Texas A&M University’s Department of Multicultural Services hosted a “Power and Privilege” training Tuesday to teach students about their privilege through making beaded bracelets.
According to the event website, the training’s purpose was to determine “how power and privilege operates in our society and its impact on daily interactions.” The event began by disclaiming several “community agreements” to attendees, such as being “open to explore new identities” and being “aware of inclusive language.”
Students were then asked to complete an activity in which they would read a series of bullet points associated with different colored beads. When they felt they could resonate with a specific bullet point, they would add that colored bead to a bracelet.
The black beads represented immigration, and bullet points included “I do not live in fear of family members being deported,” and “I do not have to reapply for a work permit each year.”
The presenters explained the privileges associated with the black beads, one asserting that “with citizenship comes privilege,” adding that “you get a lot of rights, and those don’t apply to those who were born somewhere else and just wanted to come to this country.”
The purple “privilege” beads represent gender, and students would add these beads to their bracelet if they can “navigate gender-specific spaces” such as bathrooms and locker rooms, “without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest.” They also could take a bead if they “blend in while navigating the world,” or “easily identify and are comfortable with a gender box they’re checking while filling out forms.”
Regarding the third bullet point above, one student said, “For me, it’s just like, ‘oh male,’ but some people want that third option.”
While discussing “gender privileges,” the presenters displayed a “gender unicorn” slide to educate students on different aspects of gender identity and expression.
The “gender unicorn” explains how gender identity and gender expression can be separate, in addition to saying that who a person is physically and emotionally attracted to are not always the same. Additionally, the presenters went on to explain that gender is separate from one’s sex they’re born with.
The green beads represented racial privilege, including bullet points such as “most hairdressers or stylists know how to work with my hair.”
One student remarked, “A lot of Asian people have thick hair, so I can’t get my hair cut at any place. I refuse to let just anyone touch my hair, I’m super self-conscious.”
Other privileges on this checklist included not being faced with assumptions that they got into the university based on their race, and have had “curricular materials that consistently testify to the existence and positive contributions of people who look” like them.
Yellow beads represented financial privilege, and students would add these beads to their bracelet if they have “never been homeless or evicted,” or if they are “able to seek medical attention if necessary.”
One student said, “I’ve been living off of food stamps my whole life, and you just regularly drive a Benz,” speaking of how they feel living among other TAMU students.
Attendees would add pink beads if they had sexual orientation privilege, such as “showing their partner affection in public without worry,” or “being trusted around other’s kids even after the parents know of their sexual orientation.”
One student acknowledged their own “sexual orientation privilege,” saying that being straight is “a default” and” nobody asks why.”
White beads were associated with “sex privileges,” such as being faced with one’s own sex when facing leaders on campus, or the media “not consistently using” one’s gender as a sexual object to “sell their product.”
Attendees would add red beads to their bracelets for “religious privileges” including holiday decorations being easily accessible in stores, and food that “does not violate” any “religious practices” being easily found in almost any restaurant or grocery store.
One student said, “A lot of religions can’t eat beef or chicken at all, and we really take that for granted. There’s not a lot of restaurants that cater to that.”
“I’m Muslim and went to a school that was mostly white, and during the holidays, people would be like ‘Christmas this, Christmas that,'” another student claimed.
The event came to an end with students examining how much privilege they have by the number of beads they added to their bracelets.
“We want you all to realize that we all have privilege and that you should use that privilege to help others,” the presenter concluded.
How many beads would be on your bracelet? Let us know your number below!