Check Your Privilege, a campus-wide social marketing campaign that seeks to raise student, faculty, and staff awareness around social inequalities and privilege, hit campus last week and is reminding the USF community of its own privileges.
“We just hope that people use this as an opportunity to think critically about the world around them and challenge themselves to really consider the implications of structural inequalities and how they, as an individual, can help mitigate the negative effects of social inequalities,” said USF psychology professor Ja’Nina Walker, who is a key member of the campaign team.
The idea for the campaign stemmed from Walker’s research about privilege and the desire to find a way to talk about privilege. In the psychology department, Walker teaches psychological diversity courses and she noticed there was not always a way to talk about privilege. Thus, the idea of a privilege awareness campaign was born. The team has been working on the campaign for six months.
The posters, which ask the USF community to check the different ways that they are privileged, include race, gender, religion, sexuality, and physical ability, will be on campus for two weeks. T-shirts were also distributed to students last week, although the campaign has recently run out. They are also considering having a forum in the spring to continue the discussions on privilege.
The campaign supports USF’s Jesuit mission of being men and women for others, according to marketing professor Sonja Poole.
“In order to effectively advocate for others, one needs to have an awareness of self and the biases and positions within the society in which we live,” said Poole, a member of the campaign team. “Privilege is a touchy subject and it is often unrecognized by those who have the most. It is important to identify and confront issues that affect marginalized people so that we can reduce social and economic injustice and increase societal well-being.”
Design Professor Scott Murray, who is also a part of the campaign team, hopes that at the very minimum, “this will spark more conversations about privilege, and ideally help us all recognize and acknowledge the privilege we each have.”
“I think privilege is something important to recognize that we have,” said junior design major Ray Choi, who formed part of the campaign team, “because it brings to light issues that might go unnoticed otherwise.”
The campaign has officially gone viral. The posters were shared thousands of times on social media sites, especially Tumblr and Facebook, and published in feminist online publications Jezebel and Bitch Media. As a result, there have been numerous requests from colleges across the nation to use the materials on their campuses. Other media outlets also want to feature the campaign.
“I never expected this campaign to reach the audience that it has,” said Walker. “Although there have been some negative responses, I would say 99% of the responses are positive and people are enjoying the campaign and what it stands for.”
Walker mentioned that the negative comments, which are very few, were typically about people not understanding why there is a need for the campaign and people not agreeing with the wording of certain posters.
“I’ve seen some negative comments [on Tumblr],” said Camille Esposito, a senior double major in design and French studies and design assistant on the campaign. “They’re mostly about the specific situations used to exemplify each type of privilege…The thing is that there are many ways that a person can be privileged–there could have been at least a hundred different situations represented. It’s more complex than the examples on the posters.”
USF’s feedback has been very positive. Students have shared and posted about the campaign on social media and there has been a buzz around campus.
“I think it’s a good reminder of how fortunate I am, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it,” said sophomore business major Celeste De Santiago. She added that there were some privileges on the posters that she did not think about before like the able bodied privilege.
Research assistant and junior psychology major Kristian Balgobin said that he has noticed the positive feedback. “Different professors are trying to get involved [and saying] ‘How can we help?,’” he said. “It’s been all positive feedback, but apparently there was one faculty member that called and was like, ‘I don’t understand this.’”
“I can’t say that I am surprised that a professor is confused as to why our campus needs this campaign, it’s why we created one of our slogans, ‘If you don’t have to think about it, it’s a privilege, but I do find it unsettling,” said research assistant and senior psychology major Sienna Williams. Williams explained that professors are looked to for encouragement to explore different concepts from different lenses.
“If a professor is not able to understand that privilege lenses should be applied to theory and practice [in the same way as an objective lense], then I don’t see how we as students can feel [that] we’ve gained comprehensive and invested understandings of topics being taught to us,” added Williams.
The campaign team includes Walker, Poole, Murray, Balgobin, Williams, research assistants senior Caleb Banks and alum Alex Stallings. Design assistants include Choi, Eposito, junior Veronica Cabanayan, and senior Catherine Bagg. Poole’s Marketing and Society students are also involved.