MTV’s New Documentary Asks White People About Being White

The upcoming MTV documentary entitled “White People” sure sounds like visual clickbait. Maybe it is! You decide for yourself. In the trailer, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas rolls through various towns and cities across America, looking for young white people who are interested in discussing what whiteness means to them. (“White People” should not be confused with another documentary called “The Whiteness Project,” which we discussed here.) As one might imagine, this is a tense and tricky subject, but the young white people in the trailer handle it gamely, speaking tentatively about their honest opinions and experiences about being a white person in America. Warning: There are lots of white tears.

While the necessity of such a documentary is debatable, there’s no doubt that it will certainly be … interesting. Vargas is a respected journalist who wrote this moving and important essay about his life as an undocumented immigrant living in America. His take on the subject of whiteness is likely that of someone gazing at what seems close enough to touch but will always be beyond his grasp.

I don’t think that there’s really a need for this topic to be explored in full. One could argue that the dominant cultural narrative is a paean to whiteness, and so to hear any further discussion of such is tiresome and unimportant. But this will be worth watching to see if Vargas actually pushes his subjects beyond simply expounding upon the various ways their whiteness manifests.

If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, or at least to get an idea of where he’s coming from, here’s the website that accompanies the series, which kind of feels like a dumbed down version of Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Backpack.”

“White People” premieres on MTV on July 22.