White People Documentary: Do White People Believe #WhitePrivilege is Real?

MTV recently broadcast a documentary called White People that spoke about white privilege in America. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch the entire documentary here. It runs approximately 40 minutes.

I have to say I was impressed with the documentary. As a person who has worked in helping professions throughout my adult life, I’ve sometimes found myself faced with the reality that I cannot possibly know what life is like for the family I’m working with.

When I was younger, I thought I understood. As someone who was female and fat, I was often ostracized, and I thought that experience was the same. But I finally got it when someone flat-out told me this: at any time I could choose to play the “white people” game and I could be accepted into the fold, but people who are not white will never have that opportunity.

So no, I’ll never truly know what it’s like.

From AndrewdavidArt.com
From AndrewDavidCoxArtist.com

But I’ll also never get where white people get this idea that by embracing diversity, they lose something. Take for instance the whites who are up at arms over the removal of the rebel flag from government property. That flag is their beloved symbol of white privilege. The response has been intense, from postings on Facebook to flags waving all over the place here, from cars to fence posts. One guy I saw waving the flag from the back of his motorcycle. I don’t know what message this display is supposed to give, but the one I get is, “I’m white and I’m privileged, and I’m damn sure gonna make sure things stay that way.” Never have I heard these people even try to understand what that flag symbolizes for descendants of slaves. Instead, they dismiss it. It’s about heritage. It’s about their ancestors’ pride. “It’s about me, so fuck you!”

I have come to believe that white privilege is a pox on our society. As long as any one group is held in higher esteem than another, we will all suffer. Anyone can listen to Donald Trump’s rhetoric and attribute his lead in the GOP primary to white people trying to hold on to what they see as theirs. But privilege should not just be ours. It should belong to all.


So, white peeps, here are some beliefs I accept today about my being white:

-Being white does not give me protection from having my shit stolen or make it more of a tragedy when my shit IS stolen

-Being white doesn’t make me less likely to get a scholarship or a job because of Affirmative Action

-Living in a neighborhood with persons of color doesn’t make me less safe.

-My white kids going to school with kids of color does not put them at an educational disadvantage.

The reality is that diversity actually MIGHT take something from me, but only because the playing field would finally be level and I’d actually have to compete for something based on merit and not based on privilege. I can live with that.


I guess you’re wondering why a member of the privileged class would even care about racism. I confess, my reasons are partially selfish. You see, I have this crazy idea that if we were to break down this hierarchical structure of haves and have nots, it would free us all of the bonds of having to play certain roles. Imagine what it would be like to no longer be expected to be that sweet, non-confrontational white woman that wears uncomfortable shoes, tight dresses, and never eats for fear of gaining weight?

Oh well, maybe not in my lifetime, but perhaps some day?

14 thoughts on “White People Documentary: Do White People Believe #WhitePrivilege is Real?

  1. As a white, I have been aware of white privilege for years; I became a member of the Baha’i Faith in 1966, and Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Faith speaks to the oneness of humanity. I took this seriously, and have been involved in race amity for years. My black friends are disgusted, rightfully so. I have felt, may my life be a sacrifice, towards attaining racial unity (not assimilation). Human rights are God given rights. I have in the last year or so joined Gather at the Table, an incredible group nationally, and here in Pasadena, we are Coming to the Table and meet and connect on a very deep level of integrity, tremendous reverence for each person’s rights, and intense authenticity. Some day, maybe in 1,000 years, we will all regard one another as each other’s trust. But now, we must face reality, and we must stand up and be counted. I wish everyone the best.

  2. As someone of Spanish, Mexican Indian and German heritage, I didn’t always feel ostracized because of that. I felt more alone because I was shy, short and non-athletic during my childhood. But I’ve noticed something curious. Years ago it was other White kids (Anglos, Irish, German, etc.) who expressed bigotry towards me. I faced it almost daily in high school and even college. But, once into my adulthood, things turned, and now it’s other Hispanics or Latinos (and Blacks) who sometimes express hostility towards my German background. Bigotry comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.

  3. It’s really impossible to walk in another’s shoes and each person’s view comes from what they as an individual have actually lived with and by.
    Having always been in diverse/mostly minority places and raised to believe you judge an individual by their words and actions not their skin, ancestry, or religion, I am alternately bemused and annoyed by those that are stuck in their heads.
    On my first teaching job in far south TX, I was pretty surprised that the biggest conflicts were between the kids of mostly Mexican descent and those of mostly Spanish descent. Bitter rivalry. Comes from parents and is rooted in people’s hearts and souls. When those last 3 things change, we might have a chance. Not holding my breath, so going with live and let live, and agree to disagree and still be friends. (and that is possible if people make a choice to do so )

  4. Awesome post, Jen. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but there’s nothing wrong with continuing to march towards the dream, right?

    1. Yeah, but you also have to ask yourself how and why you were taught that fellow American citizens are not like you simply because of a different skin tone.

  5. One reason it’s so hard for white people to feel our privilege is because so few people find themselves in a setting where they can observe it. It’s sort of like the fish who doesn’t know what water is.

    It’s little things like shopping in an African American neighborhood and being the only person not asked to leave her bag at the front counter or big things like being pulled over for speeding (like happened to us recently) and just feeling embarrassed and not afraid for your life.

    And yes, I’ve been very lucky. But I believe my own life will only be better when we achieve equality for everyone. Because it’s horrifying to live in a world, and benefit from a society, where people fear for their lives just because of the color of their skin.

    Great post.

  6. There’s white privilege in the way we talk about race. For instance, it’s white people versus people of color or, put another way, white people versus everyone else in America who is not obviously white. Just saying that creates an Us vs Them platform for the conversation and one that is tipped in favor of whites because we represent one group whereas everyone else has to unite their varied groups just to be compared to us. It’s like in movies when all the seventeen of the picked-on kids have to team up to go against the two school bullies. We’re saying that white is solidarity and everyone else is the ragtag bunch of misfits who have to work together to take up the same space white people just have.
    C.K.’s quote up there – that 80% of the population is made up of minorities – doesn’t just highlight bad, white-only math with white people being the majority at 20% both because we believe that we’re the majority, despite numbers, but it also illustrates the continuing strength of the white population because if you break down the minorities by individual race, no individual race occupies 20% of the population. White is not broken down by individual race because white is its very own special race of whiteness so if White Race is at 20% and no other single race has 20% or more representation in the community, white is still on top because of course we are. Once again, all the minorities put together create 80% of a population but white people, alone, have a full 20% representation.
    To me, it seems like we’re upholding our privilege just by the way we frame the conversation.

    I realize I probably totally misstated what I meant to say because I am terrible at communicating my thoughts on this topic. Like the video said, white people have an awful time talking about white privilege because how can you talk about something you haven’t ever seen or experienced and don’t know about until it’s brought to your attention? I hope, though, that posts like this and stumblings like mine will create the tools needed to talk about race and privilege and why one set of people shouldn’t automatically get more than other sets of people and how we can break that down in coming generations.

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