White People Documentary MTV
photo: MTV

Vargas shows us a rare instance of white people feeling what people of color feel every day, the “otherness” that having a different skin color, language, or culture can create. The high school girls are asked to work through an exercise on stereotypes by listing everything they can think of that's associated with different groups like Native Americans, blacks and whites on big pieces of paper. Their well-meaning white, male teacher holds up the paper labeled “White” and notes, “Most of the things on this paper are negative.” Vargas can’t help but correct him, pointing out, “All of the things they wrote on that paper are negative.” This flipping of the script was a real revelation, as was the exploration of the derogatory term “wasichu.”

Vargas asks a group of Native American girls if their favorite white teacher is a “wasichu” to which most reply “Yes.” One clarifies her feelings by saying, “But, she’s the most awesomest wasichu ever.” One lone young lady stays quiet. Noticing her reluctance, Vargas asks her why she’s uncomfortable. “Because my parents didn’t raise me like that,” she declared. “That’s not a nice word to call people, and I don’t use it.”

Everyone should watch this doc, not necessarily for the answers it provides, but for the questions it asks. The history of white privilege is long and hard for most white people to accept, but the worst thing we could possibly do is pretend it doesn’t exist. Acknowledging the fact that whites hold a position of power and privilege is something that everyone needs to do. Only then can we really have the kinds of discussions about race that stand a chance of changing us as a country.