Like in real life

Goals of the exercise: To learn how racism and discrimination take away the opportunity to develop and to experience things; to learn about the unequal distribution of rights and opportunities (by gender, origin, skin color, appearance, age, health, education level…) and its impact on our life and career; to  learn empathy towards the role of the weak and strong in the society, discuss competition
Age of the participants: 13+ / very good practice for facilitators
Number of participants: 6-20
Duration of the exercise: 60 Minutes
Materials: space – all participants must be put side by side and they should have enough space to walk forward; all participants need one prepared role card

Step by step

  1. The participants line up next to each other. All receive a role card. In the next 3 minutes, the participants try to internalize their roles. They should ask if they do not understand something about their role.
  2. The facilitator announces that they will be asked series of questions. All participants should give an answer to each question, according to their role. If they answer the question with “yes”, they take a significant step forward; if they answer with “no”, they stay in their position. What is more important here is the subjective assessment not the knowledge or the “getting it right”.
  3. At this point of the exercise the facilitators become also moderators. One person can read the question aloud and the other person asks the participants about their decision: why did you take a step forward? Why did you remain standing?
  4. When the participants answer for the first time, they should say what role they’re playing. Especially with large groups, not everyone can always be asked. At least three people should be asked after each step. After four steps, every participant should be asked at least once.

Possible Questions

Can you…

  • buy a car insurance?
  • spend a holiday home?
  • expect a fair treatment from the police when trying to report a theft?
  • get a bank loan for renovation of a rented apartment?
  • plan a family?
  • get dental treatment if you want?
  • feel safe on the street in the dark?
  • expect sympathy and support from your family?
  • plan 5 years in advance?
  • buy life insurance?
  • kiss your partner on the street?
  • join the local tennis club?
  • vote at the next local election?
  • come without any problems to any disco?
  • ask your landlord for help if your neighbors are constantly noisy at night?
  • choose your place of residence?
  • have your child attended the municipal kindergarten?
  • practice your religion openly and without problems?
  • assume that you or your children do not get discriminated at school or elsewhere?

Role cards

Note: These suggested roles are examples. Depending on the composition of the group, a few or many of the roles may be changed or replaced.

  • Computer specialist, Indian nationality, 33 years, single.
  • A semi-skilled female fine mechanic describes herself as having “Turkish mentality”, 56, married, 4 children.
  • A 30-year-old skilled worker, fixed employment contract (18 months), single, German.
  • A 45-year-old electrician, German, married, 2 children.
  • A 35-year cleaner Iranian refugee, male, single.
  • A 39-year-old trained metalworker, learned psychologist, Kazakh nationality, single parent of 1 child.
  • A 23-year-old bank clerk, Turkish origin, Muslim, single.
  • A 17-year-old apprentice of communication electronics, Kurdish origin, single.
  • Severely disabled man in a wheelchair, gatekeeper, 51 years, single, German.
  • An 18-year-old Moroccan skilled laborer without a high school diploma, single.
  • A 42-year-old unmarried Filipino nurse, single.
  • A 35-year-old single German nurse, 1 child.
  • A 17-year-old carpenter trainee from Thuringia, engaged.
  • A 20-year telecom apprentice, will not be hired after training.
  • A 19-year-old punk, works in a pub, single.
  • A 40-year-old black German, teacher, 2 children.
  • A 35-year-old blind man, musician, German, divorced, 1 child.
  • A 38-year-old lesbian mother of 2 children, saleswoman, German.
  • A 40-year-old Polish seasonal worker, married.
  • A 20-year-old pregnant woman in maternity protection, German, HIV positive, single.
  • A 19-year-old Turkish high school graduate with a mixed background.
  • An 18-year-old German commercial student with good grades.
  • A 26-year-old Ghanaian asylum seeker, no employment permission, single.
  • A 28-year-old non-working woman from Thailand, married to a German bus driver.
  • A 32-year-old German owner of a barbershop.
  • A 32-year-old homeless and unemployed tiler.
  • A 46-year-old Kurdish owner of a kebab food stand.
  • A 17-year-old high school graduate, German, single, wheelchair-bound.
  • A 22-year-old game addict electrician.
  • A 75-year-old pensioner.
  • A 19-year-old Jewish student of the 12th grade.


After the last question, all participants remain in their place for the evaluation. Topics to discuss:

  • How did you feel in your role?
  • What is it like to finish first? What is it like to always be behind?
  • Which questions were particularly memorable for you?
  • On which questions did you/did you not move forward?

Before the second part of the evaluation, give the participants a short time to “shake out” and get back to reality from their role.

The further evaluation may be carried out together, sitting in a circle. (You can also divide the participants into small groups according to their position in the playing field – front, middle or back.)

Now the game experience should be compared with the reality:

  • How were you limited in your actions in the respective roles?
  • What did you learn about the living conditions of different groups in the society?
  • What was unclear to you? Why are people moving forward? Or not? (Meaning of passport, skin color, gender, sexual orientation age, religion and social status)
  • What are the possibilities for changing their situation? Which groups have influence, and in which way?
  • What should be changed? What can we change?

The team could document the results of the discussion on the wall/ newspaper.

As in real life, this can be adapted to a wide variety of areas and specific exclusion mechanisms and discrimination (work/gender/education).

Authorship/adaptation or source:

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