Lines of Privilege

The “Lines of Privilege” exhibit of the “Questioning Borders” Symposium showcased two students’ work to critically consider their own and others’ privilege in the world. The contrasting display styles — one an annotated analysis of educational marketing materials and the other slam poetry — served to highlight the flexibility of the museum as a reflective space and the value of interdisciplinary enquiry for important global issues.

“Discourses of Privilege”

a discussion around voluntourism & travel blogging by Breanna Riddick

This poster is based on an analytical essay about pornotroping, the reduction of certain groups of people to mere flesh as objectified bodies, and the corresponding perception of black girls aslacking innocence. The author, currently an undergraduate student at George Washington University, reflects on her experiences during a service-learning trip with ProNica, a Quaker aid organisation. Here, two public blog posts about her trip by different authors are critiqued as examples of the prominent ‘white saviour’ narrative in international development. Her conclusion:

To say “We gave them an opportunity” is to place ourselves at the center of their issues. It is the exact opposite of ‘solidarity’.
Read more of Breanna’s analysis:


spoken word by Sunny Balkin as illustrated by Alec Rovensky

There are lines all across the Earth
Stretching along the length of lands and across the ocean’s girth
Lines that divide us
Confine us
Lines that are there to deprive us
or revise us
In an order that becomes an identity

Who am I when I’m behind a line; I do not know
As opposed to a line that I think of as my home
Why do lines divide what I consider my own
from a world that I think of as the great unknown?

I grew up on an island, surrounded by an ocean that I thought protected me
Protected me from a world whose newness frightened me
To stay behind the waves
whose rough currents gave me the security that I craved
The security that meant no unsurety
that I would be able to remain behind my lines,
Never having to think of what was on the other side

Because people talk
And they warn you what lies beyond the walls that you built up on your border
“Beware” they say
Because when you cross that line
You belong to a new land, you are no longer mine
You are not the you that you were when you were here
You become new as the line you crossed becomes clear

Citizen of the world?
No, the lines change the idea of “citizen of the world”
And break you down to what you really are
A girl
Who are you when the line goes away?
When you cross a new line, what do you say?

“I’m American”
“I’m Dan”
“I’m Muslim”
“I’m Jewish”
“I’m Irish”
“I’m Catholic”
“I’m Tasha”
“I’m newish”

You see, when you cross a line you’re forced to bear in mind
Not just the borders you crossed
But the borders inside
You have to pick apart pieces of yourself that you’ve always viewed as one
And put them into separate piles
And then…when you’re done
Pick the pile you chose to show
Depending on what new place you’ve decided to go

So know:
When you travel across a line…not all of you can go
Bits and pieces will have to stay behind
You’ll have to lose a bit of yourself whenever you cross a line

Maybe there’s things about your identity it’s not safe to share
Or maybe it’ll be little things like your clothes or your hair
Things you might need to change to blend in in a new place
Or maybe it’s the unchangeable…like the color of your face

Whether we like it or not, these choices or traits
Are all self-borders that we’ve learned to embrace
But the fact of the matter is that when you walk over a new line
People might look at your borders and not be so kind

Some people, like me, had learned to love the border that kept them protected
They found comfort in what they knew, and feared the new or unexpected

So when you cross a border know that the lines in the ground aren’t just for show

People take those lines literally
They take them to heart
They put lines across people
Till everyone is marked

“You can go there”
“And you can go here”
“You, stay away from my line”
“But you can come near”

The lines that we drew in the land and seas
Somewhere along the line
Became lines between you and me

We are no longer people who are free to be free
We all have our lines and that’s the way it will be
Until…until we see that the borders we’ve concocted
Rather than making us safe, have instead made us toxic

When you look back through history what have lines and walls shown?
They’re meant to show people the places they cannot go
They’re meant to send a message loud and clear
That you’ll stay way over there and I’ll stay right here

How hard it is to keep an identity when someone is enforcing a new one upon you
When the borders on the ground tell you what is right and who is wrong, too

How can we truly be a global world when we’ve scarred our sphere with lines
Lines that run so deep that they might not even heal with time

I think back to the girl I was, afraid to cross my line
Afraid of what I would lose when I went to the other side
Scared of the bits and pieces I thought I would have to leave
Scared of the left behind identity I would have to grieve

But now that I’ve crossed the border and I’m beginning to meet
New customs…new people…new places…new streets
It obvious just how painfully wrong humanity has been
That there’s so much more identity to gain when you stop keeping people out and start letting them in

When you open up borders and identities begin to flow
That is the way that a stagnant Earth grows

That is way that misunderstanding becomes clarity
And that is the way that ignorance becomes charity

When identities travel behind new lines
And the pieces they left are filled with new pieces you find
When we stop being afraid of something we’ve put behind a wall
And we tear down those bricks once and for all

That is when identities and borders stop being synonymous
And the future of humanity can be hopeful…not ominous

Who I am when I’m away from home
Who I am when I cross my border and choose to roam

I am who I was when I first crossed that line
And everything that I lose when I leave what is mine
Plus everything that I gain from the new lands that go
And I’m everything that I want to see, and be, and know

The world is stratified by curves and lines
That tell you who you are
And what is yours and what is mine
I truly believe that one day those lines will melt like snow
But for now
There are borders waiting to be crossed
I hope that you go