by Grace Sall
“If one or both of your parents have a college degree, take one step forward.”
“If you have ever been profiled by someone else using stereotypes, take one step back.”
These statements became part of an activity on April 17 for freshmen and sophomores during their theology block. The activity, called the Privilege Walk, was organized by the IDEAS (Increasing Diversity and Equality Among Students) club as a way to bring awareness to the privileges that students at Marian have.
Students in each block went to the East Gym to participate, and began by standing in a straight line holding hands. As statements were read by IDEAS club members, students would move forward or backward depending on the statement. As the activity continued, it became more difficult for the girls to hold hands with their classmates as the distance between them became more defined.
“We didn’t want people in the back to feel as though they were less because they didn’t have a lot of privileges, and we didn’t want people in the front to feel guilty about the privileges they didn’t have a choice to have. We just wanted to promote understanding and to show that we may go to the same school and look the same but everyone is dealing with something in their life,” senior club leader Amou Majok said.
“I think my classmates learned to be happy with what they have because not everyone has that,” sophomore Aker Ajak said. The girls began to realize how different their backgrounds are, despite their commonality in Marian.
This privilege of a rigorous education in itself is something all Marian girls can share. However, there are many differences between students that are often unrecognized. At least 36 percent of Marian students do not have their own car and 6 percent do not have their own bedroom. More than 26 percent of Marian students have relied on public transportation at some point in their lives. These factors may seem minute, but they can be a big deal for someone who lacks these things.
“We also share many privileges, such as going to a private school, and we also share many disadvantages, such as dealing with gender discrimination,” Majok said.
“My hope was that students can identify what they have, be grateful for what they have, regardless of how much or how little and be sensitive to each other. While privileges sometimes lead to opportunities and materialistic things, they do not always guarantee happiness,” club moderator and theology teacher Ms. Kathy Janata said. Her hope from the activity was to encourage girls to be kind to one another as well as take time to get to know their classmates before accepting stereotypes.
The privilege walk is the main event that the IDEAS club provides for the students. The club also volunteers at women’s shelters and hopes to have a day to wear cultural clothing at school to showcase their families’ cultures in the future.
“Privileges don’t always equal happiness. Many students in the front felt guilty for taking steps forwards and I want them to know they didn’t do anything wrong. Many students in the back felt embarrassed for being so far behind everyone, and I want to thank them for being courageous to answer honestly, and also let them know it’s not their fault,” Majok said.
The Privilege Walk is not an activity reserved to the Marian community. This activity is practiced nationwide within schools with the intent of opening up a dialogue between people of different backgrounds. The same goal is present, to help people understand that diversity is a positive aspect of society, an opportunity for learning.