Thanks to social media and the #Blacklivesmatter movement, the phrase “White Silence = White Consent” has circulated Twitter and Facebook among many of all races who believe that the key to curing racism in America begins with an honest conversation among those who make up the country’s majority – White People. It’s the name of MTV’s upcoming documentary airing July 22 which will hopefully take this conversation off social media and onto to the small screen for a demographic that needs it the most – white millennials. “The construction of racism has benefited white people, not people of color,” says Jose Antonia Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning filmmaker and journalist behind White People. “What I hope this film does is get us closer to the fuller reckoning in history of this country which has yet to be really told.”
According to a 2014 study among millennials, provided by MTV’s public affairs campaign “Look Different”, more than three in four (79%) admitted being friends with people with biases. 72% said that their generation believes in equality more than older people. Although when asked if the government pays too much attention to the problems of racial minority groups, 41% of whites answered “yes,” compared to 21% of people of color. But in the age of a modern civil rights movement led by mostly millennials, the government’s responsibility in addressing race has become a hot topic seen in the Department of Justice’s investigations of police brutality murders of unarmed black men, women, and children to the #TakeItDown confederate flag debate among southern senators. 54% of millennials polled agreed that it’s “hard to have a respectful conversation about bias in
person or online.” This seems to mainly be the issue of white people, who have been historically uncomfortable discussing racism.
In a EW.com news article written by Marc Snetiker on MTV’s upcoming film, the headline reads; “Watch the uncomfortable trailer for MTV’s documentary White People.” After breaking it down the story finishes with the line, “Watch the trailer—did we mention it’s uncomfortable?—below.” While in a Refinery29.com piece by Lauren Le Vine entitled “Why Did MTV Make a Documentary Called White People?” Le Vine, like EW.com, reminds readers “The discussions in White People are bound to make some viewers uncomfortable.”
But isn’t that the point? When has an honest conversation about racism ever been comfortable? And when has avoiding a difficult topic ever been healthy for a relationship?
Racism is a people issue, a family issues, and a (lack of) love issue. Like being in any of these relationships, ignoring a lingering problem and not discussing it because it makes someone “uncomfortable” has always led to deeper complications. Hence network producers and people in charge of mainstream news media – who are mostly white – mimic the historical habitual silence of those in their culture by nervously choosing to not cover race related stories. That is, until a millennial, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, shoots dead nine African American elders at a Charleston’s Emmanuel AME Church bible study while proudly representing white supremacists who wave the confederate flag. Finally, after these disturbingly violent deaths the country cannot deny that we need to discuss racial bias. And thanks to the loud power of social media, ignited long ago by injustices in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, LA, and countless cities nationwide – ignoring the skin color issue can no longer persist. America has officially been forced to admit to this country’s age old embarrassing racist sickness proceeding the 1787 enactment of the three-fifths compromise counting slaves as three-fifths of a human in the United States Constitution.
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