There is a controversial practice called the “Privilege Walk” being utilized by businesses, corporations, non profit groups and more for diversity training that claims to help “…your team members become aware of the various privileges they might possess…”.
Participants begin together in a line, then in response to various questions, are asked to step forward if a particular query applies to them.
- If you are right-handed, take one step forward.
- If English is your first language, take one step forward.
- If one or both of your parents have a college degree, take one step forward.
- If you can find Band-Aids at mainstream stores designed to blend in with or match your skin tone, take one step forward.
- If you rely, or have relied, primarily on public transportation, take one step back.
- If you have worked with people you felt were like yourself, take one step forward
The full list of questions along with details of the exercise, “designed to explain that both privilege and marginalization are part of who we are” can be found here.
Privilege Walk is a popular exercise utilized by the diversity training community. Supporters laud the practice as a way to cast aside heretofore embraced oppression. A way to spark open discourse concerning various forms of oppression.
An article discussing the Privilege Walk notes that detractors “…say the exercise propagates divisive identity politics and mock it as foundational to the Oppression Olympics.”
So why has this practice landed on a blog about Scientology?
Privilege Walk is based upon the utilization of techniques developed by L. Ron Hubbard as part of Dianetics and Scientology.
Harvey Jackins, Pacific Northwest organizer for L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics movement in the 1950s as well as a socialist labor organizer, left Hubbard and created what he termed Re-Evaluation Counseling.
Even a cursory examination of Jackins’ techniques reveal the similarities between Hubbard’s auditing and those implemented by RC.
“Re-evaluation Counseling is a process whereby people of all ages and all backgrounds can learn how to exchange effective help with each other in order to free themselves from the effects of past distress experiences.”
“The theory assumes that everyone is born with tremendous intellectual potential, natural zest, and lovingness but that these qualities have become blocked and obscured as the result of accumulated distress experiences (fear, loss, pain, anger, embarrassment, and so on), which begin early in our lives.”
In 1985 activist Ericka Sherover-Marcuse, third wife of Herbert Marcuse, co-founded an organization called New Bridges focused on spreading her message of multicultural awareness to teens. Ericka held that “oppression insists that racism is everywhere, central to everything, and inescapable, yet also insists that it is a form of ‘misinformation’ and a social construct.”
Sherover-Marcuse was heavily influenced by Re-Evaluation Counseling and it was from Jackins’ model that she developed what is now called the Privilege Walk.
There is an excellent and informative video featuring journalist and Associate Professor Christian Parenti that can be seen here.
During the video, one of the interviewers draws another comparison between Privilege Walk and Scientology. He says; “…it’s this individual self betterment project that costs you time and money and commitment to a philosophy and therapy that is similar to like something that Scientology does”
Ultimately Hubbard wanted a cleared planet, a new world driven by his own ideology, ethics and belief system. It would seem that this goal has managed to impact more of society’s subconscious than originally thought. While Scientology is not now connected to RC, it’s influence is undeniable.
Hubbard was as intolerant and racist as they come. That there is now a movement directed towards acceptance of diversity based upon his philosophy is ironic and troubling.
Just as ironic as Re-Evaluation Counseling’s insistence that they stand against all oppression while at the same time do not tolerate any opposition from their members for its leadership.
This is what lies at the bottom of Privilege Walk. A foundation of shifting sand collected from the dunes of L. Ron Hubbard’s fictional world.
The more we know.