A Different World

Is MTV ‘White People’ documentary meant to elicit white guilty?

A documentary taking a unique look at the issue of race from the perspective of white people (or purports to) is scheduled to air tonight on MTV.

The early reviews from those who have been given a preview don’t seem promising.

Others have screamed “white shaming” based on the trailer for the documentary.

Even though the idea itself seems like a long overdue one, those who have seen it says MTV didn’t pull it off well:

Aisha Harris: I, too, think this is a great idea for a documentary—but unfortunately, it met my expectations of what a typical MTV doc (which, at 40 minutes, is really more like a TV special) will inevitably be like. That is to say: admirable in its goals, but disappointing in its execution. Vargas visits several cities across the country (mostly in predominantly white, rural areas) and profiles white people in each of those cities, but we spend so little time with each of them, and the conversations are edited so heavily, that it always felt rushed. One college kid introduces his black college friends (he chose to go to the historically black Winston-Salem State University) to his white friends from home for the first time, and the dinner table talk felt so … juvenile? I think that’s the word. It felt like something that would be meant for third graders to watch (I’m reminded of Linda Ellerbee and her Nick News TV show that I loved as a kid), and not something that would actually benefit young adults.

Vargas asked the white friends to talk about what they thought of black people, and vice versa—what’s supposed to be this revelatory moment (white girl says “I used to cross the street if I saw a black person coming toward me,” black girl starts crying because she doesn’t like being referred to as “ghetto”) feels completely useless in 2015. I would hope we’d be way beyond just having these kinds of basic conversations and instead getting more confrontational and thoughtful.

Read more here.

I’m hoping it is not about white shaming and much deeper than the reviewers above suggest.

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