Realization that different cultures perceive things differently, and/or play by different rules.
Students must understand and reconcile these differences if they want to function effectively in a cross-cultural group.
Introduction: In Barnga, participants experience the shock of realizing that despite many similarities, people of differing cultures perceive things differently or play by different rules. Players learn that they must understand and reconcile these differences if they want to function effectively in a cross-cultural group.
Overview: Participants play a simple card game in small groups, where conflicts begin to occur as participants move from group to group. This simulates real cross-cultural encounters, where people initially believe they share the same understanding of the basic rules. In discovering that the rules are different, players undergo a mini culture shock similar to actual experience when entering a different culture. They then must struggle to understand and reconcile these differences to play the game effectively in their "cross-cultural" groups. Difficulties are magnified by the fact that players may not speak to each other but can communicate only through gestures or pictures. Participants are not forewarned that each is playing by different rules; in struggling to understand why other players don’t seem to be playing correctly, they gain insight into the dynamics of cross-cultural encounters
Set-up: Set up (approximately) 6 tables (about 4 people per table), depending on the number of people participating. On each table there should be a copy of the rules for that table per player plus a deck of cards (use only A-10, no face cards). To start, let the' participants play a few rounds with the rules and with talking allowed. Next, EVERYTHING is removed from the playing tables. Play continues with everyone at his own table. From now, talking is prohibited. Winners will receive one popsicle stick (see below for how to win).
After allowing a few rounds without talking at the home table, participants must switch tables—the person who won the most tricks moves clockwise to the next table, the person who loses the most tricks moves counter-clockwise to the next table. What the players do not know is that each table has learned a different set of rules (see below).
The rules: Depending on the number of players, rule sheets can be altered or discarded for the number of tables being used. Some samples of rules are as follows:
Table 1: Ace high, no trump
Table 2: Ace low, diamonds trump
Table 3: Ace low, clubs trump
Table 4: Ace high, hearts trump
Table 5: Ace high, spades trump
Table 6: Ace low, no trump
In all cases, other cards will be worth face value—10 high, 2 low.
Each table shares the following rules:
Players are dealt 5 cards each
Whoever wins the most tricks will move clockwise to the next table
Whoever loses the most tricks will move counter clockwise to the next table
Everyone else stays at the same table
Ties are resolved by paper rock scissors
Each round will be about 5 minutes long (longer if time allows) and each round will consist any number of games that the time allows.
After the initial round, players will not be allowed to see the rules or speak to each other. Gestures and pictures are allowed, but players are not allowed to use words.
The game “winner” will be the person who has won the most tricks in total. (Of course, once game play starts, winning will likely take a back seat to trying to figure out what everyone else is doing, as they are playing by different rules.)
Players can keep track of scores with popsicle sticks (one stick per trick won).
The dealer can be anyone at the table, the person who plays first will be to the right of the dealer .
The first player for each trick may play ANY suit. All other players must follow suit (play a card of the same suit). For each round, each player plays one card.
If a player does not have that suit, a card of any suit must be played. The trick is won by the person with the HIGHEST card of the ORIGINAL suit (players will begin to become confused when some players believe their card is trump, and others disagree or contradict this).
Debriefing: After playing a number of rounds—either use a set time limit, or allow the number of rotations according to the number of tables in play (6 rounds for 6 tables). Students should be aware that they were playing by different rules, and the following questions should be discussed. Students can stay in the last group they were in, or return to their home groups at the teacher’s discretion.
If you could describe the game in one word, what would it be?
What did you expect at the beginning of the game?
When did you realize that something was wrong?
How did you deal with it?
How did not being able to speak contribute to what you were feeling?
The Man and the EagleAuthor unknown
There was once a man who had never seen an eagle. One day a magnificent eagle landed on his windowsill, and when he saw it, he exclaimed, “What an ugly creature!” The man grabbed the eagle and pulled it into his house. “First, I’m going to fix that curved beak of yours.” He used a file to remove the hook in the eagle’s beak.
“Those claws are vicious looking,” the man said as he clipped the eagle’s claws until there was little left. When he finished, the man said, “There, now you look better.” And he put the bird back on his open windowsill and shooed it away. You can imagine how long the newly trimmed eagle lasted in the wild.
The man changed the bird drastically in this story. Without valuing the bird’s special qualities, the man altered the bird to what he thought would be better. This story can be used to discuss discrimination and the effect it has on those who are discriminated against.
Think about the eagle for a moment. How important do you think it is for the eagle to have its claws and sharp beak?
Why are the eagle’s beak and claws important to its survival?
After reading this story, why do you think the man changed the bird?
Did the man know the importance of the eagle’s claws and beak? If he knew more about eagles, do you think he would have appreciated the eagle instead of changing it?
Have you ever tried to change a person who is different from you?
Are some people cruel in this manner to people with whom they are not familiar?
Do you think it’s ethical to change people because you think their characteristics are different or somehow less superior to yours? If so, in what situation do you feel this is justified?
What happens when people place their beliefs on others?
Can all people be judged by the same standard of beauty? Why or why not?
In your opinion, what makes a person beautiful/attractive?
What role does a person’s preference play in deciding what is beautiful or attractive?
How do we treat people who don’t look like us—have different skin colors; are taller, thinner, or heavier; have braces or glasses; use a cane to walk; have wrinkles; are older, younger, deaf, or blind?
How does this story parallel the history of America?
Download the pdf
The second-grade school teacher posed a simple enough problem to the class. “There are four blackbirds sitting in a tree. You take a slingshot and shoot one of them. How many are left?”
“Three,” answered the first 7-year-old boy with certainty. “One subtracted from four leaves three.”
“Zero,” answered the second 7-year-old boy with equal certainty. “If you shoot one bird, the others will fly away.”
The problem, as it turns out, was not so simple after all. In some ways it gets to the very heart of what the fuss is all about regarding cultural diversity and the need to recognize, understand, value, and, finally, manage it.
Pretend you were in the class in the story. How would you have answered the teacher’s question?
Why do you think the two 7-year-old students answered the question the way they did?
Take a moment to think about what diversity means to you. Do you think it means the same thing to other people?
What’s the correct answer? Is there only one way to answer the question?
How do people’s perspectives play a role in how they may answer the teacher’s question?
Why do you suppose the first child answered, “Three,” while the second child answered, “Zero”?
The author of this vignette illustrates the viewpoints of children who grew up in different environments. What is the lesson the author is trying to present?
Reflect on the story. Do you think birds can be compared to human situations? Why or why not?
Download the pdf
*Note: This article was written in 1989 by Peggy McIntosh. While I think it could use a few updates, it is still very relevant and referred to often. Add to your archives!
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpackby Peggy McIntosh
Through the work to bring materials from Women’s Studies into the rest of the curriculum, I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s. Denials which amount to taboos surround the subject of advantages which men gain from women’s disadvantages. These denials protect male privilege from being fully acknowledged, lessened or ended.
Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon, I realized that since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege which was similarly denied and protected. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.
I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to se white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless backpack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.
Describing white privilege makes one newly accountable. As we in Women’s Studies work to reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power, so one who writes about having white privilege must ask, “Having described it, what will I do to lessen or end it?”
After I realized the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that much of their oppressiveness was unconscious. Then I remembered the frequent charges from women of color that white women whom they encounter are oppressive. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way. I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence.
My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will. My schooling followed the pattern my colleague Elizabeth Minnich has pointed out: whites are taught to think of their lives as a morally neutral, normative, and average, also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow “them” to be more like “us.”
I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions which I think in my case attack some what more to skin-color privilege that to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographical location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can see, my African American co-worker, friends and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place, and line of work cannot count on most of these conditions.
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
6. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
8. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
9. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
10. Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
11. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
12. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
13. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
14. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
15. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
16. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
17. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
18. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
19. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
20. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazine featuring people of my race.
21. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
22. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
23. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
24. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
25. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
26. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin.
I repeatedly forgot each of the realization on this list until I wrote it down. For me white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.
In unpacking this invisible backpack of white privilege, I have listed conditions of daily experience which I once took for granted. Nor did I think of any of these perquisites as bad for the holder. I now think that we need a more finely differentiated taxonomy of privilege, for some of these varieties are only what one would want for everyone in a just society, and others give license to be ignorant, oblivious, arrogant and destructive.
I see a pattern running through the matrix of white privilege, a pattern of assumptions which were passed on to me as a white person. There was one main piece of cultural turf; it was my own turf, and I was among those who could control the turf. My skin color was an asset for any move I was educated to want to make. I could think of myself as belonging in major ways, and of making social systems work for me. I could freely disparage, fear, neglect, or be oblivious to anything outside of the dominant cultural forms. Being of the main culture, I could also criticize it fairly free.
In proportion as my racial group was being make confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made inconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated. Whiteness protected me from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which I was being subtly trained to visit in turn upon people of color.
For this reason, the word “privilege” now seems to me misleading. We usually think of privilege as being a favored state, whether earned or conferred by birth or luck. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance because of one’s race or sex.
I want, then, to distinguish between earned strength and unearned power conferred systematically. Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate. But not all of the privileges on my list are inevitably damaging. Some, like the expectation that neighbors will be decent to you, or that your race will not count against you in court, should be the norm in a just society. Others, like the privilege to ignore less powerful people, distort the humanity of the holders as well as the ignored groups.
We might at least start by distinguishing between positive advantages which we can work to spread, and negative types of advantages which unless rejected will always reinforce our present hierarchies. For example, the feeling that one belongs within the human circle, as Native Americans say, should not be seen as privilege of a few. Ideally it is an unearned advantage and conferred dominance.
I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systemic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like is whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantage and conferred dominance and it so, what we will do to lessen them. In any case, we need to do more work in identifying how they actually affect our daily lives. Many, perhaps most, of our white students in the US think that racism doesn’t affect them because they are not people of color; they do not see “whiteness” as a racial identity. In addition, since race and sex are not the only advantaging systems at work, we need similarly to examine the daily experience of having age advantage, or ethnic advantage, or physical ability, or advantage related to nationality, religion or sexual orientation.
Difficulties and dangers surrounding the task of finding parallels are many. Since racism, sexism, and heterosexism are not the same, the advantaging associated with them should not be seen as the same. In addition, it is hard to disentangle aspects of unearned advantage which rest more on social class, economic class, race, religion, sex and ethnic identity than on other factors. Still, all of the oppressions are interlocking, as the Combahee River Collective Statement of 1977 continues to remind us eloquently.
One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms which we can see and embedded forms which as a member of the dominant group one is taught not to see. In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.
Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. [But] a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems.
To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
Though systematic change takes many decades, there are pressing questions for me and I imagine for some others like me if we raise our daily consciousness on the perquisites of being light-skinned. What well we do with such knowledge? As we know from watching me, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily-awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base.
~Every child is entitled to love and full membership in her family.
~Every child is entitled to have his culture embraced and valued.
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that this is a race conscious society.
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that she will experience life differently than they do.
~Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to "save" him or to improve the world.
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that being in a family doesn't depend on "matching."
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that transracial adoption changes the family forever.
~Every child is entitled to be accepted by extended family members.
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that, if they are white, they benefit from racism.
~Every child is entitled to parents who know that they can't transmit the child's birth culture if it is not their own.
~Every child is entitled to have items at home that are made for and by people of his race.
~Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity.
~Every child is entitled to daily opportunities of positive experiences with his birth culture.
~Every child is entitled to build racial pride within her own home, school, and neighborhood.
~Every child is entitled to have many opportunities to connect with adults of the child's race.
~Every child is entitled to parents who accept, understand and empathize with her culture.
~Every child is entitled to learn survival, problem-solving, and coping skills in a context of racial pride.
~Every child is entitled to take pride in the development of a dual identity and a multicultural/multiracial perspective on life.
~Every child is entitled to find his multiculturalism to be an asset and to conclude, "I've got the best of both worlds."
Adapted by Liza Steinberg Triggs from "A Bill of Rights for Mixed Folks," by Marilyn Drame (which in-turn was adapted from Dr. Maria P. P. Roots, "A Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage).
In this activity, you will see how race and ethnicity are reflected in census catagories across the globe. What race would you be somewhere else? What type of affect would it have on you in that country? Very interesting to think about!
We are winding down our highlights from the exhibit "Race: Are we so different?". If you have missed any, you can catch up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5. To learn more about this exhibit visit Understanding Race.
The Cold Withinby James Patrick Kinney
Six humans trapped by happenstance
in black and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story's told.
Their dying fire in need of logs,
the first woman held hers back
For on the faces around the fire
She noticed one was black.
The next man looking 'cross the way
Saw one not of his church
And couldn't bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store,
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain,
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death's stilled hands
Was proof of human sin,
They didn't die from the cold without,
They died from the cold within.
This quiz made me think of the movie "White Men Can't Jump". While I haven't seen it in a LONG time, I remember the gist of it. White boys shocks everyone because he can play ball. Is it a stereotype that race plays a factor in how good of an athlete you are? Test your knowledege.
Surprised by anything?
We will continue to look at a couple more highlights from the exhibit "Race: Are we so different?". If you have missed any, you can catch up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. To learn more about this exhibit visit Understanding Race.