“White People” (2015) is an MTV documentary about young White Americans. Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, Filipino American journalist, travels the country, talking to White Millennials about – being White.
Cue awkward silence.
But then Vargas knew that: MTV’s own numbers showed that among White Americans, ages 14 to 24, four out of five admitted to feeling uncomfortable talking about racial issues.
By the numbers:
- Over 90% of their social world is White.
- About 75% think society would be better if people were colour-blind.
- About 50% believe that reverse racism is at least as bad as unreverse racism.
- Fewer than 33% have talked about race with their family.
Nearly all the ones he met said they were were colour-blind:
“I could care less what race someone is.”
Vargas talks to what appear to be focus groups of mostly young White people in different parts of the country. He sounds them out, mostly talking about White privilege. He tiptoes around their White feelings. They hold back.
The documentary features the stories of five White Americans:
Dakota, 22, North Carolina. He grew up in a lily-White town but now goes to a historically Black university. He invites two of his Black university friends home to dinner. One of them, Brittanee, is brought to tears when Miranda, a White friend of his, talks about acting “ghetto”, snapping her fingers above her head. Miranda seems unmoved by Brittanee’s tears. Brittanee is the one who has to explain herself.
Samantha, 23, South Dakota. She teaches at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, having grown up in a mostly White world. Vargas reminds us that the school stands not far from Wounded Knee. We find out about the stereotypes students have about White people: Whites take, take, take. They cannot control their children. They are disrespectful. They are mean to Natives.
Katy, 18, Arizona. She believes in reverse racism: there are tons of university scholarships for race but none for her. In fact, though, Whites are 40% more likely to get a scholarship than non-Whites. A mixed-race friend informs her that he did not get a scholarship either.
Lucas, 21, Washington state. He runs a White privilege workshop – yet is too afraid to talk about race with his Fox News-watching stepfather. His stepfather had googled “White privilege”: he said the websites were slanted against Whites and, in so many words, were calling him a jerk.
John, 22, New York City. He lives in Bensonhurst, a neighbourhood that was once heavily Italian American, but now is less than half White. Many are coming from Asia to make a new home there – just as John’s grandfather once came there from Europe. Vargas, careful to point out Wounded Knee of 1890, says nothing about Yusuf Hawkins of 1989.
Vargas pushes talking about racial issues, not colour-blindness, as the way forward for White Millennials – who, by middle age, will find themselves a racial minority in the US. He sees this documentary as only a starting point.
Yet, as gentle as this show was, some on the Internet accused MTV of “race baiting” and “whiteshaming”, of being “divisive”.
– Abagond, 2015.
- YouTube: White People – 41 minutes
- White people – my own post
- “I don’t see colour”
- other missionaries among the Whites: