From Wednesday to Friday, the Office of Intercultural Engagement presented, “The House of Privilege.”
Tamika Smith, a junior Psychology Major and a Student Coordinator of Peer Education at the Office of Intercultural Engagement, said, “This program is not intended to be a guilt trip for participants. Earlier this week, there was a group of students that attended and it was clear they did not quite understand the purpose of the program during their first walk through the house. After their first walk through, we had a conversation with them and they seemed to have a significant breakthrough, and they gained a better understanding of the purpose of the program. They realized that this isn’t intended to be a ‘guilt trip’ for participants but rather an eye-opener.”
Participants entered into the Office of Intercultural Engagement
and began in the “hallway” of a home. In this hallway, were pictures of
families that represented different family structures, for example, a family
with gay parents, a single parent home and a couple with a child that was
adopted. These scenarios provoked thoughts about how the inherent circumstance
of an individual’s upbringing and family environment contribute to privilege.
From this point, participants were led to the “bedroom” portion of
the house. There were powerful questions posed in the bedroom such as, “could
you find your skin color in a crayon box?” or “did the books you read as a
child, have a main character that looked like you?”
A striking hidden message within the room the “realtors” showed participants, was how the two sides of the bedroom were gendered. The boy’s side had books about science, had a blue theme with legos. The girl’s side was pink, littered with Barbie dolls and nail polish. It was impactful to see the distinct differences and norms that society imposes on children from a very early age.
Up next was the “office” and “patio space.” In this space,
participants read questions like, “did you grow up in a safe neighborhood?” or
“did you have access to the internet when you were growing up?” These are questions
and thoughts that we, as members of a First World Nation, often take for
granted. The next space within the house was the “kitchen.”
Guilford County and the Greensboro area is one of the most food insecure places in the country. This was brought to the forefront of the conversation that took place in the kitchen area of the House of Privilege. Questions posed during this part of the tour included, “have you lived within two miles of a grocery store with fresh produce?” or “did you have the option to take a packed lunch to school?” These questions hit home for anyone from the Greensboro area that has experienced food insecurity first-hand, or simply anyone that has ever experienced food insecurity. The final “room” of the house was a gallery with several thought provoking questions regarding privilege. For example, one question was, “can you find foundation in a drugstore that matches your skin tone?”
The House of Privilege was an impactful experience for many groups that toured it. During the debrief following the tour, the “realtors,” who are SCOPEs at the Office of Intercultural Engagement, asked meaningful questions that gave an opportunity to reflect on the experience. Emily Christian and Anna Lacy, two graduate students in the Student Affairs Program at UNCG, were touring.
Christian said, “It’s awesome to see the engagement of students with a program like this. I feel impressed and appreciative to have had this opportunity to be a part of this tour. These sorts of things bring you to eye-opening realizations as you can identify with some of the things you see. It’s important to be involved with things like this so that individuals can better enact change.”
The other graduate student in attendance, Lacy, said, “I like that the questions were geared towards privileged groups rather than targeted groups. This program was clearly trying to educate privileged groups instead of repeatedly highlighting the oppression that others face.”
Anna Sutton, who works in the Office of Annual Giving, said, “It is important for faculty and staff to attend programs like this. It helps us to better understand the circumstances our students may have grown up in. These programs also equip us to be better allies and advocates for the students we are surrounded with every day.” Overall, the House of Privilege had a positive impact this week at UNCG. Eyes were opened, and there was definitely learning taking place. Keep an eye out for more programs through the Office of Intercultural Engagement for more opportunities for learning and growth.