Thoughts on Netflix’s ‘Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea.’

*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, ChelseaHonestly 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.

Thoughts

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.

Keyword: Somewhat

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.”

Live footage of me once I knew Chelsea’s ass was about to get checked

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.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. “…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.”
    I’M WITH YOU ON THAT, BUDDY.
    I AGREE, IT WAS A SOPHMORIC “NICE TRY.” BUT THE CONVERSATION IN THIS COUNTRY HAS ALREADY SURPASSED WHERE SHE BEGINS IN THIS DOCUMENTARY. IT’S LIKE IF YOU’RE GOING TO JOIN IN ON OUR CHAT GROUP ABOUT “EMPIRE”, DON’T BE JUMPING IN AT “OH MY GOD, CAN YOU BELIEVE LUCIOUS DIDN’T REALLY HAVE ALS ALL ALONG?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Ghetto Activist says:

      Thanks for reading! Great point as well. But then again it really highlights how ignorant most people are when it comes to topics and conversations surrounding race.

      Like

  2. For one, I had no idea who the fuck Chelsea Handler was.
    I think that’s actually important. I understood that she was a comedienne of some kind and had show(s) before, but she was never really on my radar. Netflix recommended this to me the weekend it was released, so I watched it. Not knowing much about her allowed me to take the piece at face value without reading any sinister motives into it.

    I’ve read such polarized reviews. Some people are harshly critical of how ignorant she is or how self-righteous she must’ve felt to even create a work like this at such an early stage of awareness. Others, like me, think that’s exactly what she set out to make. It’s right in the title, “Hello Privilege.”… Seeing her privilege in the mirror for the first time and making the choice all White people must make in that moment: face it or ignore it. Heck, even acknowledging that having the option to ignore it is only made possible by privileged is a leap that most White people won’t make. Many choose willful ignorance. They choose to look at examples of White privilege and move the bar, set the goal post further away to enable their denial.

    White people post memes of poor White kids or comparisons of Al Sharpton vs Willie Nelson to somehow prove White privilege is a myth. I doubt her special will even be watched by a single White person that hasn’t already acknowledged their privilege. She won’t change any minds with this piece. But, I do believe she will provide, I don’t know… support? I’m not sure of the words here, but if you’re a White person alone in your circle of friends and family, seeing this piece may help. Seeing that you’re further along and more aware than Chelsea may even empower you to use commenting on how her special falls short as a way to pry open a conversation.

    It is interesting to read reviews though. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got White people who don’t even believe White privilege is a thing making fun of her and on the other you’ve got people who see the ironic White privilege of the special itself (also making fun of her).

    If this is how she copes with seeing herself in the mirror the first time, then so be it. I don’t believe it hurts and if it prompts others facing the choice between truth and ignorance to open their minds and do a little more research then I applaud it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Ghetto Activist says:

      These are all good points. Like I sadi in the piece, I really didn’t know who Chelsea Handler was, but the intro did grab me. It’s not often you hear white people trying to have an honest conversation about racism.

      I did have my issue with the doc sas I clearly stated in the piece. However, I do agree with you that this doc is in some shape or form, “support,” in the over all fight against whie supermacisy.

      Like

  3. I hope my rambling reply didn’t come off as disagreeing with you or adding points you forgot… I was ultimately trying to say that we both kind of went into it not knowing much about her and came away with a similar impression of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Ghetto Activist says:

      Of course it didn’t!

      I thought we had similar thoughts as well. I didn’t want to trash the doc like a lot of people did by pointing out the obvious white privilege. Like you said, it’s apart of the doc itself 😂. She even has a few clips where she admits she’s able to do this doc because of her privilege.

      Instead I thought it would be best to point out the area’s I enjoyed and then point out the area’s where she could improve 🤷🏾‍♂️ I hope she continues her journey tho

      Liked by 1 person

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