One of the tools that I've used in the past for conflict resolution based on race, socioeconomic status, I like to call unpacking the backpack. I used to teach a class on racial formation. And it would surprise my students that over generations, individuals who were once known as foreign or other came to be known as white. And that the idea of racial categories is fluid based on where you are, and that it changes over time.
So once I began to plant the seed that the ideas that we hold on are not biological constructs, but rather social constructs, that we in part help to create, it sort of calls into question for many of them why would I buy into this system as well. And I would do an activity with them where I would ask them have you ever been in a situation where you have been the other? Where you have been the only woman in the group? Or you have been the only Caucasian in the group? Or you have been the only African-American in the group? And how did you come to feel about yourself in relationship to the other group?
So groups that were once considered the other are now considered part of the dominate group. When I was in graduate school and we were studying race and ethnic relations and how groups immigrated to this country, it was clear that over time, what groups really wanted to become was part of the dominant group. And in so doing, they would exclude others, even those who had just come 20 years after them in order to be part of that group.
So that's a prejudice that I think individuals carry with them. And what I like to do in our class is to talk about ways in which are part of a dominant group and ways in which we may be part of the subordinate group. So as a white woman, there are aspects of being a white woman that make you part of a dominant group, and there are aspects that make you part of the subordinate group.
So understanding, identifying with that sense of privilege I think is really helpful in breaking down some of the barriers that exist among groups from different backgrounds.