Power and Diversity Sequence: (20-30 minutes)
(This is an exercise I developed that combines a much longer George Lakey exercise, an exercise I learned from Katrina Hopkins, and some of what Lisa Fithian and I did on power. My goal was to create something short that could be integrated into a regular direct action training to provide some consciousness raising.)
In pairs, active listening, ask participants to talk for one minute about where they feel power in their lives, where they feel powerless.
Come back, people call out where they feel power…then where they feel powerless…
Identify different kinds of power, power over, power from within.
—system works by imposing power over, we have endless reserves of power from within, creativity, imagination
Power over works through coercion, fear
We undermine it when we withdraw consent, noncooperate
Collective power when we act together…
Introduce concept of social power, privilege—power men have over women, white people have over people of color, etc.
Ask people to think for a moment about who has more social power than they do, call out examples.
On big sheet of paper, have someone write down the group’s responses…
Ask—when you think of those groups who have more privilege than you do, what are some of their identifying characteristics?
(Usually the group comes up with a list that includes things like arrogance, denial, confidence, entitlement, etc.)
Ask—now think of some groups that have less social power than you do. That you have privilege in relation to. Call them out….
Now look at that list of qualities you associate with people of higher social power. Are there any that you identify with?
(Short discussion might follow if time allows.)
Now, close your eyes for a moment. Imagine walking into a meeting of that group that has more social power than you do, a meeting in which you have some vital things to say. What would they have to do to make you feel comfortable? Give the group time to experience this, then have them call things out.
Ask people to stand, walk around the room greet each other, and do those things they have mentioned.