Last night, MTV, with the help of journalist and activist Jose Vargas, aired a pretty controversial documentary called “White People”. This highly anticipated documentary comes at a time when racial tension in America has reached a boiling point, and real conversations about race and racism need to be had. Although some were opposed to it, I absolutely was NOT, and I think most of us learned a thing or two thanks to Jose.
“No one has seen this film yet,” said National Review editor Rich Lowry. “But I think we can agree that it will be as stupid and exploitative as you expect from a network that brought us Jersey Shore and Teen Mom 2.”
These are the kinds of people this documentary is actually trying to reach-people who think they know it all. People who believe that a conversation about white privilege=exploitation, or “white genocide.” I really hope Rich watched last night…as well as whoever made the above “infographic.”
Conversations about racism are really hard to have. That’s a fact. But let’s be honest, racism is usually a lot harder for white people to talk about. It makes them uncomfortable, and worst of all, culpable. But you know what’s harder than just talking about racism? Being a person on the receiving end of it.
After reading a bunch of responses to Jose’s doc, I really began to think…why are white people so afraid of conversations about race? I thought about street harassment, for example. A lot of men shy away from, or discredit women’s stories about street harassment because, well…THEY’RE guilty of street harassment themselves. It really sucks when a woman is describing some foul sh*t that happened to her on her way work, and you realize that you’ve been complicit at some point. Nobody wants to hear about the things that they’ve done WRONG…right?
I had a guy touch my vagina in a club.
So tired of having to tolerate that bullshit, so done.#YouOkSis
— activist amy ✊🏾🌍 (@AmyMeyer5) July 6, 2015
We don't owe you our attention if you're a stranger in public and we are allowed to not be interested in yours. It's that simple. #YouOKSis
— @PiaGlenn (@PiaGlenn) July 16, 2015
This #youoksis is all bullshit in my eyes just propaganda to effect male female relationships
— Phinks Smiff (@Regulator_3) November 3, 2014
The same goes for white people when confronted about racism. These confrontations tend to illicit very violent and condescending responses.
I don't own Slaves. Never have. And don't know anyone who does so I don't try to guilt me into racist bull crap. Mtv show #whitepeople
— EBTP Leader (@EBTPLeader) July 13, 2015
Imagine if you went to China illegally, and then made a film called 'Yellow People'? #WhitePeople
— Sic Semper Tyrannis (@21412USA) July 19, 2015
(Jose is from the Phillipines)
— Shakespeareana (@Macbeth870) July 14, 2015
…whatever that means…but you see what we’re working with here, right?
Ok. We get it. Slavery was hundreds of years ago, but unfortunately, the effects are long-lasting and still with us today. I mean…how long ago was the Civil Rights movement? Let’s just say that MY parents were alive when people still had to use separate entrances and drink from different water fountains based on the color of their skin. So when I hear white people say stuff like, “I didn’t own slaves, and you were never a slave, so get over it,” it proves just how much they really don’t get it, or rather how much they pretend not to get it. And frankly, they are Jose’s target audience.
This is kinda like AA. ADMITTING that you have white privilege is the first step. Then after that, you take steps to fix it. Fix what, you ask? Well obviously, you can’t fix the fact that you’re white, but you CAN use your privilege to fight for people of color, you CAN spread the word, you CAN be more sensitive. Here’s a suggestion to start: JUST LISTEN. In the clip below, it’s obvious that one of the men gets it, and one doesn’t. One was willing to LISTEN, and one was not.
So what did we learn from “White People”? Here are a few things to consider–
1.3/4 of white Americans said we would be better off if we never talked about race. “I’m colorblind,” they say. Dear white friends: I don’t want you to be colorblind. I want you to acknowledge my race and not JUDGE me because of it. Being colorblind doesn’t make you a good person.
“We don’t even necessarily KNOW people who aren’t white.”
While this might not be the reality for all white people, one thing is for sure; it’s rare that you’re the only white person…ANYWHERE. Most of you have no idea how it feels to be the only white person in class, or at work. (Where we spend a majority of our days) You don’t have to code switch as often, you don’t have to worry if your hair is affecting your employment, you don’t have to be the voice of ALL white people in a predominately Black environment. Being the “majority” has many advantages. We learned that white people don’t really HAVE to be around Black people.
3.One man never thought about the fact that he was white and what it means to be white until he went to college. We learned that this is probably the reality for many white people. I think about being Black on the daily!
“I googled [white privilege]. Most of the stuff that I saw was so slanted against white people. You get a bad feeling. I can’t listen to this person. You can’t just slam this into me. I don’t want to be ashamed that I’m white.”
We learned that for some reason, some white people want to avoid talking about white privilege because it somehow hurts their feelings. We can’t even start the conversation, if no one is willing to be reasonable. When having conversations about race, you shouldn’t feel ashamed, you should be listening, asking questions, and learning.
5. All 262 Native Americans at Crazy Horse School on a reservation in North Dakota are taught by sheltered white teachers (Teachers who acknowledged they’d never really hung out with any other race). I see this a lot with organizations such as Teach for America, and organizations I’ve worked for in the past. We learned that the savior complex is very real. (Not to say these teachers have that complex, but I’ve def seen it a million times)
“To be white is the good thing.”
Ever heard that saying, “White is right”? Well a lot of people think it’s an accurate statement. (Even some people of color) To be white is the “norm.” When really…being white isn’t any better or “normal” than being Black, Asian, Latino, etc. There is NOTHING about being white that makes a person superior or the “norm.” We learned that some people still believe this to be true.
“You kinda get this feeling that things belong to you.”
Ownership. We learned that being white means “ownership” to some people…even in the smallest sense of the word. On the sidewalk, on the train, in line at the grocery store. Check your privilege at the door…you don’t get to have stuff just because you’re white…(Except for in America, the reality is that you do :/)
8. We learned that nearly 50 percent of white millennials feel that they’re as much a victim of racism as people of color. The victim role. Let me be very clear: A lot of white people could not HANDLE the kinds of attacks people of color face on a daily basis. The racial profiling by police, less access to housing, health care, jobs, schools…constantly being the target of domestic terror at the hands of the state? Here’s a quick stat: Black people are 31% more likely to be pulled over by the police.
Check out this stop and frisk data–
In 2003, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 160,851 times.
140,442 were totally innocent (87 percent).
77,704 were black (54 percent).
44,581 were Latino (31 percent).
17,623 were white (12 percent).
83,499 were aged 14-24 (55 percent).
Essentially, what this boils down to is walking out of your house, and having a higher chance of being harassed, simply because you are not WHITE.
“If I bring up anything about race around my parents, they automatically assume that I am demonizing them.”
You see, when white people feel they are being attacked, it only results in hurt feelings. DASSIT. When people of color (especially Black people) are attacked, it results in death, assault, rape, loss of employment, mass incarceration, etc, etc. See how they’re different?
9. We learned that no one could pinpoint the disadvantages of being white…oh wait, except for the scholarship thing.
— Art. (@sir_dapper) July 22, 2015
One girl believed that she wasn’t getting scholarships and was being discriminated against because she was white. Later, we learned that white people actually get more scholarships than anybody else. White students are 40% more likely to receive aide. Even though 62% of undergrad college students are white, they get 69% of all scholarships. 69%! Skim through to around 17 minutes on the video and see for yourself.
What this says to me is that this young lady felt she should have access to ALL of the scholarships. And because she didn’t qualify for a few, and people of color did, she felt she had been left out. That is a symptom of white privilege.
10. What we also learned is this is a conversation we need to have together. It’s the only way. Things won’t get better by ignoring them. Dear white friends, if you’re interested, here’s how you can be a better ally:
Here’s how to not be an ally:
And the good people over at Salon.com were nice enough to list 11 things white people can do to be real anti-racist allies.
What I hope people take from this doc is that conversations about race NEED to be had. These conversations aren’t about attacking each other, they’re about finding solutions. But remember, if the conversation never happens, nothing will ever change. Kudos to Jose and MTV for all this awesomeness. What did you think about “White People”? Share below.