Cultural center discusses privilege with students

by Natalia Xibille, Contributor

The Center for Intercultural Relations hosted a discussion aimed at promoting self-awareness of privileges and to inspire unity within San Diego State’s student body on Thursday.

The event, called “What is Privilege?” was held in the Legacy Suite of the Conrad Prebys Student Union.

“It’s having people critically think about their privilege and realizing where they lie on the spectrum of privilege and using that privilege to help other people,” said  Associated Students Diversity Commissioner Arnelle Sambile, who coordinated the event

Privilege is an individual’s access to opportunity that is comprised of multiple aspects of identity, such as gender, race or socioeconomic status, and often it is something determined at birth, Sambile said.

At the beginning of the event, students formed a large circle and were asked to introduce themselves and to state their pronouns, indicating which gender they identify with. They set up community guidelines to establish the room as a safe space and encouraged people to speak.

“What’s said here stays here, but what’s learned here leaves here,” political science sophomore Violet Friudenberg said.

Students were divided into two groups to discuss what privilege meant to them and their personal experiences relating to it. Topics ranged from struggles obtaining access to education because of their race, freely expressing their sexual orientation, and fearing violence and judgment for simply being who they are.

Issues surrounding privilege, such as the Black Lives Matters movement and the University of Missouri protests, prompted students like biology senior Jeffrey Abrenica to come to the event.

“I saw the word ‘privilege,’ and I noticed that had become a very trendy word in the last few months,” Abrenica said. “I feel like it is a very important thing, especially since I am a minority, and I should be more aware of it because I have been coming into contact with it a lot.”

The event’s main feature was the privilege march.

Participants walked to the Centennial Walkway near the student union. They stood in a line with their arms linked and were asked questions relating to different privileges. With every question, they either took a step forward, indicating they have that privilege, or back, indicating the opposite. In the end, they all stood in different places. Some were in the far back and some in the front.

Toward the back was public relations and communications junior Anthony Lee.

“It’s eye-opening and kind of sad, but I think at the end of the day, we are all here,” Lee said. “We all made it here somehow and I’m glad we are able to share this experience at SDSU, even though some of us are more privileged than others.”

Ahead of the group was business senior Paul Sullivan.

“I’m very fortunate for the life I’ve been given, but it’s hard to turn around to see the majority of the people,” Sullivan said. “It puts things into perspective. You want to do so much, and change takes time.”

The event concluded with a final discussion on the results of the privilege walk, stereotypes, ways to educate others about privilege and creating equality of privilege for everyone.

“Be brave and don’t be afraid,” Dotimas said.