White People | Reflections

MTV’s documentary, White People [2015] by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Wikipedia pagerace.lookdifferent.com; The Trouble With “White People” by Hua Hsu, The New Yorker; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: White People Gets It Right About Being White, TimeWhite People 101 by Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic.

You can read several reviews from the above links that are quite insightful. Below are some aspects worth noting and considering

A) Facts. Vargas’s commitment to the data is laudable. In addition, he is careful with the numbers with a piercingly dispassionate attitude. As a result, he is careful not to read too much out of the data, nor does he attempt to leverage the data for “an argument.” His efforts at simply seeking first to understand reality is incredibly honorable, even as it is seemingly scarce and endangered ethic in journalism. As has been so widely discussed before, without shared information, we can have no real debate or public discourse about issues that really matter.

B) Empathy. Vargas’s empathetic ear holds the space and emotions of his interviewees in such a way that is disarming and welcoming. He models what compassionate journalism is all about. When many are looking for a good “headline,” Vargas appears to desire desperately the root realities of race and feelings.

C) Educating. Through it all, we get mini-lessons on sociology and psychology that are worth noting; how tribal identities form us and ground us, how blindness and bias are double-layered realities (one, that we are blind to our biases, and two, we don’t even know that we’re blind to them.)

D) Curiosity. Vargas’s strategy of using questions is brilliant, (e.g. “What disadvantage is there in being white?”) Using those kinds of interrogatives pierce deeply into the realities of our human experience, and we need more of these kinds of questions, questions that probe deep, driven by curiosity, and a desire to understand. We don’t need anymore “gotcha” questions so prevalent in our contemporary discourse. In addition, I do believe the opposite of fear is not courage, but curiosity. You can see the fear being slowly dismantled as people become a bit more curious.

D) Invitation. In it all, the most we can do is end up extending to others an invitation to understand, to appreciate the facts, to empathize with another, to poke and prod our presuppositions, and to wonder deeply about all the dynamics that exist in this human experience and experiment. While the title “White People” for many elicits a negative reaction (which is understood), I extend to you this same invitation, to watch, and consider what lessons you could learn by engaging in Vargas’s work.

About VIA


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