Last Friday, just over a dozen students attended the “Test of Privilege” organized by the student run Multicultural Organization and Social Arena for International Cooperation (MOSAIC). Intended to help people understand the effects of societal privilege, the activity enabled participants to draw comparisons between their lives and those of their counterparts in attendance.
The test was simple. Students lined up in Tweedie Hall and were read statements by event organizers. The students would then respond to the statement by stepping forward or backward according to whether the statement was true or false regarding their lives. For example, one statement was, “My parents paid some of my tuition.” By the end, the students standing at the front were those with the most privilege, according to the test, while those at the back held the least.
Natalia Liste, a first-year international relations student from Spain, participated in the test. “I expected to have a lot of privilege. I’m a white female, but I was basically in the middle of the room, and it really made me think,” Liste said.
“I think the question that bothered me the most was the one asking, ‘Did your parents go to college?’ It made me think, because I’m privileged to be going to university in a different country, whereas my mother didn’t complete her degree. I’m in a completely different spot from where [my parents] were at my age,” Liste said.
Saniya Korhalkar, president of MOSAIC, also participated in the test. “There were some questions that even I was surprised by. When I was doing the exercise I had to take a moment and think about it,” she said.
While the test enlightened students to their relative levels of privilege among immediate acquaintances and members of their community, it also inspired reconsideration for the statuses of others across the world.
“We’re doing [the activity] at Mount Allison, which is important, considering what’s going on around the world and even in Canada,” Korhalkar said.
Carly Pullin, a second-year international relations student, reflected on understanding privilege. “It wasn’t until coming to university that I even knew what privilege was, because it wasn’t really talked about at all where I’m from,” Pullin said. “When I came to Mt. A, I started learning about differences and social issues and learning about the things you take for granted.”
After the test was completed, the students passed around a microphone to comment on their experience and share any insights they had.
“It’s a really good opportunity to get to know yourself better and see your position in life from a different perspective,” Pullin said. “Just seeing the people around you and where they’re situated is really sobering. You don’t normally get the chance to look outside of your own little bubble.”
For anyone who missed the activity but still wishes to test their own privilege, Korhalkar suggested trying a similar test on Buzzfeed.