I just watched the first episode of Black. White., and it wasn’t quite what I expected. Was anyone else surprised by how fantastically demeaning, patronizing, and WASPy the white couple was? That dude was hellbent on being called a nigga, and his wife was just totally clueless.
Before I get into this, full disclosure: I come from a podunk Buffalo suburb that, according to Wikipedia, is 99% white. My grade school was all white, my high school was almost entirely white (like, less than a dozen non-white kids in my four years there), and despite a reasonably large contingent of international students, my college was mostly white.
So yeah, my life hasn’t seen a lot of diversity, and as such, I notice race. I don’t consciously think about it, but it bothers me that even subconsciously I feel like I have to attach race to who someone is. On one hand, it shouldn’t be a big deal - race is part of who we are, and describing someone as, “You know, the tall black guy” shouldn’t be weird (the thing that makes it weird is that no one seems to ever say, “You know, the tall white guy”). On the other hand, it seems like race shouldn’t even come into play: I’d like to think we’re all on a level playing field, but that’s just not the case yet. It’s like that episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe, when he dates the black girl who tries to explain how we should celebrate our diversity while acknowledging the fact that we’re all exactly the same (or something to that effect).
I think I agree with the white guy on the show (despite the blinding ignorance of some of his comments): it’s not about race, it’s about the way you present yourself. If you’re polite and decent, it doesn’t matter what color you are. Who would you trust more, a polite guy in a business suit, or a guy with baggy jeans, long gold necklaces, and sideways baseball cap? It doesn’t matter if they’re black or white, the second guy isn’t the type I want to associate with either way.
The show came off as being superficial, but they’re trying to go deeper. The black guy keeps trying to explain to the white guy that he’s just not seeing things from the same angle because he’s been white his whole life, and he’s right. I can agree with the white guy and say that it’s who you are and not what color you are, but I’ve only been on my side of the fence, and the consensus seems to be that, now that you mention it, the grass here IS just the shade of green we were looking for. Race isn’t something that gets a lot of frank discussion (at least not in the largely-white circles I associate with); it’s still a touchy subject. My favorite part of the show was when the couples sat in on the focus groups about race, because it was interesting to see how both sides feel. I wish they would have included more of it, because honest, open discussion is the best way to dispel stereotypes and the like.
Also, I thought it was hilarious that the black kid wanted to do something white kids do, so he went to etiquette school. People still do that?
Also, apparently you can say “shit” on FX.