The Line Exercise Credit

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The Line Exercise

Patricia Myers & Ximena Zuñiga

(Adapted from Ricky Sherover-Marcuse, Unlearning Racism)
Learning Goals:

  • To help participants begin to understand their membership in specific social groups which influence their individual opportunities and experiences.

  • To help participants explore ways in which some of the “target” and “non-target” social categories made overt during the exercise can cause conflict within groups and in the larger society.

(Target groups are those that are often the “target” of subordination in relation to the “non-target” – dominant – group.)

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 may choose not to cross the line for any given question. Understand that some people may feel uncomfortable disclosing matters they find personal.

  • What people reveal remains in this room. Respect others’ privacy.

  • Absolutely no talking.

Prompt List for “Cross the Line” Activity:

If , please 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. July/August 1991.

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