*WARNING* This post will contain spoilers for the new Netflix documentary, Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea. From the title, you’d assume this was some obvious shit, but nonetheless.
“What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it..”
– James Baldwin
So a few days ago I ran across this Netflix documentary called Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know if I was going to actually watch it.
For one, I had no idea who the fuck Chelsea Handler was.
Two, I didn’t know if I had the energy to deal with the amount of ignorance a documentary like this would most likely have. If you’re a black person living in American, you know how draining conversations around race can be. Especially when it involves white people confronting their own whiteness…
So yeah, I swiped past that shit at first. But then I remembered Netflix added that feature that plays the trailer for a movie/show before you actually decide to watch whatever it is your hovering over.
So I swiped back to see if Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea had a trailer and surely enough it did.
I’m not going to lie, the trailer got me.
I mean look, it’s not often you hear white people say shit like, “I’m clearly the beneficiary of white privilege,” & then seem geeked up about confronting white people about their own whiteness. Like, that shit caught me completely off guard bruh.
Then I noticed it was only an hour and four minutes long… So I decided, what the hell, why not give it a play.
So overall I think the documentary is… Ummmm…
I think it’s a nice sophomore attempt at understanding a very complex issue…
There are parts in the documentary I love, and there are parts in the documentary that made me cringe.
Before I jump into my quick thoughts, I want to thank Chelsea Handler for even attempting something like this in the first place. I personally know how tough and costly conversations like this can be, so whenever I see someone who has a platform attempt to tackle complex issues such as whiteness and white privilege I think it should be noted and somewhat applauded.
Iight now that’s out of the way, let’s jump into the shits.
Explaining White Privilege
Pretty much throughout the entire documentary, we see white privilege being checked and called out. Sometimes less than others, but nonetheless, white privilege was the main theme throughout most of the documentary. Idk about you, but there is something pleasurable about seeing white privilege and white supremacy being checked at the MF door.
Like there is this one scene when Chelsea goes to this open mic-type of event where white privilege was the topic of discussion. Chelsea grabs the mic and gives a brief intro to who she is and informs the crowd that she’s currently shooting a documentary for Netflix about white privilege. Literally, the next scene after that is when this woman of color grabs the mic, turns toward Chelsea, and begins to say, “feel free to edit this out.”
She then proceeds to check Chelsea’s MF privilege, so I appreciated that aspect of the doc.
However, just to keep it 100…
I think she got a little too hung up on trying to explain what white privilege is from an emotional standpoint of view instead of coming from a very factual data-driven point of view.
In the documentary Chelsea constantly uses her past experience with her run-ins with the police as an example of white privilege. She tells this story about how she used to date this black guy named Tashawn, and on three or four separate occasions they both got caught by the cops with dime bags (I’ assuming weed). And each time they got caught, Tashawn would get arrested, but the cops would always let her go saying shit like, “go back to your neighborhood.”
Let me be clear, on its face this is a great real-life example of how white privilege manifests itself in our daily lives. But it’s very, surface level. In other words, it’s great to use this story to help introduce white people to the idea of what white privilege is, but it has to be coupled with hard facts.
Hard facts like;
- Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable usage rates.
- Marijuana arrests now make up nearly half of all drug arrests, with police making over 7 million marijuana possession arrests between 2001 and 2010.
- In counties with the worst disparities, Blacks were as much as 30 times more likely to be arrested than Whites. The racial disparities exist in ALL regions of the U.S., as well as in both large and small counties, cities and rural areas, and in both high- and low-income communities.
More of these facts can be found here; The War on Marijuana in Black and White
Without these facts, it’s much easier for people to dismiss the personal story Chelsea told as a lucky break that probably had less to do with race and more to do with something else.
Confronting White Fragility
After that open-mic event, Chelsea had finally realized something black people have been saying for years now.
She finally realized that American racism is a white problem, and it’ll only be solved once white people do something about it. In fact, she said something that almost made me stand up and start clapping.
“We as white people need to stop expecting black people to fix our problems.”
– Chelsea Handler | Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea
As soon as she came to that realization and that she needed to confront white people about racism, I knew we were about to witness some white fragility at it’s finest…
First, what’s White Fragility.
White Fragility is a term Robin DiAngelo created to help explain why it’s so tough for white people to talk about race and racism.
Robin says that White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
There is a scene in the documentary when Chelsea sits down with a group of conservative white women to discuss white privilege, and as soon as she mentions the words “white privilege” you can physically see all of these ladies White Fragility being triggered. They got so defensive that they tried to flip the conversation on its head. It got to the point to where they said if there is any type of privilege in America it’s black privilege…
It was obvious to me that these women were suffering from an extreme case of White Fragility, and as an anti-racist activist, I thought it was a perfect opportunity for Chelsea to tap into that resentment to help illustrate all the ways racism works in this country.
But since Chelsea isn’t hip to terminology like White Fargility I can’t really knock her for not calling it out, and for not challenging their visible discomfort. However, her lack of knowledge in this area of anti-racism is why this documentary kind of missed the mark for me…
All in All
In conclusion, I’d say Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea is worth the watch, but only if you’re interested in seeing how White Fragility is used to further white supremacy.
But if you’re honestly interested in learning what white privilege is, and how you can fight against it and white supremacy, I’d suggest reading one of my older pieces; White Saviors: Fantasy Vs. Reality.
The one major takeaway white people should get out of this documentary is that there will always be racism in America until white people take it upon themselves to dismantle it inside their own communities.
Donna K. Bivens who is widely known as an Anti-Racism Trainer and Consultant once said; “practically speaking, people of color cannot force white people to notice, acknowledge or dismantle racism and the white privilege that results from it. Nor can we continually monitor and check up on their progress. For one thing, a great deal of what happens to hold racism and white privilege in place goes on out of the purview of peoples of color. Ultimately, white people must come to their own understanding of why it is in their interests to dismantle a system that does not work for all humanity and commit to creating something better.“