“Check Your Privilege” Posters Outrage College Students

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Privilege Police

September 5th, 2016 – Ice Cube said “check yo self before you wreck yo self,” but it was Appalachian State University that put up posters telling white, male Christian students to “check their privilege.” The poster explains privilege as unearned access to social power based on membership in a dominant social group and also targets those who are Christian, cisgender and able-bodied. The poster hangs in the entrance to Plemmons Student Union, a heavily trafficked area on campus. Many students have said they understand the message trying to be conveyed but disagree with the presentation and brashness of the words.

"Check Your Privilege" Posters Outrage College Students

The recent controversy is a sequel to the disputed poster when it originally debuted in an ASU residential hall in March 2015. The Appalachian reported that it was Reggie Gravely, second-floor Resident Assistant and senior political science major at the time, who put up the posters in his dorm hallway. “[The board] is picking at the fact that privilege is so silly,” Gravely said.

"Check Your Privilege" Posters Outrage College Students
Photo: Luke Weir, The Appalachian

Student disapproval quickly sparked conversations and protests with University Housing. The main concerns that were voiced centered around the challenge that the posters didn’t achieve the goal of being educational and inclusive.

“The content of the board is not inclusive, which is what an RA should be,” senior history major Michael Hebert said. “I have a hard time believing that I should learn at [3 a.m.] on my way to the bathroom. I agree with what [Gravely] is getting across, but not how he’s doing it.”

Kaitlyn Puff, a sophomore nursing major and resident of Reggie Gravely’s dorm thought the tone of the board was the offensive component.

“Reggie is kind of sassy – I think people took offense because of the board’s sass,” Puff said.

"Check Your Privilege" Posters Outrage College Students


Campus Reform tracked down some equally sassy online comments from those who chose to mock the posters.

“If you can express your political opinions without being called racist, sexist, bigot, etc. you have Liberal Privilege,” one user posted.

“This makes me wanna go to my safe space!” a protester said, as another asked for someone to confirm that board was done so ironically. 

The “Check Your Privilege” campaign originated at the University of San Fransisco in the fall of 2014 by a campaign team of professors. Their mission is to raise student, faculty, and staff awareness around social inequalities and privilege and to provide more platforms to have that discussion. USF psychology professor Ja’Nina Walker came up with the campaign after her research and teaching showed her there was not always a way to talk about privilege.

“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,” she said. 

While there has been consistent outcry against the campaign, (Young Conservatives called the privilege movement hypocritical saying “Newsflash, kiddies. You can’t destroy intolerance with intolerance. You can’t destroy racism through discrimination. Hate cannot destroy hate, just like fire cannot put out a fire.”) the posters have been heavily shared on social media and feminists online publications. A “White Privilege Conference” was even held in Philadelphia this past spring with many seminars changing the spelling of “woman” changed to “women.”

You tell us. Does the “Check Your Privilege” campaign help educate people about the implications of structural inequalities or does it actually exclude a group of people through intolerance?

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