Conveying Group Membership

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Conveying group membership

QUESTION: “What are the most effective ways to convey group membership to dominant identities? I have packaged language that I’m comfortable with to communicate concepts like privileged identity, but when fragility and all that kicks in…”

ANSWER: In the recordings of the June and July webinars I discuss a number of activities to get people to understand the concepts of group membership as well as privileged and marginalized groups. From having them share stories about times they mattered and felt marginalized, to using the Group Identity Cards to share their group memberships and talk about socialization experiences (thirty different categories of difference – one on each card). And then the Playing Card activity simulation where they quickly experience privilege and marginalized group dynamics.

I want people to learn these concepts through experiential activities. I use an activity that I adapted from LeaderShape and Sustained Dialogue called “Who Are You?” I have people recognize their I: individual traits, then G: group memberships. So, who are you as an individual and people respond about their likes, leisure activities, qualities, passions:

  • I am someone that loves theater,
  • I’m someone that loves to be outdoors, or
  • I love just sitting in front of a warm fire.

They get to acknowledge we’re all individuals 1st before they acknowledge their multiple group memberships. They do the same activity with their partner, who are you, but this time they use the Group Identity Cards.  When their asks “Who are you?” they can look down at the 30 options, and claim their various group memberships, for instance related to nationality, family stats, disability status, race, etc.

In this way, they’re naming their group memberships long before I talk about privileged/marginalized, but it’s in the room because you already have the mattering and marginalization stories.

So, I recommend that we don’t lecture about privilege and marginalization. If you only have a little bit of time, you may want to tell some stories about yourself. I’d start with times you were marginalized and then always ask who relates. And then, if you want to talk about your own privilege I would talk about when you weren’t as aware and how folks in the marginalized identities and some people in privileged identities helped to coach you, and now you know better.

I like to engage folks in sharing experiences and then I’ll backfill the concepts about privilege and marginalization.

And so, we may want to be even more thoughtful about meeting people where they are and having people’s stories be the ones that actually help people marinate in the concepts of group membership, marginalization & privilege.

And then, the Gallery Activity which you’ll see in the different materials from those webinars where people actually write out times they observed or experienced marginalization and microaggression.

Instructions before folks start writing would be:

  • No names
  • Make them generic
  • A time when nobody said something/intervened
  • A time when you experienced something, but somebody at least tried to speak up.
  • Fold them in half, trade them five times, come back to a new group of eight or ten people.
  • Read those stories aloud. By then, folks that are “in fragility” are usually more open to sitting back and listening to the experiences of others around them.

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