Starting Line / Privilege

Type of Activity: Trust, Diversity

Props Needed: None

Set Up: Need a nice long open area – a place where a “race” can be run safely. Works well with 10 to 25 (or more) 20 to 25 minutes.

Process: This activity deals with race, class, family and other related issues. Has been used to help people appreciate and become more aware of the assets they have been raised with and the things in their upbringing which can be a challenge. Tell the group they are going to have a race. The objective is to be the first to cross the finish line (Sean sometimes uses a candy bar, “the first to get the candy bar” as an incentive for finishing first). Initially the group is asked to stand side-by-side toeing an established line you set (there will be an assumption that this is the starting line, however…). But, before you start the race each participant in the group must answer some questions for themselves.  Participants will be asked to step forward or backward depending on their answer. Use the questions below (at least 6 or 7 from each list), alternating between stepping forward and stepping back.

Warning: After reading the questions you might guess the possible issues this activity will bring up. Be mindful of what group you use this with – the right activity for the right group. Allow enough time for an open discussion afterwards.

When you have completed your list of questions, have the participants look around to observe each others new “starting” positions.  At this point you can say, “Ready? GO!" Invariably the person with the most positive assets in their life (the one that stepped forward the most) scores the candy bar. The folks in the back [most likely] don't even try running the race. This activity really brings home the concept that the starting line (what is the “starting line” for people) might not seem as fair for everyone. Some obvious debrief avenues are: What might the candy bar represent in society?; Do you agree or disagree with the questions and the directions you were asked to go?; What other things are assets and detriments?, etc.”

Take One Step Forward Questions

  • If you have a trust fund, own stock or have/will inherit money
  • Both parents are still married
  • Completed High School, Parents completed High School
  • In College, Parents completed College
  • Graduate Degree, Parents have degree
  • Scholarship or Parents Paid for Education
  • If one parent stayed at home while growing up
  • Parents owned your home
  • If you have a car
  • If your parents gave you a car
  • You had or have a significant mentor in your life
  • Had a job while in High School
  • Went to church growing up
  • If you were written up in the newspaper for something positive.

Take One Back Step Questions

  • If you moved more than 5 times growing up
  • For each person who gave you verbal or physical abuse
  • For each parent that works more than one job
  • If your family ever received any form of government assistance
  • If both parents were unemployed for more than a year
  • If you are not white
  • For each family member who was ever in jail or arrested
  • If you were written up in the paper for something negative
  • One parents was not part of your life growing up for more than 5 years
  • If raised in foster care or adopted
  • If your parents were never married
  • If you were ever arrested
  • Pregnant as a teen or fathered a child
  • Suspended or expelled from school
  • 10K of school or credit card debt
  • For each person in your home who has a drub of alcohol addiction

Come up with your own questions that fit your group, age, profession, etc.

Variations: You might have candy bars available for everyone (around snack time) and as you pass them out you could ask each participant what the “candy bar” is for him or her.  Look up 'Cross the Line'

Debriefing Topics:

  • What did it feel like to be supported by the group?
  • What feelings did you experience?
  • How did it feel to be responsible for someone else’s safety?

For more resources see:  The Empty Bag

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