In the trailer for White People, a new MTV documentary, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas asks two young white men: “What does it feel like to be young and white?” The men, taken aback by the loaded question, awkwardly begin their answer with a nervous laugh.

It is indeed a charged inquiry, and rightly so. The documentary, which got major social media buzz a day after the trailer was released, comes at a crucial time in our country that continues a heated discourse on race, diversity, and immigration reform.  

White People seems to be pretty emotionally-driven — and at times super uncomfortable for those being interviewed — but an extremely important conversation that must be heard. There was some backlash today about how this film pinpoints blame on one race, but Vargas reiterated that this is not about blaming anyone. He tweeted:  

So, why did MTV choose Vargas as the host/face of adversity?  Vargas, acting as the mediator in the documentary, is more than qualified to ask young people what it means to be white. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage on the Virginia Tech shootings at The Washington Post, and soon after that win, he disclosed that he was an undocumented immigrant. That disclosure sparked another undertaking for the writer. In 2013, Vargas wrote, directed, and produced Undocumented: A film by an undocumented American that tells the story of his life from his childhood in the Philippines, to his journey to the U.S, and his rise as an outspoken advocate for undocumented immigrants and immigration reform.

The documentary, airing at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22nd on MTV,  isn’t a one-two punch in the gut that will change people overnight (hopefully it will), but leads viewers to MTV’s Lookdifferent.org campaign for those who want to educate themselves about their own biases.

Jose Antonio Vargas

photo: Corbis