This Funny And Awkward Video Reminds Self-Righteous White Allies To Watch Their Hypocritical Asses
White people talking about race is sometimes just awful to listen to, and Traction, this funny and awkward video, shows how white allies have to watch their hypocrisy sometimes. The short film, written and directed by and starring Rory Uphold, does this by having a woman lecture a man about telling a racist joke only to later assume a black man on the street asking for directions is homeless. Everyone screws up being an ally big time.
Uphold told The Frisky, “I wanted to show people with the best intentions, falling short. I’d like to think that I am a pretty self-aware, conscious, person, but I’m sure I have blind spots. It’s a vulnerable feeling to admit that you may have bias.” Which is exactly what happens in the short film.
The video starts with two very normal white people out on a first date at one of those trendy restaurants where the waitress has to gush about how good your meal was with you before she’ll walk away and leave you be. It’s all going good at first — the woman is confidently pounding ribs and making that’s-what-she-said jokes, and the dude isn’t that terrible. Basically, things are going much better than most of my dates ever have.
Until the guy makes a joke about black people liking ribs and the record just totally fucking skips. The woman does what seems like the right (or righteous) thing and calls him out, even though he thinks she’s overreacting. “It was just a joke,” he says. “Yeah, predicated on years of oppression,” she replies. “I’m just really sensitive about this stuff?” she explains, her voice going up an octave.
The video shows how deep racism runs through us. Uphold said:
“Traction was a reaction to a lot of the racist behavior I witnessed online. I’m never going to understand what it’s like to grow up as a racial minority in America, nor is that my story to tell, but I did feel moved to contribute to the conversation surrounding racism in America.”
Hey white people, did you know that many black people aren’t even sure they want you to be an ally? There’s a strong argument for getting white people out of the way to enact real change, especially with Black Lives Matter actually getting attention now.
On the other hand, there’s also the argument in favor of white allies. It’s widely accepted that people are often better convinced of things — like thinking a little deeper about what a racist stereotype actually does — by people who look like them. Black Lives Matter specifically asks “white allies to use their privilege, influence, and wealth to talk about white supremacy and state violence against Black people. We urge them to show deference to Black people when doing so, to support black-led organizing.”
What makes this video so dark (because it’s pretty fucking dark) is that the woman is really trying to be an ally during dinner, where there are no black people around. But then she gets in her own way and ends up looking like the way bigger asshole.
As the couple is leaving the restaurant after the terribly awkward confrontation about the racist joke, a black guy comes up to ask them something, and before he can even get the words out of his mouth, the woman says she doesn’t have any money to give him. Turns out, he was just trying to get directions and the woman was clearly being racist by assuming he was homeless. By trying too hard to be an ally to black people, she ignored her own deep, racist shit.
Uphold explained the twist to The Frisky: “I wanted to call out white people on our privilege, because it’s a very real thing (like how that FSU student was tasered instead of shot), and I wanted to show implicit racial bias in a so-called ‘woke’ white woman. I also wanted to try and do it in a way that was authentic to my voice.”
It’s not easy for many white people to talk about racism without somehow making it about them, just like the chick in the video. White people need to remember to check themselves before confronting others about racist comments or behaviors. White people probably shouldn’t call themselves an “ally,” either. They should just actually do something, leaving behind self-righteousness and thinking before they act. Hypocrisy can happen to even the well-intentioned.
If you’re not examining your privilege critically and just assume that since you’re “not racist,” you’re good, you’re probably wrong. And getting in the way of change.