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Five Years Later, MTV Documentary "White People" Still Relevant

The documentary "White People" stirred controversy when it was released in 2015, but has gained new relevance in 2020. (Define American)
The documentary "White People" stirred controversy when it was released in 2015, but has gained new relevance in 2020. (Define American)
July 22, 2020

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- In 2015, the documentary "White People" aired on MTV, exploring race and whiteness. Five years later, it's gaining renewed appeal in light of the Movement for Black Lives and protests against police brutality.

On Wednesday afternoon, the organization Define American is holding a watch party and panel discussion on "White People." Bellingham resident Lucas Nydam, who is white, is featured in the documentary, teaching a racial justice workshop at Whatcom Community College. He said many white people don't discuss race with their families.

"Conversations about race usually get labeled divisive a lot, even just mentioning race," Nydam said. "So growing up in my household, we didn't really talk about race."

The panel discussion following the film will include Nydam, director Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder of Natives in America Megan Red Shirt-Shaw, and journalists Soraya Nadia McDonald and Wesley Lowery.

Noelle Lindsay-Stewart, head of entertainment, partnerships and advocacy at Define American, said it's important for white people to come to the table and talk about race. And she said the film shows that these conversations don't have to be scary.

"Recognizing and being able to sit with the fact that we're not going to get it right every single time, and that we have to be working actively to learn more and to do better," Lindsay-Stewart said.

She said the film created a lot of controversy in 2015, but it's gained new relevance in the country's current reckoning on race.

"Whereas it felt like a very taboo thing to talk about five years ago for a lot of people, now a lot of folks are being called to action and inspired to join this conversation around systemic racism and racial justice."

The watch party will begin at 4 p.m. at DefineAmerican.com/White-People.

Disclosure: Define American contributes to our fund for reporting on Census, Civic Engagement, Civil Rights, Immigrant Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA