Privilege for sale activity

Age Group:Stage 5 (Years 9 and 10)Duration:20-30 minutes (depending on the depth of discussion)


  • To achieve an understanding of privilege and oppression
  • To provide an opportunity for learners to empathise, connect and reflect on the experience of having/not having privilege
  • To identify the privileges that exist in the society we live in today
  • To reflect upon what types of privileges (social, financial, legal etc) are important to them and why that may differ from others in their group.
  • To investigate and discuss what groups may have limited access to what privileges and effect that lack of access may have on an individual.

Note: The term ‘race’ is complex. Race is a social construct and for the purposes of this activity, it is used to refer to a group of people who may be thought of as a unit because they share a cultural or linguistic background or similar ancestry.



  • McIntosh, Peggy, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (1989)
  • The Safe Zone Project, Privilege For Sale (2019)
  • Manitoba Association for Rights & Liberties, Privileges for Sale Activity (2019)
  1. Divide students into small groups, no more than 4 people. Spread out the groups if possible.
  2. Explain the directions:“For the purposes of this activity, we are going to imagine that we are living in a world where none of you have any privileges. You have been given a sheet that has a list of privileges on it. As a group, you have to purchase these privileges from your teacher. Each privilege costs $100. In a moment, your group will be given an amount of money. This is the amount of money you’ll have to spend on purchasing privileges. You’ll be given a few minutes to discuss which privileges you would like to buy. Once you have decided on your privileges, mark them on your list, and we will come together as a group and discuss.”
  3. Check to see if the group has any questions on the directions.
  4. Pass out dollar amounts for the different groups on scrap paper. Each group will be given different amounts of money ranging from $300-$1400)
  5.  Give the groups approximately 10 minutes to review the list of privileges, discuss and decide which privileges they would like to buy.
  6. Discuss the activity as a whole with the group. Ask each group to present to the rest of the class explaining the following:
    1. How much money they were given
    2. Which privileges they chose to purchase and why

How did this activity make you feel?

  1. For some people this is a new experience because they’ve never thought of privilege in this way, or in a list form like this.
  2. It can sometimes be a deeply triggering or frustrating activity because perhaps you don’t have access to a lot of these privileges and seeing all of the privileges in a list can be challenging.
  3. For others it can be deeply moving/emotional because they’ve never thought of all the privilege that they do have before. This can bring up feelings of guilt or even feelings of shame for taking things for granted.

How did you go about picking your privileges? How did you justify purchasing them over others?

  1. Some groups go democratic of everyone gets to pick one privilege. Groups with less money often don’t have the opportunity to go that route.
  2. Sometimes different amounts of money change our priorities. Often times groups with less money will make different decisions than if that same group had had more money.
  3. Often times conversations about values and about life goals come up when folks begin picking privileges.

Was there anything on the list of privileges that surprised you?

  1. A lot of times people don’t realize all of the privileges that they take for granted. And that’s often because privilege is invisible to those of us who have privilege.

Why do you think the privileges had to be purchased with money and not objects or ‘tokens’?

  1. When you have more money you can actually buy privileges, you can move to new locations where some of the social privileges may be more easily accessed or you can hire a lawyer to manage adoption paperwork for instance.
  2. Money is a form of privilege. When you have money you may not be as concerned that you could lose your job or may be rejected from housing.
  3. We take money very seriously and we understand how it can affect our decision making processes.

Why do you think we gave different groups different amounts of money?

  1. Sometimes you can think that you that you only have $500 until you realize that someone was less privileged than you and then all of a sudden the $500 feels differently.
  2. It can create animosity between groups even though the groups were simply assigned the money and it was really the facilitators who should be receiving the animosity.

What have you learned from this activity?

  • I am able to go on social media or turn on the TV and see people of my race widely represented in a positive light.
  • I am able to go shopping alone most of the time, knowing that I probably won’t be followed or harassed.
  • When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my race made it what it is.
  • I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
  • When I pay for goods or services, my skin colour won’t make me appear financially unreliable.
  • I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
  • I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  • I will never be asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  • I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  • I am rarely stopped or questioned by authority figures such as teachers, the police or security personnel because I seemed “suspicious” or “aggressive” to them.
  • Being able to feel safe in in my interactions with police officers.
  • When I speak, I am understood by at least 95% of the people I meet in my everyday life.
  • I can count on the culture or history of my ancestors being taught in elementary school.
  • I am able to access health services and be treated with trust, respect and dignity.
  • Any personal faults or missteps made by me are not attributed to people who share my racial identity.
  • If I am ever accused of a crime, I am less likely to be presumed guilty, less likely to be sentenced to death and more likely to be portrayed in a fair, nuanced manner by media outlets.
  • Any “flesh-coloured”, “skin-coloured” or “naked” product will more or less match my skin tone.
  • I can take a job or receive a promotion without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
  • People will be able to pronounce my first and last name perfectly the first time they hear it. Additionally, I will not be teased because of how my name sounds.
  • My intelligence is not questioned because of the way I speak.
  • I am encouraged to excel in every subject in school.
  • You are able to choose almost any career path that you would like, and not have many (or any) limitations placed upon you.
Print money sheet [PDF]