A group of concerned students welcomed passers-by to engage with the topic of privilege as they demonstrated on the Lory Student Center Plaza Wednesday.
The students, who have not officially named their group but go by “Got Privilege?” on Facebook, decided that action was needed to educate the Colorado State University community about the true definition of privilege after an opinion article appeared in the Collegian earlier this month which the group said expressed severe misunderstanding of the concept.
“We are here to basically correctly define privilege, as well as allow people to have an opportunity to own their privilege and identify certain privileges that are out there,” Kwon Yearby, a senior economics major who helped organize the demonstration, said. “We felt like she mis-defined privilege and that’s why we wanted to define it correctly.”
The group had a white board where passers-by could write examples of what privilege means to them. The group was giving out Dum-Dum lollipops to participants.
They also chalked out an educational activity called a ‘privilege walk’ on the ground, allowing participants to get a visualization of their privilege by taking steps forward and backward on a grid in response to questions such as, “Are you able to hold the hand of your partner out in public without fear of physical or social retaliation?” and, “Did your parents have more than 50 books in your house while you were growing up?”
Nakita Venus, another organizer and participant, felt the activity helped illustrate the extent of the definition of privilege.
“The privilege walk is something that other orgs and groups and communities here at CSU use for educational purposes, and it’s really just a way of showing that because of our identities, all of our intersecting identities, we might have privileges in certain areas and other people do not, and that’s not necessarily anybody’s choice,” Venus said. “Privilege is something that happens to all of us.”
In the aftermath of the error-filled opinion piece, white privilege was what most people talked about, Venus said. According to Venus, although white privilege is important to discuss, the student group is aiming to communicate that there are many forms of privilege.
“Because privilege is something that affects all of us whether we choose it or not, it is something that happens to all of us,” Venus said. “And, the best way that we feel that we can actually make a change and make this a better community for all CSU students and faculty and everybody that comes onto this campus, is that if we have an understanding of what privilege is. … People can own their privilege and we can move forward. And, I think it’s a really beautiful thing.”
Many demonstrators wore clear goggles around their necks or on their heads, similar to the type used in science labs. On the front of them was the word ‘privilege,’ in reference to an analogy made by the author of the opinion article.
“We live in one of very few nations on earth where every group has the opportunity to be successful despite their possibly ‘unprivileged’ background. Unfortunately, not everyone with their victim goggles on is able to see this,” the article states.
Yearby explained the group was wearing the goggles to make the analogy their own.
“We wanted to take it back as well and call them privilege goggles which allows us the superpower of seeing privilege,” Yearby said.
This demonstration may not be the last the campus will hear from this group, as they said they are planning various actions in the future, including an appearance at the Diversity Demonstration Day on the Plaza Nov. 5.
“Hopefully, we would love to have… a bigger version of this (the privilege walk) and get hundreds of students to do it at the same time and video record it and hopefully make a big impact at CSU,” Yearby said.
The student group is organizing on various platforms, including Facebook. They are encouraging CSU students to become part of the conversation.
“The meetings are for everybody and anybody to come to,” Venus said. “Absolutely anybody can join it.”
The group said that they are not mad that the article was published. They said they are taking this opportunity to educate and create a dialogue about the issue.
“We’re trying to encourage people to take off their privilege goggles and see the community and campus a little differently,” Venus said.
Collegian Reporter Julia Rentsch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @julia_rentsch.