On the surface, a documentary about White people sounds absurd. Given the way most American schools are set up, a synonym for a project like this could easily be history class. But while we love to talk about how White people are and White people love to declare what they’re not (like racist), what we often don’t see are Caucasian Americans critically examining their Whiteness as it relates to minorities and outright recognizing and acknowledging the unearned privilege their skin allots them, and that is what “White People” does.
While it’s clear the purpose of this official MTV documentary is to get White folks to take a look at the privileged man in the mirror, for many minorities, the 41-minute film likely confirms beliefs we’ve held about White people and the way they see themselves and those around them all along. But there’s something very piercing about hypothetical conjecture being proven right — straight from the horse’s mouth – that’s helpful in making some sense of the issues that plague minorities in society week after week and the slow progression we’ve experienced on that front. So, here are a few things we learned about White people from “White People.”
The White bubble is real
We tend to assume White people don’t know about or understand the pandemic of racial hostility and intolerance currently brewing within society simply because they choose not to, but the fact is a lot of White people are living in a White bubble – literally.
According to research from MTV and David Bender, the average white American lives in a town that’s 77% Caucasian and the average young White person’s group of friends is 91% white. Now that’s no excuse for not being engaged in the national news and the world in which we live, but when you perceive yourself as being so far removed from a problem, it’s hard to acknowledge there’s one at all. Even harder still is the reality that you might be a part of it.
White people really believe discrimination against them is a problem
If you hear a White person utter the term “reverse discrimination” in your presence, trust and believe they’re not just playing devil’s advocate. The MTV/David Bender research revealed that nearly 50% of young white people feel discrimination against them is as big a problem as it is for minorities. How? You may be asking in your Kanye voice.
Well when White people in the documentary were asked to list the disadvantages that come along with their race no one made a peep, but on closer examination it was clear some White folks have quite the chip on their shoulder when it comes to one particular area: college admissions and the perception that “white folks aren’t getting the same opportunities” as prospective students of color.
And they’re wrong
Despite one girl, Katy, and her mother trying to convince filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas that not being awarded a scholarship to get into Grand Canyon University when you are Caucasian high school student with a 3.8 GPA in the top 10% of your class is “almost reverse discrimination,” it’s not.
As pointed out in the doc, White people are 40 % more likely to get scholarships than minorities.
Of the 62% of White undergrads walking around on college campuses, a whopping 69% have a scholarship of some sort. Meanwhile, minorities make up 38% of the undergraduate population and only receive 31% of the scholarships. To put it plainly as it was stated in the film, “They’re [White people] disproportionately getting more scholarships.” In other words, numbers don’t lie and “You’re not at a disadvantage.”
Even when they’re wrong, they’ve still got that victim thing down pat
You want to see a White person get turned on real quick? Skip to minute 22 of the film when the numbers about minority scholarships are read and Katy’s friends realize all the blame she’s been placing on minorities about the fact that she has to attend a community college because she didn’t get a scholarship is unfounded. But even in that moment, the 18-year-old Arizona native still manages to utter the words, “I’m the victim” when her crew finally pulls the wool off of their eyes, explaining that she was just “feeling excluded from a certain thing” and “No one wants to feel excluded, especially for the color of their skin.”
White people would still rather pretend minorities aren’t excluded against every day than acknowledge their privilege
White folks love to say they’re colorblind, but if you ever wanted a hard figure for just how many non people of color think society would really be better off if race was never acknowledged, that number is ¾ of the individuals surveyed. That’s likely why less than 1 in 3 White people surveyed say they’ve talked about race with their family and a staggering 4/5 respondents say they feel uncomfortable discussing race issues.
Sadly, the ability to be able to choose whether or not one talks about race issues wasn’t even recognized as an example of White privilege, with a common explanation for White people’s aversion to discussing race being brought up by one Michigan man who sad “I don’t want to be ashamed that I’m white.” One can only hope that in time more White people will begin to realize there’s no reason to feel guilty about actions carried out against minorities in the past which they had no control over, but they can choose to take action to not let history repeat itself. As we see from the latest headlines of the day, that part has yet to come to pass.
Image Credits: MTV/YouTube Screenshot