Poster campaign tells students to 'Check Your Privilege'

The University of San Francisco is running a “Check Your Privilege” campaign in an effort to educate students, faculty, and staff about the “social inequalities of privilege.”

The university’s website explains that the initiative seeks “to begin the discussion around privilege and social inequalities in an effort to raise critical awareness of the institutional oppression often seen in the United States of America,” providing a series of posters identifying various forms of privilege.

The posters were conceived in 2014 by a team of USF professors who initially intended to circulate them for only about two weeks, but decided to continue the effort after receiving a positive response from students and colleagues. USF has since devoted a full page of its website to the campaign, along with an additional page fleshing out “white privilege,” specifically.

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“We live in a society that is often oppressive to certain groups of people,” the school asserts. “However, we all carry particular types of privilege(s) that allow us to advocate for social justice and change in various situations.”

As part of its campaign, the university also published a “White Privilege Resource Guide” featuring a catalogue of articles, books, and videos that focus on privilege, whiteness, and “white allyship.”

“Becoming aware of privilege should not be viewed as a burden or source of guilt, but rather, an opportunity to learn and be responsible so that we may work toward a more just and inclusive world,” the website argues. 

A flyer accompanying the guide urges students who are “white,” “male,” “Christian,” “cisgender,” “able-bodied,” and/or “heterosexual” to “check your privilege,” which it defines as “unearned access to social power based on membership in a dominant social group.”

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On another section of the website, the Catholic university published a digital version of a poster explaining the concept of “Christian privilege” in America.

“If you can expect time off from work to celebrate your religious holidays, you have Christian privilege,” the school explains.

In total, the university has eight digital posters detailing the various types of privilege and the broader campaign as a whole. 

“If you can use public bathrooms without stares, fears, or anxiety, you have cisgender privilege,” states one poster, while another asserts that “If you’re confident that the police exist to protect you, you have white male privilege.”

According to the university, the organizers of the campaign “realize that the posters cannot truly encompass the full complexity of privilege,” and that “identities, and thus privileges, intersect in a multiplicative manner.”

A person who identifies as bisexual but is dating someone of the opposite gender, for instance, “may seem as if they have heterosexual privilege” if one were to encounter them on the street, but according to USF, “their identity is erased in those situations.”

The school went on to clarify, however, that the campaign does “not seek to offend anyone with the posters or make anyone feel bad for holding any level of privilege.” 

“The hope is that individuals who see the posters will take a moment and reflect on their identities and the ways in which they can use their respective privileges to advocate for others,” the website explains.

USF did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @MattAdimando