White People | Official Full Documentary | MTV

I’m trying to be careful here. Don’t be careful. You kind of get this feeling
that things belong to you. To be white is the good thing. We don’t even necessarily know
someone that’s not white. People here don’t see anybody
of another race, so there’s this barrier. Give me a hug. If I bring up any sort of race
issue with my parents, they immediately assume
that I’m demonizing them. I didn’t wanna feel like I couldn’t live in this house
with my beliefs. When you start seeing things
that aren’t your own- No, no English? You don’t speak? It’s gonna make you
wanna move away. Any minority group, if they get
a scholarship, straight white men
feel like something is being taken away from them. Kinda feels like
I’m being discriminated against. We’ve never had to internalize
what white have done in America, but here you can’t escape that. I’m getting uncomfortable.
It’s uncomfortable. Hey, this is great. Let’s get
all uncomfortable together. I’m Jose.
Sam. Sam, nice to meet you. I’m Ty.
Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you, too. So we’re doing a film for MTV on what it means
to be young and white. Okay. I think we fit the role.
Yes. We’re doing a show for MTV, Mm-hmm- -on what it means
to be young and white. Okay. Yes. That’s exactly what I’m talking
about. We talk about race
in this country … a lot. But we don’t include you
in the conversation. It’s only us. We talk, usually about you,
about white people. I’m interested in how you feel.
So some background. My name is Jose Antonio Vargas
and I look like this, which can get, as you can
imagine, a little confusing. You know, I look
a little more Asian, right? And … why is your name Jose? So I was born
in the Philippines. The Philippines was colonized
by the Spanish, which is how I got my name. I moved here to America
when I was 12. I’m actually
an undocumented immigrant so I’m not even
supposed to be here, according to the government. So, let me ask people
this question. What are you
and where are you from? I’m white. I’m Caucasian,
that is my heritage. Yeah, I find that really
interesting you know ’cause white is not a country. I would just consider myself
white, American. When you say white,
like what does that mean to you? White is the default.
It’s the default race. It’s just the norm.
To be white is the good thing. How would your life be different
if you weren’t white? I believe it could be different
because … it’s hard. I don’t necessarily go outside
of my group so I don’t know. Most white Americans do live
in kind of a white bubble. The typical white American lives
in a town that’s more than
three quarters white, and the average white person’s
group of friends is more than
90 percent white. White people usually
are raised by white people, they hang out
with white people, and so they’re completely
oblivious to issues of races that impact
non-white people. Hi. Are you Dakota? Yeah. How are you? I’m Jose. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you.
Hi. Hi.
This is my mom. Jose. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you.
Hey, I’m John. Hi, nice to meet you. Thank you for having me. So, this is
your high school picture? Yes. As you can see, I was really going
for the Justin Bieber look. So when did you stop this phase? When did you go
from that hair to- Soon after the pictures came out and I saw
how terrible it was so … You’re proud of being Southern. Yeah.
You’re a Southern man. So there’s this stereotype
that you can’t be gay and be Southern. But I can be both of those
at the same time. Talk to me about this town. Are there people of color
in this town? I don’t really see people
of any kind of race. Like black, Hispanic, Asian.
It’s all white people. And the people are really nice,
but at the end of the day, people are very close-minded. I hear negative things
about interracial couples and when you approach someone
who’s black on the street, that you’re not supposed to walk
on the same sidewalk as them. My parents have never displayed
any of that kind of behavior, but people would tell me
those things at school. That’s just what
I’ve grown up around. How would you describe
this community? Very small town.
Cliquey. It’s predominately white. If you-
Yes. Oh yeah. We had one and one family.
[crosstalk] One black family and that
was the only black people that were in our high school. It’s how it’s always been and I
don’t think it’ll ever change. This is the student center. This is. There’s restaurants
down here where people hang out. Considering
where Dakota grew up, you might be surprised to learn
where he goes to school. I decided to go to a
historically black college. A historically black college? Not just a school
that’s diverse. Right. Their academics
are really great. It was close to home
and so I could commute. What did your friends say
about this? People were like what? You know,
you really wanna go there because you know,
that’s a black college? And you’re not gonna fit in. If you teach your child all the
time then they become independent from you. The first few days here
was very surreal. I found myself trying
to count other white people, and I’ve never done
anything like that before. How did you all get
to be friends? We had a class together. Like I said to myself I know
we’re gonna be best friends. I’m glad that I wasn’t shy
and I just went ahead and started talking to him. What did you think we when
you first saw Dakota? He’s so cute. Right. You’re making me bashful. So you’re gonna meet,
for the first time, Dakota’s friends from school. Can’t wait. What has Dakota told you
about his hometown? Just that he has friends
there and- We all have things in common.
I just feel like a lot of times, race will put a barrier
in introducing groups of friends because you don’t want somebody
to say something offensive. It’s gonna be interesting
but I think it’s gonna be fun. Zoe. Hey. Hey. This is Miranda. Hi, my name’s Brittney. Hey, Brittney. Hey.
And this is Jasmine. Jasmine. Come here. Aw, look at you guys
wearing cheetah print. Y’all tried to match.
There you go. Why do you think it took
this long for y’all to meet each other? That’s Dakota’s fault, not mine. Growing up in this area, how often do you think
you guys talk about race? Oh no.
Hardly ever. We were talking about
some friends that you had that’s like hey, if there’s a black person
walking down the street, you- You go the other way. You go the other way. I will honestly say
I’ve done that before. You’ve done that before? It was that bad part of you
that thinks something bad. Would I do that now? Never. How about you? Like stereotypes that you have
about white people? Lay ’em out there, girl. They’re stuck up,
they’re all racist. They might be nice in your face but behind your back,
they’re gonna say something. What were you gonna say, Dakota? Yeah, I think
people like say oh, black people can get ghetto
real fast. Well, I can get
ghetto real fast, okay? [crosstalk] This is something that
I’ve always asked other people. What is ghetto? Like I don’t understand
like what is ghetto? You know like take your
earrings off and stuff. I know but that’s not … I mean, it’s on TV. Somebody says ghetto
every five seconds on if you turn on Housewives. I know. I understand what
the definition of it [crosstalk] I hate that word. It’s … Why do you hate that word? ‘Cause it’s not … No. No, no, no, no. Brittney, please don’t ’cause
I’m gonna start crying. No, no, no. No, no, no. No, no.
Give me a hug. Give me a hug. Give me a hug.
Give me a hug. Everything, everybody’s- Brittney, I apologize if I- No, it’s fine. It’s just …
I mean- It hurts. That’s not something that
people would see on the outside. It bothers me. Yeah. The word ghetto for me,
when I was younger, it was used in a negative way. It was derogatory,
like you’re ghetto because I’m black,
not because of where I’m from. It wasn’t about where I was,
it was who I was. You know, isn’t it amazing,
the power of these words? ‘Cause words hurt.
Think about it. Put yourself in other people’s
shoes before you say something. I completely agree. I’m curious. What does white privilege
mean to you? You kind of get this feeling
as you grow up that things belong to you. You don’t have to show people that you’re one
of the good ones. I could walk to a convenience
store and back without getting hassled
by the police. I don’t have to deal
with prejudice that some dude’s Asian, some dude’s black, some dude’s
Spanish, have to deal with. That’s my privilege
as a white person. It’s [censored]
but it’s true. If I was white, I don’t think
I’d have to wake up knowing that there is a certain
stereotype put on me. Being Asian, I’m smart,
I’m good at math, I eat a dog. Do you actually wake up and that’s in the front
of your mind? Well it’s not on
the front of mine but there are clear times
when I know they already put me in a box. I’ve never experienced systematic oppression
against me. I’ll never know
what that’s like. I’m not saying I wanna know what it’s like to be
discriminated against. But I would like to know
what I’ve constantly been told my whole life
that I cannot possibly ever really relate
to or understand. So we’re going to the Pine Ridge
Indian Reservation, home of the Oglala Sioux tribe
of Native Americans, in tiny Wanblee,
South Dakota. Population 725 people,
14 people in this entire town in the reservation are white. I think we’re going to meet
all 14 of them. This is the Crazy Horse School. It goes from kindergarten
through 12th grade. I’m looking for Sam. Okay. Her kids should be
coming out from lunch. Oh, okay. Great. Every single one
of the 260 students here is Native American. But most of their teachers
are white. All right, guys. This is Jose. Hello.
Hi. All right.
I grew up in San Diego, predominantly white
where I was raised, and this is definitely
a different environment to be wearing
this color skin. So what I want you to do
at this point is I want you
to pull out your journal. I grew up in West Fargo
in North Dakota. It’s a very white town. How did your parents
talk to you about race? It just wasn’t really something that was discussed
like it is here. I’m wondering, all the
students are natives. Right? And a lot of the teachers
here are white. How does that work out? It can be a little weird
whenever you first meet them because they’re outsiders,
and along the way, it’s like they become
a part of the school, and they become part
of our family here. What was the moment that you
realized that you were “white?” Here, in this place?
Instantaneously. [crosstalk]. I think some of it …
like walking into the store, like they have
these small convenience … walking into the store
for the first time, and you’re like, “Wait. I’m the
only white person in here.” I’d never felt that. I have never felt like I was
treated badly because of that. Yeah, more of just … Curiosity. Curiosity. What does it mean to be white
in an Indian reservation? We’ve never had to internalize what white people
have done in America, but here you can’t escape that. Wanblee is near Wounded Knee,
South Dakota, the site of one
of America’s darkest days. Simply put, in 1890,
white soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Lakota men,
women and children, as part of America’s
centuries-long history of atrocities
against native people. What is this experience
like for you all, being in a US history classroom,
being taught by a white teacher? They always talk about
the good things white people did in their history. What about the bad things, when
they tried to get rid of us? It should be all the US history. I think for the first time
to have an uncomfortable feeling inside
because of history, when so often
I would tell people to … when I was younger,
I feel like … as a majority you hear,
“You get over that,” or like, “That was the past,
that wasn’t me.” But then when you’re
the minority within a place where recently there was
that much oppression, you internalize that. The theme for today’s
stereotypes. You’re going to have
two minutes to think of as many things
that come to mind when you see the topic
on the sheet of paper. Wow. Whites. So what do you think about
when you think “whites?” They’re mean to us so much. Here’s the one about whites. A lot of things that I see
on here are pretty negative. All of them are negative.
How does that feel, when these young students
see you as these things? It’s something that I have to
bring in here every single day, just encountering it today, I think about
one of my students, so I said he couldn’t go
to the bathroom, and he says,
“You stole our land, and you won’t even let me
go to the bathroom?” And while I know at the core
he was joking, the skin color
I wear allows me to represent something
a lot bigger than myself. I did not know about this word,
“Wašícu.” It means what again?
It means … He who takes the best meat. Like greedy, to come in. Greedy, greedy, yeah. Be greedy, take what you want. What is a Wašícu? A greedy white person. But [Anisha], you say it’s just
a synonym for a white person? Yeah, it’s the only way people
use it. It’s just to describe
white people. I’ve never felt attacked
by that word, but just like what it means and the fact that it exists
is like … rough. I haven’t felt offended by it,
and I think the history is something that like,
“Okay, I get it.” So is Sam a Wašícu? Yeah. She’s the most awesomest
Wašícu ever, though. I kind of don’t like
using the term. Why not? My dad raised me to not be
really racist, or anything. It wouldn’t feel
right to me. Yeah. All right. I’m going to go.
Thank you for having us. Jose, thank you.
Thank you. How do you say thank you in Lakota?
[Lakota] [Lakota]
Bye. See you. Living out here has really
instilled within me just a very, very real sense of
just how complex things are. What do you think are the
disadvantages of being white? This is a really
interesting question. I know there are some people,
of course, here that are going, “What is he asking?” Again, this is the conversation.
She’s in the back. I would say there is no
disadvantage to being white. I don’t know. It’s like asking
a rich person, “Tell me how hard
your life is, being rich.” This is a question
many young white Americans are to embarrassed
to discuss in public, but privately,
it’s a different study. In one study, nearly 50%
of young white Americans say that today discrimination
against whites is as big a problem as discrimination
against minorities. Scholarships, definitely. There’s a lot
of scholarships out there for people of
a different race. It would ask you literally on
the scholarship search page, it’s like,
“What’s your race?” And when I filled in that
I was a white male, it said there are
no scholarships available. Hi.
Hi, I’m Jose. Nice to meet you. Katy. Right?
Yes. Nice to meet you.
Thank you for having us. Come on in.
Is this where you grew up? Yeah, this is Scottsdale,
Arizona. Oh, wait. What’s that? That is my- You were in the honor roll. Well, I graduated
as a high school scholar. So where are you going to school
right now? University- I am going to Paradise Valley
Community College. How was the high school
experience like for you? I graduated top of my class,
in the top 10%. I graduated 3.8 GPA. That’s a lot higher than mine.
Okay, great. Even with all that, being done, I’m not able to have that
education that I’d hoped for. So what was the plan? The plan was Grand Canyon
University, that’s what my dream was. So what happened
when you applied? I did get accepted.
Yay! Yeah.
You got accepted. Yeah, that was really cool. Awesome, okay. However, my biggest worry
was the finances. Yeah. I just started noticing
that there were all these scholarships for race,
and I thought to myself, “Well, I don’t qualify
for any of those just because
of the color of my skin?” How does that feel? Kind of feels like
I’m being discriminated against a little bit. We told Katy when she was
growing up, “Just work hard,
get your grades. It’ll get you far.”
But I think that now white folks aren’t getting
the same opportunities. It’s kind of almost reverse
discrimination in that way. We have heard white students who say that white students
are at a disadvantage when it comes to
the college admission process. Financial aid, scholarships,
and this isn’t fair. Talk to me about the facts. What are the actual statistics
about scholarships that are available in to
white students in this country? Available to white students,
virtually all of them. I think it’s something
like 96% are actually available
to white students. In terms of who gets
the scholarships, white students are usually
about 40% more likely
than students of color to actually receive
that type of aid. 40% more likely? That’s correct. This surprised me.
It turns out that even though 62% of undergraduate
college students are white, they get 69% of
private scholarships. On the other hand,
minority students make up 38% of
the undergraduate population, but get only 31%
of private scholarships. So despite all we’ve heard
about white students being at a disadvantage,
they’re actually disproportionately getting
more scholarships. So what do I tell
to white students? Yes. You know, I spoke to this
young white student- Yes. Who feels that she is
at a disadvantage. “You’re not at a disadvantage.
You’re simply not. Everybody in this situation, especially as it pertains
to paying for college, everybody is struggling
right now.” She’s not going to want
to hear that. There’s a lot of white students
who feel that because they’re white, the scholarships may not be
available to them, but if you actually
looked at the facts. If you are white,
you are more than 40% likely to get a scholarship
that if you’re not white. I’m curious, how do you then
explain this feeling that white students feel
that they’re at a disadvantage. Maybe because they just expected
to get all the scholarships. Any minority group,
if they get a scholarship, I feel like straight white men
feel like something is being taken away from them
because they don’t get it. I’ve never had a problem
finding a scholarship. What do you say
to somebody like that? Google. I’m Jose. I’m Michael.
[crosstalk] What’s your name? I’m Michael. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Thank you
so much for having me. Yeah. Oh, definitely man.
Anytime. This real feeling that Katy, and many other young
white Americans have, right? That I can’t get
the financial aid or the scholarship money
that I should be able to get or I deserve to get
because I happen to be white. Would you agree with that?
That that’s a disadvantage? Oh yeah. One white
and one’s Filipino. They both applied for the same
scholarship and the Filipino one got it and the other one
didn’t, the white girl didn’t- Even though she wasn’t
as qualified. I think there might be
other factors involved too. I mean, maybe she’s Filipino but that might not be
why she got in. The reasons that people
get scholarships are not always clear. I think,
if you wanted to inquire why you would have to ask the
people who gave the scholarship. I think this is where we … This is where I have
to give you some facts. Right? Around 21 million people
apply for financial aid. About 76%
of all institutional merit based scholarships
go to white students. If you’re a white student, you’re 40% more likely
to get a scholarship than if you were
a person of color. Oh dang. Are you surprised
by the numbers? Yes. I’m very surprised because
the way Katy was making it sound like,
“Oh, I’m being penalized.” That made me think like,
“Oh, maybe they are kind of directly aiming it
towards the minorities.” With those numbers,
obviously they’re not. Okay, now I’m like
the victim here. Why did you say that by the way? You said like, “You’re making
me out to be a victim.” I mean, I know … I don’t want to come off
like that to you guys. You can say whatever you want
to [crosstalk]. That’s fine. No I know …
I mean, it’s like … You seemed to be understanding but then when
the numbers came around- Yeah. When the numbers … It did kind of change
my view a little bit. I feel like you guys
are attacking me now. I know we’re- Opinions are opinions.
[crosstalk] I’m not saying like- [crosstalk] Put myself
in both sides shoes, I guess you could say. Katy’s feeling about, “This is an unfair system
and now I’m at a disadvantage.” That is a feeling that a lot
of young white people, that I talk to, feel. Most people feel like this. Because me, even with
all the races I am, I wasn’t able to get
any scholarships. It’s not just you being white. It’s just it is hard
to get scholarships now. Katy, how are you reacting
to what your friends just said? Maybe it’s just my side of it.
Maybe it’s what … It’s all that I’ve seen.
Being born and raised here. Having predominately
associated myself with generally
Caucasian people. You know, my view is what it is
because of my experiences. Maybe I am wrong. Here’s the point
that I want to make, this is what I really want
to make sure you understand, you’re not the only person
who feels this way. When you hear that Christopher, who’s a mixed race
and who’s a minority, has a hard time
getting a scholarship. What did you think of that? You know, it really opened
my eyes to see that
there is a challenge, no matter who your are
or where you come from. It’s hard.
Yeah. You know, my initial concern was just feeling excluded
from certain things. Just ’cause no one
likes to feel excluded, especially for the color
of their skin. Talk to me about the next steps for going to a school
that you want to go to. I … You know, I’m gonna keep
looking for scholarships and, first off, apply. Hopefully I can find something
or find a bunch. How badly do you want this? I’ll do what it takes. You’re gonna do what it takes. How do you feel talking with
a person of a different race? Yes, sir? I feel extremely uncomfortable. Half my friends are black
and it’s totally normal. I don’t give a [bleep]. Sorry if I shouldn’t
be swearing but … About different colors,
different races. Yes? I could care less what race
someone is. I’ve never … I was never
really taught to notice it. Almost all young
white Americans, I spoke to, consider
themselves colorblind. That they do not see race. In fact, three out
of four young white Americans say society would be better off
if we never acknowledged race. Most people making the comment
about being blind to color, in my experience,
have been primarily white. It’s a dismissive comment. It feels like you’re trying to
avoid what the real issue is. Colorblind.
That’s a cop-out man. That’s for people
too scared to face it. If being colorblind means
running away from racial issues, well, it’s working. Less than one
in three white people say they’ve talked about race
with their family. If I bring up any sort of race
issue with my parents, they immediately assume
that I’m demonizing them. Four out of five young white
people say they feel uncomfortable
discussing racial issues. It’s scary and no one
wants to do it. I think that’s the problem. Yeah. Hi. Hey, Jose. It’s nice to meet you. Tell me about growing up here. I always kind of describe
it like a ’50s movie. It’s a really suburban town. Going to my high school,
just a lot of white students. When did race come up
in the conversation at home? Never really ever. I started going to
a community college and that’s only when
I really started thinking about the fact
that I was white. Welcome to Lucas’ Super Serious
White Privilege Workshop. We’re not gonna be able to solve
all the world’s problems in here but we’re making
steps towards it. With a friend of mine, we developed
a white privilege workshop. White privilege.
Such a scary word. It can be hard to explain. White privilege is really
the other side of racism. Unearned societal advantages that benefit certain groups
over the other. As you probably noticed, I have a bunch of pieces
of paper around the room. I’ve written
a lot of privileges. You have a white person,
a white student, talking to other white students
about white privilege. What do you think of that? I think it’s a good thing. If the audience is white and
there’s a white person speaking, I feel like they could connect
more with that person. They don’t feel like
they’re being attacked. Talk to me about how
you’re parents have reacted. Do they know that
this is what you’re doing? Only recently. My parents are
pretty conservative. They’ll get a lot
of their information from conservative
TV channels so- Like what? Like Fox News. Okay.
Bill O’Reilly, specifically- Oh I like Bill O’Reilly. My stepdad’s really into him. Yeah. Most of the time I just
kind of avoid the conversation with my parents because we never
really had that connection. Basically, this whole
white privilege workshop is actually should be happening
right in your own home. Yeah. Perhaps. Hi.
I know who you are. I’m Jose. Howdy.
Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. Hi.
Jose. Very nice to meet you. You know, I don’t know
if you guys know that he’s been teaching
these white privilege workshops? Did you know much about that? I have no idea what that was. Who’s teaching it?
He is. Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought you knew. I’m curious, from
your perspective sir, when you hear white privilege
what do you think about? When Lucas mentioned white
privilege I went on Google- And you looked it up? Started looking it up.
Most of the stuff, that I saw, was so slanted
against white people. Against white people? Yeah. It’s almost like an attack. As if it’s like
attacking white people? A little bit. It’s just,
you get a bad, bad feeling. I can’t listen to this person. You can’t just slam it into me
and say, “You’re a jerk.” What would you say to that?
When people feel attacked? It’s not something that … It makes sense
to really feel bad about because none of us
chose to be white. We can’t change
what race we are. We can’t change our experience. All we can do is change
what we do with that experience. What we do with that life. I don’t want to be ashamed
that I’m white. Yeah. You shouldn’t be. Yeah. Have there been some moments
where you … Maybe like, “Man, I wish I could
have said something more.” I mean, I don’t know if I regret
biting my tongue but there are plenty of moments
where I don’t agree, and I’m getting upset
at the conversation, but I just choose to leave because I don’t want to cause
conflict or anything. That’s a surprise. Is it because you were scared? In a way a little bit, yeah.
Like about that. Just growing up
and being conservative. You can get pretty
worked up sometimes. It does, sometimes,
scare me a little bit. I’m not gonna lie. That’s why you’re like, “Let’s
just not broach the topic.” Yeah. For me,
it just wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t live in this house
with my beliefs. I want to know if you guys
would come to my white privilege
workshop tomorrow? I’m curious. Would anyone like to share
with the bigger group which privilege they chose and why they think
it’s interesting? The privilege I chose
was I can ignore the social issues
of people of color and remain largely unaffected
by the negative consequences. I am very rarely asked to speak
on behalf of all the people
of my racial group. I can choose nearly any
profession without questioning whether or not
a person of my race would be accepted
in that profession. I can continue to live my life without thinking twice
about anything. It’s just kind of shocking
to think about that. One thing I find myself doing
a lot is just whatever situation I am,
I think about what do you think it would be like to not be white
in this situation? Like do you think we would
be treated differently? All right, well thank you all
for coming. How did you feel about all
that? You did good. Good job. You listen to this workshop
and like watching Lucas, like well does this change
how you view race and whiteness? Not really, but I’ve always
been proud of it. I think my mom is taking it
a lot to heart, but my stepdad, like,
he’s getting it but I still think he’s going to
hold a lot of his beliefs. Yeah. I think he’s definitely like
opened his mind a little bit. How has the racial makeup
of this town changed? In recent years we’ve seen
more black and Hispanic people
moving into my town. There’s been a huge influx
in North Carolina the past ten years
of Hispanics. There are people coming here
from different cultures, and it’s really amazing
to see because you’re kind of catching
a glimpse of the future. That future will be
more diverse. It’s projected that in less
than 30 years, white people will make up
less than half of America, but for young people
that future is already here. In 2014, for the first time
ever, whites made up less than half of America’s
public school students. Latinos are now
the largest quote, unquote, minority group in the country.
Asian people are now the fastest growing racial group
in this country. How do you feel about America
becoming less and less white? Personally, I think that’s
great. That’s more diversity. I think it’s cool and not cool
at the same time. I love that some people refer
to America as the melting pot where all these cultures
can come together, but I also,
I’m trying to be careful here. Part of me- Don’t be careful. It’s okay. You also sort of lose some of
the unique qualities of each culture
when you start blending. Part of me kind of wants
to hold onto that. This is the neighborhood
of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, New York. Just a generation ago
it was almost entirely white, specifically Italian American. Over the last decade and a half
it’s undergone a radical change. Hey John. I’m Jose. How you doing Jose?
Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you.
This is where you grew up? Yes. I work at Krispy Pizzeria,
but on the weekends I DJ. You basically kind of stay
around the area. Oh yeah, all in Bensonhurst. If you go anywhere out of
Bensonhurst it’s like a
vacation. Is Bensonhurst
a white neighborhood? Do I consider Bensonhurst
a white neighborhood? By the way there’s nothing
wrong with that. Not anymore. Hey everyone.
Hello, hi. This is Jose. Hi. Thank you so much
for having me. I got you cookies. How long have you guys
been in this community? Forty years maybe. I can only imagine how
the community has changed. There’s more Asians and it
looks like there’s more of them
than there is us. Hi. In the last 15 years,
the Asian population has grown by 57% percent here
in Bensonhurst. Now, for the first time
in over a hundred years, whites make up less
than half the population. How does it feel for you
to like walk around in your neighborhood, right?
It used to be Italian, and you see all these signs
in Chinese? It’s kind of upsetting actually. We’re growing within
the population. We’re slowly being noticed. When you start seeing things
that aren’t your own or that you feel
comfortable with, then it’s going to make you
want to move away. I’m sure they feel like
they’re being encroached upon. I see some tension
sometimes when I go around. What are the kind of phrases
that you hear people say? Chinks.
Chinks? Chinks, yeah. Obviously I don’t feel happy or I feel offended
when people say, “Oh there’s a [bleep] chink
walking down the street.” What can you do? You can’t
change other people’s opinions. I think it’s a little
bit offensive. I mean, I never refer
to them as that. I have Asian friends, I have
friends of every different race, and I’m not going to say,
“Oh, you’re a Chink.” How does it feel sometimes
when you go to a store or like you meet people
in the neighborhood, right, who may not
speak English? You kind of feel
a little uncomfortable and you don’t know
what to do. Talk to me about,
what are we about to do? On my block, 85th Street,
I have a block party. We’re about to go door to door
to see my neighbors to get
the block party signatures. If you don’t get 51%
of the block to agree, then you won’t be able
to have the block party. All right, well I guess we’ll
see if we get these signatures. Let’s go.
Let’s go. Peekaboo. Can you sign
for the block party this year? Yeah of course. Of course you can.
Part of the neighborhood, right? It’s just a little complicated
when you go to certain people that, you know,
have never even met you. Some of them are Chinese.
They don’t speak English. No, no eng … You don’t speak? Hello, can I talk to you
for a minute? No, sorry.
No? Oh, okay. Okay.
Thanks. Hello. Most of them don’t even
come outside their house. Hi do you live
in this neighborhood? No.
No? Not this one. Okay.
Sorry. Just like that. There’s us, then there’s them. The basic principle of just
speaking like a hello, how are you, you know, things
like that they can pick up. That’s not hard to do. Is that frustrating
for you sometimes? YOu’re like- It is. It is.
It really is, yeah. There’s a perception
among white people here that Asian people may not be
as inviting or as friendly. I guess it’s because
of language barrier. Most of the Chinese population
here are like first generation. It’s must different,
like it’s hard to communicate. That’s why they were
more sticking to like their same kind,
the Asian. If you don’t mind signing,
it’s going to be July 25th this year. It’s just a shame
they don’t understand. I have to tell you though,
when I was growing up, that could have been easily
my grandmother telling you that. Somebody will knock on the door,
she’d be home, she doesn’t speak
English all that well although
she’s an American citizen. I can imagine what happened when
the Italians first got here, the Germans first got here,
you know, trying to kind of assimilate
and transition. It’s always going to be tough. When the Italians came here
and the Jews and the Irish, they weren’t considered white. They were the other. Yeah, they were considered to be
different from white people. Over time they then
started to be considered white. I think the Asian
American population, they may be
the new immigrants now, but the Italians were
the new immigrants 100 years ago and they were
discriminated against. You moved to America.
How old were you when you moved? I was five. Did you speak English?
Do you remember? No. It was rough. It was a strange land, you know?
You don’t know what to do. The kids, you know, they used
to pick on you, you know, because they know
you’re a foreigner. It happens with
every nationality. It happens with
every nationality. When your grandparents got here
or when your dad got here, that same moment where they are
is kind of where they are now. Yeah of course- Which is why we need more people
like you to kind of like brings
these groups together, but that’s going
to take some time. It’s not an easy thing. This is a transitional phase.
It’s growing pains. It’s growing pains. I mean, this is
the United States. It’s not just white people.
It’s everybody, you know? It’s not, “Oh my God,
we’re being invaded.” It’s more like all right,
they’re here, but let me see if I can grab them now,
pull them into my business. Yeah, it’s like
a slow introduction to like different cultures. Bringing a little bit
of Italian pastry back home, like you know,
I’ll have my parents try it and they’ll be like,
“Oh, what’s this?” Then that’s how we start
to slowly open them up. They’re here. They live here
with us, right? This is their home. That’s it. They made
a home here like we did, so we have to accept them
and they accept us. How are you going to adjust
to this new American reality? If you don’t have a negative
attitude towards it, then you welcome it, and I don’t have
no negative attitude towards it. Again, you’re not leaving. No, of course not.
This is it. Yeah, this is Benson Hurst.
This is where I live. We’re becoming a more
diverse society and we’re the young ones. WE’re going to be the ones that
are going to be there in 2050. In an ideal world,
if a person’s skin color didn’t affect their experience,
then yeah, I don’t think it would be
important to talk about, but the fact is it does. It’s something that does need to
be addressed and talked about. Your generation is going to have
to facilitate a conversation that we’ve never really had
in this country, but that’s beyond
the simplistic discourse that happens when we talk
about race in America. It doesn’t even have to be
a young generation. It’s just a group of people
that are willing to say something about a very
uncomfortable subject. It’s going to take
a really long time but it’s worth the effort.


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