Maybe you’re one of the over four million people who have seen Buzzfeed’s video illustrating how society affects us by having people step forward or backward based on their experience:
I don’t know what credence anyone gives the questionnaire, but I copied it from the YouTube page and answered it. Some answers I wasn’t sure about, but tried to answer as honestly as I could.
If I calculate right, my answers add to +2 out of a possible range -13 to +22. The average of those numbers is 4.5, so my score is below that average. Does this mean Buzzfeed considers me below average privilege? Or positive privilege?
I don’t know what the average score of people who have answered the questionnaire, if anyone has measured it. I suspect Buzzfeed wasn’t trying to create an objective measure but just an exercise to lead people to visualize or experience differences in experiences of how society treats people for accidents of their birth.
From the video’s image saying “final position,” it looks like more people from their group skewed near the front. I don’t know how they picked their group nor their starting point in the room, but from that group, it looks like I’d be significantly less privileged.
I suspect Buzzfeed and most people would expect a straight white American man to rate near the maximum, but they wrote the questions. Wikipedia says the site’s audience is described as left-leaning so I doubt they felt motivated to write questions to make my privilege seem less.
I don’t know how to answer “If you can buy new clothes or go out to dinner when you want to, take one step forward.” I haven’t bought new clothes in years and go out to dinner once or a couple times a year. I can’t do these things because I’m not willing to pollute and hurt others that way. So the answer is no, but probably not how they envisioned, though experience has shown me that the privilege of scientific ignorance is one of our greater privileges. Other questions I couldn’t tell. Like seeing a doctor. I have access to emergency rooms 24/7, but every time I’ve gone I get overbilled, so consistently it seems like fraud, to the point I don’t go to doctors out of fear, including through some serious injuries and illnesses. Maybe you don’t consider that question borderline for someone in Manhattan, maybe you do. After all, even the most destitute here can get care in an emergency room. Other borderline ones too.
|If your parents worked nights and weekends to support your family, take one step back.||-1|
|If you are able to move through the world without fear of sexual assault, take one step forward.||0|
|If you can show affection for your romantic partner in public without fear of ridicule or violence, take one step forward.||0|
|If you have ever been diagnosed as having a physical or mental illness/disability, take one step back.||0|
|If the primary language spoken in your household growing up was not English, take one step back.||0|
|If you came from a supportive family environment take one step forward.||+1|
|If you have ever tried to change your speech or mannerisms to gain credibility, take one step back.||-1|
|If you can go anywhere in the country, and easily find the kinds of hair products you need and/or cosmetics that match your skin color, take one step forward.||0|
|If you were embarrassed about your clothes or house while growing up, take one step back.||-1|
|If you can make mistakes and not have people attribute your behavior to flaws in your racial/gender group, take one step forward.||0|
|If you can legally marry the person you love, regardless of where you live, take one step forward.||0|
|If you were born in the United States, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you or your parents have ever gone through a divorce, take one step back.||-1|
|If you felt like you had adequate access to healthy food growing up, take one step forward||+1|
|If you are reasonably sure you would be hired for a job based on your ability and qualifications, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you would never think twice about calling the police when trouble occurs, take one step forward.||0|
|If you can see a doctor whenever you feel the need, take one step forward.||0|
|If you feel comfortable being emotionally expressive/open, take one step forward.||0|
|If you have ever been the only person of your race/gender/socio-economic status/ sexual orientation in a classroom or workplace setting, please take one step back.||-1|
|If you took out loans for your education take one step backward.||-1|
|If you get time off for your religious holidays, take one step forward.||0|
|If you had a job during your high school and college years, take one step back.||-1|
|If you feel comfortable walking home alone at night, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you have ever traveled outside the United States, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you have ever felt like there was NOT adequate or accurate representation of your racial group, sexual orientation group, gender group, and/or disability group in the media, take one step back.||-1|
|If you feel confident that your parents would be able to financially help/support you if you were going through a financial hardship, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you have ever been bullied or made fun of based on something that you can’t change, take one step back.||-1|
|If there were more than 50 books in your house growing up, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you studied the culture or the history of your ancestors in elementary school take one step forward.||+1|
|If your parents or guardians attended college, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you ever went on a family vacation, take one step forward.||+1|
|If you can buy new clothes or go out to dinner when you want to, take one step forward.||0|
|If you were ever offered a job because of your association with a friend or family member, take one step forward.||+1|
|If one of your parents was ever laid off or unemployed not by choice, take one step back.||0|
|If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke or a statement you overheard related to your race, ethnicity, gender, appearance, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation, take one step back.||-1|
Questions Buzzfeed doesn’t ask
I don’t know how reproducible or meaningful this questionnaire is. It doesn’t ask all these things that affect me:
- Have you never seen someone like yourself in the White House or Congress?
- Have you been mugged or attacked?
- Have you been threatened with a deadly weapon?
- Have you been warned to avoid places for your race?
- Do people treat you as inferior or stupid for your race?
- Are people of your sex treated as bumbling fools on the most popular television shows?
- Have you been treated as a potential rapist?
- Does your government required you to register to risk your life to defend it under threat of punishment?
- Has a police officer threatened you?
- Do people of your sex represent over 90 percent of the prison population in your nation?
- Can people of your sex expect to die younger in every culture on Earth?
- Do you live by the privilege of scientific ignorance?
- Have you been called racial epithets?
- Has your sex has been called toxic?
- Have your skin and eye color been called the devil?
- Is there a parade in your neighborhood celebrating sexuality but not yours?
- Have you been called not diverse and not encouraged to pursue jobs?
- Have you been told that you picked the wrong time to be born your sex?
- Have you been told that you picked the wrong time to be born your race?
or plenty of other ways I’ve been what I think others would call the opposite of privileged.
What credence do you give this questionnaire? For those who value it, what were your score?
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