Yes, We Watched MTV's 'White People'

Unsurprisingly, MTV's White People doesn't do much to change the racial conversation.

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Image via Complex Original
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Back in the day, MTV had been known for fostering tough conversations via shows like The Real World, documentaries, and their election coverage. Now, MTV is mostly known for not playing music videos. But with a recent crop of critically acclaimed scripted shows and Laverne Cox's documentary series about trans teenagers, it seems like MTV could get their political groove back. 

So, when the trailer for MTV's White People dropped a couple weeks ago, the Complex staff was naturally curious about what this documentary could actually accomplish. The premise of the doc, hosted by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, was fairly simple—white people would be faced with thinking about what kind of advantages being white gives them. 

In actually watching the doc, for many of us, it didn't accomplish much in white people being called out. But, at the very least, White People could be a start for critical (and necessary) conversations about race. 

White People premieres on July 22 on MTV. 


I Promise This Is the Last Time I Write About ‘White People’

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White America Doesn't Need Another Show About Itself

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Can We Stop Using 'Color Blind' As An Excuse?

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'White People' Pulls No Punches

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Commenters on this here website have called me a social justice warrior, the most politically correct writer at Complex, and a pussy when I’ve dared to make cursory acknowledgement of white male privilege (of which I benefit from myself). So, naturally, I expected to revel in this documentary featuring white people forced to face their whiteness—for the purposes of both progress and entertainment.

Unfortunately, White People fails to deliver either. The very nature of its structure, recruiting volunteers to talk earnestly about race, attracted a group of people who already “get it.” More of the short, 40-minute running time was spent with (white) people stating the obvious instead of learning anything. And the few people brought in who don’t understand race aren’t willing to budge and aren’t really pressed to. Fox News viewer/step-dad Mark reacts to his Lucas’ White Privilege course exactly like you’d expect him to. Angelo says it’d be easy for the Chinese people in his neighborhood to learn how to say “Hello, how are you?” No one points out it’d be easy for him to learn to do the same in their language. Katy eventually admits whites aren’t at a disadvantage for scholarships, despite the widespread myth. But first she becomes sullen and bratty when host Jose Antonio Vargas recites the statistics and her non-white friend points out the facts refute Katy’s claims of unfair treatment. “Now I’m like the victim here.”


Ultimately, White People is too concerned about covering white privilege delicately. Vargas doesn’t want to hurt the white people’s feelings, and this approach prevents him from truly (and fairly) calling them on their shit. White people need to be hit with some bluntness for the truth to come through. It may be upsetting, but it’s time to get over it and realize it’s not about us.

--Ian Servantes

Is 'White People' MTV's Biggest Troll Yet?

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'White People' Will Start A Conversation, But Do We Want That?

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