First, divide the room in half by creating an imaginary line or use masking tape to form a real line. Then, ask everyone to stand in a group on the majority side and face the line. As you read the categories (one at a time), have people choose the side of the line which best describes them. If the fit the social category which you call out they should cross the line. The “targeted” group should stand on the other side of the line, facing the majority group, for two to three seconds and then return to the “non-target” (or dominant group member) side. The following is a list of possible “targeted: group categories. These are only suggestions for categories; adapt the categories depending on the composition of your group and/or the issues you desire to address.
From the beginning, the facilitator should emphasize that participants feel comfortable in making the choice to “cross the line”; nobody should feel forced to cross the line.
You are a woman
You are a man
You are transgender
You have been told you are fat
You have been told you are too thin
You have a disability or chronic illness
You are under the age of 18
You are a single parent
You are the child of a single parent
You have one or more parents who did not got to college
You have parents who work in low status or blue collar jobs
You grew up in a rural area
You grew up in an urban area
You are an immigrant or the child of an immigrant
You grew up in a non-English speaking household
You grew up in a religious minority
Your hometown is in Michigan
You are the first generation in your family to go to college
You are paying your own way through college
You know someone who is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender
You have been in an interracial relationship
You have felt discriminated against
You believe in God
You have lost a parent
You have been influenced by negative stereotypes or prejudices
You are uncomfortable with people of color
You are uncomfortable with Caucasian people
You are concerned about being labeled negatively
You are Jewish
You are a person of color
You are a Lesbian, Gay man, Bisexual or Transgender
You have disabilities or handicapping characteristics
You have not yet crossed the line
You were born outside the United States
You are over 21
You are the oldest in the family
You are the youngest in the family
You are an only child
You are Native American or a member of an indigenous tribe to North America
You are Chicano/Chicana, Latino/Latina, or Hispanic
You are Black or African-American
You are Indian
You are Asian, Asian-American, Hawaiian, or a Pacific Islander
You are White, European or European-American
You are of mixed heritage
You are a person of color
You feel you know very little about your cultural heritage
You are of a non-Jewish and non-Christian belief system
You are an Atheist or Agnostic
You have divorced parents
You have a visible or non-visible physical or learning disability
You have a family member or friend who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
You consider yourself a feminist
You were raised with less than enough resources
You are the first person in your family to attend college
You would describe your family as blue-collar or working class
You would describe your family as middle class
You would describe your family as upper class
This exercise is powerful because for many, it is the first time they feel “targeted” and for others, it is the first time they realize the number of different targeted groups that they belong to; and yet for others, it is the first time they realize how privileged they are. Anger, guilt, sadness, helplessness are some of the many feelings that are experienced by the different participants.
Allow at least thirty minutes for debriefing. You may want to consider the following questions:
How did it feel to do this exercise?
How did people feel when they crossed the line?
Were there some target categories that felt easier than others?
Were there some categories that felt new or unusual?
What else did you observe?
Did everyone cross the line at least once?
If not, how did it feel to stay on the non-targeted/majority side throughout the exercise?
Did you learn anything new about yourself? About people in the class?
Any final comments, questions?
Ratnesh, Ximena, and Luis have used this exercise in many different settings.
McIntosh, P. “White Privilege: unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Peace and Freedom.