Updated: Jul 3
We are often encouraged to believe that we live in a meritocracy, where everyone is equal and treated the same. If you just try hard enough, there's no reason why you shouldn't succeed.This test is meant to debunk that myth of a post-racial meritocracy by exposing some of the structural racial inequalities that exist in the UK. Adapted from Peggy McIntosh’s ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,’ this exercise helps both white people and people of colour explore the presence of white privilege in British society.
Racism is like a coin with two sides: on one side, it disadvantages some people (we tend to focus on this), and on the other side, it simultaneously benefits some people (easier to forget: white privilege).
I initially designed this test as a starting point for a guided discussion about white privilege with a senior form class, but it is a valuable tool that could be used in many contexts. Suitable for people of all racial identities, this exercise is a great tool for adults to raise their own racial consciousness (as a personal and professional development exercise) and for secondary school pupils to explore their understanding of racism in the UK and Scotland. You can find this test on our School Resources page and you can download your free copy here.
I would encourage readers and participants to consider white privilege as the result of structural racial inequalities rather than just laziness, ill intention or inherent qualities of a particular group. You can check out our glossary definition of privilege and whiteness for more information.
To complete this test, read the following statements and keep track of your score on a separate sheet of paper. When reading the statements, do your best to isolate race entirely and ignore other identities that might affect your results.
For each statement, if you believe it is often true, score 0. If the statement is sometimes true, score 3. And if the statement is false, score 5. At the end, you will be asked to add up your score.
People often assume I am an immigrant before I even say a word.
The question “where are you from?” is a hard one to answer, especially if the person asking is trying to figure out why I look the way I do.
When I walk into any British supermarket, I will rarely find plenty of food products that meet my family’s traditions.
It’s hard to find the right hair products that work for my hair.
It’s hard to find make-up, tights and/or plasters that match my skin tone.
When I walk into a shop, the security guard is likely to keep a closer eye on me because of the colour of my skin.
When I am passing through security or immigration in an airport, I am often randomly stopped and asked more questions compared to other people of a different skin colour.
If ever I am stopped by the police, I would feel that it is likely they singled me out because of my skin colour.
Whenever there is a terrorist attack, people tend to look at me in a more fearful, hateful and/or accusing way.
The books I read at school rarely have characters that share the same skin colour as me.
In the movies I watch, the characters who share the same skin colour as me are rarely the heroes.
In the history I have studied, my ancestors are not given much attention or credit.
In the news, the people who share the same skin colour as me are often portrayed as poor, helpless, and/or dangerous.
From nursery to this day, the teachers I have had don’t share the same skin colour as me.
The only adults in schools who share the same skin colour as me are the cleaning and/or catering staff.
I sometimes wish that my skin and/or hair was lighter because it would make my life easier.
The festivals and holidays my family celebrate are not usually celebrated in schools.
It is difficult to find posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards and magazines featuring people who have the same skin colour as me.
People online or in public have directed racist slurs at me.
I cannot criticize our government, history and/or culture, and talk about how much I disagree with policies and practices without being seen as an outsider.
It is difficult for me to find many spaces where I can be in the company of people who share the same colour as me.
When I am told about national heritage, about human history or about civilisation, I am shown people who do not share the same culture or skin colour as me.
If ever I swear or behave badly, people tend to attribute these behaviours to the bad morals and/or poverty of people who share my skin colour and cultural background.
Whenever I do well in a challenging situation, people may call me a credit to my race.
I am often asked to speak for all the people of my racial, cultural and/or religious group.
Whenever I ask to speak to “the person in charge,” I can be sure that I will be facing someone who does not have the same skin colour as me.
It is difficult for me to ignore and/or minimise the impact of racism on my life.
I go home from most meetings of organisations and/or clubs that I attend feeling somewhat isolated, out of place, outnumbered, unheard, feared or hated, rather than tied in and welcome.
If my day or my week is going badly, I can’t help but wonder if the negative episodes or situations had racial overtones.
I am unable to discuss my racialised experiences openly and honestly at school or at work.
Total score: _________
Total score / 150 X 100 = total percentage of white privilege.
100% is the score of those who benefit the most from white privilege. 0% is the score of those who experience the least white privilege. What does that mean about our different life experiences and opportunities in the UK?
I would encourage you to get someone of a different racial identity to complete the test, compare results and discuss any insights gained from the process.
This score focuses only on race and it is worth noting that other intersectional identities (gender, sexuality, class, disability, etc.) will affect your experience of privilege. Moreover, race is a social construct that is fluid and constantly evolving, so a person’s score may be subject to change overtime, depending on the context and their racial awareness.