yourself. If you do, let me know how it goes and/or if anything in particular stood out for you.
If you didn’t do the activity, but just read along, feel free to let me know how it was for you to read through this as well.
Thanks for reading. Join the conversations…
Grace & Peace,
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW