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SELF AS KNOWLEDGE LESSON 3: INTERNALIZED PRIVILEGE AND

OPPRESSION

Designed by Jasmin Hoo

Description:
This lesson will introduce students to the concepts of privilege and oppression. Students will reflect
on and explore their own relationships to power, privilege, and oppression by discussing the articles and by
watching clips from the film, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, and by participating in the
Privilege Walk Activity. Students will explore their own internalized oppression and privilege and how this
impacts their interpersonal interactions, including within the classroom community and environment.

Guiding Question:
How do power, privilege, and oppression operate on the individual/interpersonal level?

Purpose/Aim:
1. To have students understand the concepts of privilege, power, and oppression on the individual and
interpersonal level.
2. To have students apply these concepts to their own identities.
3. To have students become aware of how these concepts play into the classroom community.

Lesson Plan Materials:
Laptop and projector
Film Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible


Lesson Plan
CRITICAL
VOCABULARY


Definition and Rationale for choosing this word, phrase, or concept
PRIVILEGE A system that operates on the individual, cultural, and institutional levels, which gives power and advantage to
members of the dominant groups (males, white people, heterosexuals, able-bodied people, etc.) at the expense
of members of the target groups (females, people of color, LGBTQ people, differently able-bodied people,
etc.). Privilege is often invisible or taken for granted by the dominant groups who are taught that they have
earned these privileges based on hard work, rather than simply because they were born into a dominant group.

OPPRESSION The other side of the system of privilege, in which the target groups are disadvantaged and disempowered
through systemic and cultural force. Oppression can happen on the individual level (an individuals personal
prejudice and beliefs), cultural level (societal norms and values), and institutional or systemic level (hierarchy,
policies, procedures). There are several systems of oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia,
classism, etc. which all work together to maintain societal inequity.

Pre-requisites: Students will need to have some familiarity with the concepts of privilege and oppression.
They will also need to have skills in active listening, mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self care in
order to work through this challenging lesson.

Modifications: Since students may be at very different levels of understanding privilege, discussion groups
will be based on experience with this topic so that students can work at their own level of understanding
before expanding their knowledge with the whole class.


PART 1: CULTURAL ENERGIZER

Privilege Walk Activity:
In this activity, students will be challenged to acknowledge their own privilege. To start in a safer
place, students will share with a partner a time when they felt truly supported. After which, students will
stand in a line together and listen to the facilitator read aloud statements of privilege; if the statement is true
for them they take a step forward, and if it is not true, they take a step backwards. The statements cover a
variety of privileges based on the Big 8 Identifiers discussed in the previous lesson. Students will have
the opportunity to reflect and discuss the activity afterwards.

STEP
DESCRIPTION TIME: (30 min)
Step 1
Warm up: Facilitator asks students to find a partner, someone they dont know that well, and
share with their partner a time when they felt really supported. Each person will have 2 minutes
to share.

5 minutes
Step 2
Intro: Facilitator has students move the desks to the edge of the classroom so there is an open
space in the center. Students stand in the middle of the classroom in one horizontal line. The
facilitator explains that this exercise may be challenging and that students should only share
information they feel comfortable sharing. Facilitator will remind them the aim of this exercise
is to learn more about themselves and their classmates.

5 minutes
Step 3
Privilege Walk: Facilitator asks the students to begin by holding hands in the line. The
facilitator will read aloud statements and if it is true for a student they take a step forward, if it is
not true for them they take a step back. Statements will include different privileges such as I
feel safe entering public bathrooms without fear of harassment, or I have never been wrongly
pulled over or harassed by a police officer, Growing up, my family went on family vacations.

10 minutes
Step 4
Reflection: After the activity, facilitators will ask students take a moment of silence to reflect on
how that was for them. Students will then share with a partner how that activity was for them.
Afterwards, all students will sit in a circle for a group reflection. Discuss:
Were you surprised by anything that happened during the activity?
If youve done this activity before, did anything new come up for you?
If you have never done this activity before, what did you learn?

10 minutes

PART 2: CRITICAL CONCEPTS

Privilege and Oppression Discussion Lecture:
In this discussion lecture, students will explore the concepts of privilege and oppression.
Understanding that these operate on the individual, institutional and cultural levels, students will start with
the individual level and discuss how they personally experience privilege and oppression based on their
identities.

STEP
DESCRIPTION TIME (1 hr)
Slide/
Step 1
Pose to the class:
What is privilege? What do you understand about the concept of privilege?

5 minutes
Slide/
Step 2
Share working definition of Privilege:
A system that operates on the individual, cultural, and institutional levels, which gives power
and advantage to members of the dominant groups (males, white people, heterosexuals, able-
bodied people, etc.) at the expense of members of the target groups (females, people of color,
LGBTQ people, differently able-bodied people, etc.). Privilege is often invisible or taken for
granted by the dominant groups who are taught that they have earned these privileges based on
hard work, rather than simply because they were born into a dominant group.

5 minutes
Slide/
Step 3
Share a working definition Oppression:
The other side of the system of privilege, in which the target groups are disadvantaged and
5 minutes
disempowered through systemic and cultural force. Oppression can happen on the individual
level (an individuals personal prejudice and beliefs), cultural level (societal norms and
values), and institutional or systemic level (hierarchy, policies, procedures). There are several
systems of oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. which all work
together to maintain societal inequity.

Slide/
Step 4
Share the visual diagram of the Systems of Privilege and Oppression which address the
connection between the individual (internal), institutional, cultural levels of all forms of
oppression and privilege (see below). Ask students for examples of each level of
oppression/privilege.

Discuss how the various forms of oppression (racism, classism, sexismetc.) connect to
create inequity) and examples.
10 minutes
Slide/
Step 5
State: Today we are focusing on he individual level, which includes internalized oppression
and privilege and how this affects our interpersonal interactions.

Pose to the class:
Which groups of people benefit from these systems of oppression/privilege, and which groups
are oppressed by them?

10 minutes
Slide/
Step 6
Share visual of: Target Groups and Dominant Groups

First think reflectively and then pair share with the person next to you:
Which groups do you identify with?
Where do you experience privilege and where do you experience oppression?

10 minutes
Slide/
Step 7
Pose to the class:
Is privilege a black/white thing, as in youre either privileged or youre oppressed?
How does intersectionality play into privilege and identity?

15 minutes


PART 3: COMMUNITY COLLABORATION AND CULTURAL PRODUCTION

Mirrors of Privilege Film and Discussion:
In this activity, students will watch clips from Shakti Butlers film, Mirrors of Privilege: Making
Whiteness Visible. In this film they will hear from white people about their experiences with
understanding their own racial privilege. After watching the film, students will break up into three groups:
wondering, practicing or deepening, based on their experience with the topic of privilege, in order to allow
for safer and more productive dialogue. They will discuss the film and their own internalization of privilege
and oppression.

STEP
DESCRIPTION TIME (1.5 hrs)
Step 1
Introduce film:
This film is about the perspectives of white people about their experiences with white
privilege. Some of the film may resonate with you, some of it may confuse you, some of it
may be familiar. This film focuses on racial privilege, but I want you to think about how the
other aspects of identity intersect with race and also how the concepts and stories in this film
may be applied to other forms of privilege.

5 minutes
Step 2
Show clips from Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible 25 minutes
Step 3
Ask students to choose the group that best describes where they are at:
Wondering: I have had zero to three experiences discussing privilege and whiteness
and have some questions about it.
Practicing: I have had multiple experience discussing and analyzing privilege and
actively reflect on my own privilege and want to learn more.
Deepening: I have spent most or all of my life understanding privilege, and want to
5 minutes
know how to go deeper on this issue.

Step 4
In your small group, discuss:
Why is whiteness/white privilege invisible?
How can the stories in this film apply to other forms of privilege?
In what ways have you internalized your own privilege and oppression?
How do these internalizations affect your interpersonal interactions, particularly in
the classroom?
What do you think needs to become more visible in this classroom?

20 minutes
Step 5
Share Out:
What did your group discuss?

15 minutes
Step 6
Group Discussion:
If context matters how does power and privilege affect our classroom learning
environment? What needs to become visible in this room?
How do we build community and coalitions within this classroom community across
differences?
If we dont know everything, how important are the diverse experiences of your
classmates in your learning?

20 minutes


PART 4: CONCLUSIVE DIALOGUE/CRITICAL CIRCULAR EXCHANGE

Connection: This unit is relevant to students as it encourages them to be self reflective about their
positionality. It is relevant to the unit because it acknowledges that context matters and that each of our
identities and biases form how we think and relate to the world.

Assessment: Students will be assessed on how well they can acknowledge and deconstruct their own
privilege in discussions as well as in their Self Portrait project and paper due at the end of the unit.

Evaluation: This lesson will be evaluated through discussion and an anonymous student feedback form at
the end of this course.


RESOURCES AND NOTES
Resources :
Butler, Shakti (Producer, Director). (2006). Mirrors of privilege: Making whiteness visible
[Motion picture]. (Available for purchase from World Trust: http://world-trust.org/mirrors-of-
privilege-making-whiteness-visible/, or also available on youtube.com)

Privilege Walk Activity
If the statement is true for you, take a step forward. If it is not true for you, take a step back.
1. Most people in this room are within my 5 years of my age.
2. I was raised in a two-parent household.
3. My ancestors voluntarily immigrated to the United States.
4. I studied the culture of my ancestors in my K-12 education.
5. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can
afford and in which I would want to live.
6. One or both of my parents has a college degree.
7. There were more than 50 books in my house growing up.
8. My family owned the house where I grew up.
9. Growing up I always had enough food to eat.
10. My family had health insurance growing up.
11. I did not have to take out loans to pay for my higher education.
12. I have traveled outside of the United States for pleasure or educational purposes.
13. I feel fairly certain that if I was in danger the police would help me and not hurt me.
14. When I walk into stores, I am generally greeted with respect and am not followed by store owners or
security.
15. I do not have to worry about my safety when walking home late at night.
16. I can walk down a street without men catcalling and whistling at me.
17. I have never been the victim of violence due to my gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.
18. People do not assume that I got into a school or landed a job because of affirmative action rather than
my qualifications.
19. No one has ever asked me what are you? because they were confused by my racial identity or by my
gender identity.
20. My gender identity is not considered a mental pathology by the psychological and medical
establishments.
21. I can use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.
22. When filling out forms, there is a box to check for my gender identity.
23. I can legally marry the person I love in any state in this country.
24. People do not see my sexual orientation as abnormal, a disease, a sin, or a physiological disorder.
25. I have never had to come out with my sexual orientation.
26. Days off at work or at school always fall on the religious holidays I celebrate.
27. People of my religion are portrayed as good and normal people without a terrorist agenda.
28. I am a US Citizen by birth or naturalization.
29. I am not called illegal or alien because of my immigration status.
30. English is my native language.
31. The education I have received was never hindered by my inability to speak English.
32. People do not judge me as inferior, less intelligent, or less sophisticated because of my accent or way of
speaking.
33. I dont have to code switch between work, school, family and friends.
34. I am an able-bodied person.
35. People do not treat me as differently or less than because of my physical or mental abilities.
36. I have never spent time in the hospital or emergency room for a medical condition or disease.
37. I can name more than one celebrity, historical figure, or government representative of my same race,
gender, and ethnicity.
38. I will feel welcomed and "normal" in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

Systems of Privilege and Oppression:




Dominant and Targeted Groups
Social Identity
Category
Dominant/Privileged
Groups
Oppressed/Target Groups
Gender Male, Cisgender Female, Transgender, Gender-Queer
Age Adult Youth or Elderly
Race White Asian, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Middle Eastern,
Multiracial, Pacific Islander, South Asian
Economic
Class
Upper Class, Upper
Middle Class
Lower Middle Class, Working Class
Religion Christian Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, anything
besides Christian.
Ethnicity European Heritage African/Asian/Indigenous/Latino/Middle
Eastern/Pacific Islander/South Asian Heritage
Sexual
Orientation
Heterosexual Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer
Mental Ability Fully Mentally Able Learning difference, learning disabled, mentally ill
Physical
Ability
Abled-bodied, fit/thin Physically disabled, overweight
Language English All other languages besides English
Nationality US Citizen Immigrant, Non-US Citizen


Notes: This lesson is challenging for most students and requires mindfulness and compassion. The aim is not to make anyone
feel badly about their privilege, but rather expose the truth about privilege in order to have more honest communication in the
classroom about how to resist and transform the systems of privilege and oppression in our society.