Check Your Privilege
In 2014, a campus wide social marketing campaign, Check Your Privilege, was implemented to raise student, faculty, and staff awareness around social inequalities and privilege.
Privilege: Unearned access to social power based on membership in a dominant social group.
What is the USF Check Your Privilege Campaign?
- Vision – For individuals to recognize and understand privilege and to use that knowledge through engagement in social justice activities.
- Mission – To increase the awareness of privilege, begin discussions around privilege, and for individuals to use their privilege(s) to advocate for others.
- Campaign Audiences – USF students, faculty, staff
- To increase knowledge and improve beliefs about privilege.
- To heighten awareness of privilege among the USF community.
- To encourage the use of privilege to advocate for others.
Dr. J. Garrett-Walker, Associate Professor of Psychology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Sonja Martin Poole, Associate Professor of Marketing, email@example.com
Why Check Your Privilege?
Although privilege is a topic that may bring about various feelings among individuals, we want to share with you the purpose of this campaign.
We live in a society that is often oppressive to certain groups of people. However, we all carry particular types of privilege(s) that allow us to advocate for social justice and change in various situations.
This campaign seeks to begin the discussion around privilege and social inequalities in an effort to raise critical awareness of the institutional oppression often seen in the United States of America.
We do understand that not all privileges or oppressions are represented in this campaign. We also acknowledge that someone can be privileged in some situations and not in others.
Our hope is that this campaign will provide students, faculty, and staff with a platform to begin to have discussions around privilege, social inequality, and social justice at USF and beyond.
The posters were designed to encourage individuals to think critically about privilege. Given that privilege is often a difficult topic of discussion, we carefully thought about ways to reach audiences at various points in their cognitions around privilege.
We realize that the posters cannot truly encompass the full complexity of privilege. For example someone might read the Class Privilege poster and say, “I am from a lower socioeconomic background but it was still an expectation of me to go to college.” This may be the case for many individuals who do not have class privilege. The idea is that individuals with class privilege tend to have access to resources that make it substantially easier for them to get to college, and stay in college. For individuals who do not have class privilege, but it is still an expectation for them to go to college, it might be more difficult for them to navigate the process (i.e., financial aid, full time student and full time employee).
Similarly, in regard to the Heterosexual Privilege poster someone could identify as bisexual, yet be in a relationship with someone who is of the opposite gender. As they are walking down the street, it may seem as if they have heterosexual privilege, however, their bisexual identity is often erased in those situations. Privilege is complex, and we understand it as such. The posters begin the discussions around the complexity of these very important topics. The hope is that these posters will provide individuals with opportunities to discuss privileges in a critically conscious manner.
- Wouldn’t the majority of students who attend a school like USF exhibit some sort of privilege?
Yes, the majority of students at USF have some type of privilege. This is why for every student who picked up a shirt, Educational Privilege was already checked off. However, there are a lot of students at USF who were only able to check off 1-2 additional privilege on their own.
- Could these fliers simplify the different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and religious groups to a fault?
The posters do not seek to minimize the dynamic interplay of identities, but hope to bring to the forefront the ways in which certain identities, and more specifically intersections of certain identities, carry a powerful voice that can impact change from an institutional and structural standpoint.
Identities, and thus privileges, are complex and intersect in a multiplicative manner. To think of privileges as mutually exclusive is inaccurate. Someone could very well be white, male, bisexual, and living in poverty on the streets in their respective city. From a reductionist framework, this person has male and racial privilege but does not have heterosexual or class privilege. From a critical lens, one might understand the power in Class privilege, and know that someone living in poverty, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, may not have access to adequate resources (i.e., food, housing, healthcare). An even deeper analysis will consider that if this person was Latino, that he might be more likely to be arrested for finding a place to sleep on the streets, while his white male counterpart might just be asked to move to a new location. Privileges are less about individuals, and more about the institutional inequalities that we still see today.
- Couldn’t students who exhibit these qualities be offended by these assertions?
We do not seek to offend anyone with the posters or make anyone feel bad for holding any level of privilege. The hope is that individuals who see the posters will take a moment and reflect on their identities and the ways in which they can use their respective privileges to advocate for others. When we think about social change, one must be open to the idea of thinking beyond their own world view. We must all consciously consider, with an open heart and mind, the ways in which we move about the world.
Below are downloadable PDFs of the original posters distributed on the USF campus.
These are PDFs of the modified posters, intended for use at other institutions. We encourage you to modify these templates, adding the name of your own college, university, or student group. We only ask that you properly cite the creators of this campaign and share with us the ways in which you have used the images at your respective universities! These templates are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Maurianne Adams et al., Readings for Diversity and Social Justice
- Gender Inclusion
Sam Killermann, The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender
- Male Privilege
Shira Tarrant, Men Speak Out
- Class Privilege
Adam Howard & Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, Educating Elites
- White Privilege:
Tim Wise, White Like Me
Derald Wing Sue, Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation
RESEARCH ON SOCIAL INEQUALITIES
- Heterosexual Privilege
Simoni, J. M., & Walters, K. L. (2001). Heterosexual identity and heterosexism: Recognizing privilege to reduce prejudice. Journal of Homosexuality, 41 157-172.
- Christian Privilege
Seifert, T. (2007). Understanding Christian privilege: Managing the tensions of spiritual plurality. About Campus, 12, 10-17.
- Social Dominance
Rosette, A., & Tost, L. (2013). Perceiving social inequity: When subordinate-group positioning on one dimension of social hierarchy enhances privilege recognition on another. Psychological Science, 24, 1420-1427.
Worthington, R. L., Navarro, R. L., Loewy, M., & Hart, J. (2008). Color-blind racial attitudes, social dominance orientation, racial-ethnic group membership and college students' perceptions of campus climate. Journal Of Diversity In Higher Education, 1, 8-19.
400 USF students were assessed on their knowledge and awareness of social inequalities and engagement in social justice activities. Following the online survey, posters regarding social inequalities and privileges were posted around campus. During this time, the USF community was provided with opportunities to pick up a Check Your Privilege shirt. When students, faculty, and staff came to pick up their shirts, they were asked to check their privileges and think about the ways in which they may use each privilege to advocate for others. Everyone who picked up a shirt was asked to wear the shirt on the last day of the campaign.
Why Social Marketing?
Social marketing campaigns apply commercial marketing strategies to influence the voluntary behavior of target audiences to improve personal and social welfare. The Check Your Privilege social marketing campaign encourages USF student, faculty and staff to notice the various kinds of privilege that exist and use their own privilege to advocate for others.
Buzz about Check Your Privilege
Research & Evaluation
We have published two research articles from the corresponding research study that was conducted with the campaign.
Garrett-Walker, J. J., Poole, S., Williams, S., Banks, C., Stallings, J., Balgobin, K., & Moore, D. (2018). Racial color-blindness and privilege awareness in relation to interest in social justice among college students. Journal Committed to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity, 4, 38-63.
Poole, S. M. & Garrett-Walker, J. J. (2016). Are future business professionals ready for multicultural marketing? An investigation of undergraduate students. Journal of Cultural Marketing Strategy, 2, 43-50.
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