A conversation with white people

Since the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, and countless other unarmed Black Americans over the past few years, our country has been engaged in uncomfortable conversations about race. Though people of color have been at the forefront of the discussions, some white folks—even well meaning ones—have been hesitant to chime in.

Recently, MTV announced it was airing a documentary about how young white people grapple with race, but the New York Times has also jumped into the fray.

In “A Conversation with White People on Race,” filmmakers Michèle Stephenson and Blair Foster interviewed several people to get their take on what it means to be white.

In the 5-minute short documentary, most participants admitted to being uncomfortable talking about race because they didn’t want to say anything offensive, while others admitted they rarely even thought about being white.

According to the filmmakers, frank conversations are exactly what they hoped to provoke.

“We’ve attempted to lean into that discomfort [white people finding it uncomfortable to talk about race] and prompt some self-reflection. We are all part of this system, and therefore we all have a responsibility to work toward dismantling it. If we’re going to have an honest conversation about race in America, that includes thinking – and talking – about what it means to be white in America. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation that must involve all of us.”

Take a look.

What do you think about the growing focus on the white perspective on race?

Like Us On Facebook Follow Us On Twitter
  • Rizzo

    we already know that perspective.

  • There is nothing wrong with discussions per se. Yet, white folks have been doing this for years and decades in America. In the final analysis, we have to have policy changes and the culture in mainstream society must change. The whole structure of society must be transformed. It is one thing to have discussions via free speech. It is interesting for some whites in the video to admit that they have white privilege and how they are complicit in the racism found in society. Many reactionary whites would never ever admit to that. It is not our responsibility as black people to placate white people’s insecurities, and self-reflections. It is our responsibility for us to stand up for justice and to defend the dignity and humanity of black people. We, as black people, don’t need patronize. We want human rights and self-determination without economic oppression and without the New Jim Crow. There is nothing wrong with Black Unity, Black Love, and Black Power either. Black people want true empowerment and the elimination of microaggressions too.

    Racism is a structural problem and the systematic problems of racism, classism, and discrimination have to be dismantled. Some regressive white people in society want to make the discussion about “Get it Over” and “no excuses” while ignoring white privilege and the system of white supremacy (as documented by tons of black scholars). What the white people said in the video is better than some reactionary white people talking about that we have a post racial society, black people use the race card, speaking obsessively on “black on black crime,” and other unintelligent diatribes.

    The real thing that must be done is ACTION. People can talk, but ACTION IS NECESSARY. Once the system of white supremacy and oppression is gone (and real freedom flourishes worldwide), then all in the human family can have real justice comprehensively.

    • Robin

      I could not have said that better than you, Truth. We have truly exhausted the “discussion” and “pacifiying” and the feeling of “white guilt” that white folks get about their white privilege when discussing race because guess what? Many really don’t care. Many are complacent because the system of race or a.k.a White Supremacy works in thier favor with everything. Jobs, justice, banking, everything. “they never had to think about their race” a few of them said. <—there's your answer. Why mess up a good thing? And my favorite Boot Traps line, pick them up, right? White folks fill the "diversity and inclusion" quota for the year and call it a day. S/O to corporate life and the white supremacy system. My focus as a black person under this system is empowerment, empowerment for my people and that takes planning, learning and action not sitting around a round table and discussing race in a context of no action just discuss it for the 1, 200, 563rd time. It's so much more than that. So, I would have to say Nah to this series. I seriously have better things to do with my time.

    • Teach Sister. Yes, who can forget about the ignorant “get up by your own bootstraps” line that some of the use against us. lol. I agree with every word that you have said. We have tried massive discussions for a very long time. At the end of the day, action is a necessity. We want empowerment and justice.

    • Sarah

      I love what you said, particularly about it not being a responsibility of black people to respond to white insecurities. As though white feelings trump black realities. I’m white, and some of the posts and conversations I’ve been having with other white folks have brought out those insecurities-almost ESPECIALLY among some of my friends who feel that they’ve “done the work.” Sigh. I’m working on that while trying to keep the focus on Real Action you describe.

  • I_am_a_Gladiator/Scandalista

    It will only be effective if they actually watch it.

    • elle D.

      That’s right, it is up to THEM to do the work.

  • mmmdot

    “Whiteness is not a culture. There is Irish culture and Italian culture and American culture – the latter, as Albert Murray pointed out, a mixture of the Yankee, the Indian, and the Negro (with a pinch of ethnic salt); there is youth culture and drug culture and queer culture; but there is no such thing as white culture. Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position. It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no reason other than to defend it. Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist, and the white skin would have no more social significance than big feet.” – Noel Ignatiev, ‘The Point Is Not To Interpret Whiteness But To To Abolish It’

  • mmmdot

    “Whiteness is an identity without a soul and empty interior space created by negations and exclusion.” – Scott Malcomson