The problem for me came when the tone of the special shifted from defining White privilege and exploring it, to a therapy session for Handler to exercise her “White guilt!” For most Black folks, “White guilt” is just as problematic as “White privilege.”
For most Black folks, “White guilt” is just as problematic as “White privilege.”
Her guilt stems from bad decisions she made as a teenager, I guess as an act of rebellion, Handler dated a Black guy named Tyshon, a drug dealer from the wrong side of the tracks. And many times during their relationship, where he was arrested for selling said drugs, she was always allowed to go home even though she was in possession as well.
And it didn’t occur to her till she was in her 40s that it was White privilege all along?
As a way of reconciling her guilt, she decides its time to pay Tyshon a visit to apologize for… her “Whiteness”? This where it goes off the rails for me. Because it stopped being about White privilege and became about her needing her conscious to be coddled and be told, “It’s all going to be okay.” Handler made it all about her.
This very same fact is reiterated when she speaks to Melina Abdullah, Co-Founder of #BlackLivesMatter. “I don’t want to have to hold you because you’re seeing your White Supremacy. And now it’s my job as the person who is experiencing your White Supremacy, to stroke you because you’re feeling bad about your White Supremacy?”
“I don’t want to have to hold you because you’re seeing your White Supremacy. And now it’s my job as the person who is experiencing your White Supremacy, to stroke you because you’re feeling bad about your White Supremacy?”
In my humble, yet unfiltered opinion, this whole special felt like something to “check off the list.” Chelsea Handler made a shit-ton of money off of her best-selling book, Uganda Be Kidding me! She has told her Black jokes. She has dated her Black rappers and used that experience for her highly-rated shows. So now, her sudden “privileged awakening” is supposed to be rewarded and thanked? And it’s not as if by the end of the show she comes to any profound resolution. If her goal was to make White people aware of their privilege, she didn’t do nearly enough to make any real difference. People who thought “White privilege” was a myth before this special, will think it is after this special.
The one bright spot of this whole “documentary” was her interview with southern rapper, Jelly Roll “The King of White Trash.” This is a man who has grown up around nothing but Black folks and he gave such an amazing commentary on the broken system toward Black folks that is ignored on a regular basis. Honestly, I would have rather watched a whole special with just him.
Would I recommend this film? I’m going to reluctantly say, yes. The good thing about this special is, it’s on Netflix, and it’s only an hour. And there is enough there to keep your interest and not feel like you’ve wasted your time. The hard part is believing that this wasn’t anything more than some bullshit to get a Netflix special done for a suitcase of money.