Friday, September 15, 2006

Now on CBS Thursday: Survivor: White Privilege

You've probably heard about the latest edition of Survivor, with each of the four "tribes" being a different race. I found myself on the couch at 7:00 tonight, so I turned on Survivor—what good is deploring something when you haven't even seen it? Sometimes one must make sacrifices for the sake of intellectual honesty, after all. And my sacrifice was sitting through most of tonight's premiere episode.

What I saw was a picture-perfect depiction of white privilege in all its glory. First we saw the Latino team traveling from the boat to the island, and they talked about how they'd demonstrate that they can "work hard and play hard." Then the Asian team made the same trip to the beach, saying that the other tribes would scarcely suspect that these small Asian people would be competitive. Third out was the black team, and they also touched on the idea of showing that stereotypes weren't accurate.

Last was the white tribe, and apparently these folks were cast for their ability to effortlessly present white privilege. I hadn't noticed the other groups playing the color-blind card, but one of the white guys said it really didn't matter if everyone was white or "other ethnicities"—the game's all about individual personalities. Then a different white guy said, "It's going to be fascinating to see how it plays out, but I don't believe that just because these groups have cultural similarities, that that will make them more specifically cohesive."

"These groups"? "Them"? As if the average fivesome of young white Americans who wanna be on reality TV have no shared culture? And what exactly are the cultural commonalities between a Vietnam War refugee who currently runs a nail shop, New York–born Koreans with high-powered jobs, a Midwest-raised Filipina in real estate, and a West Coast hottie guy in the fashion industry? How about a Dominican wrestler/musician, a Peruvian-born businesswoman, a Mexican-born waiter, and two Santa Monica natives, one a male volleyball player and the other a female cop? They sound mighty homogeneous, don't they?

It's incredibly easy for white people to forget about race, as we apparently have none. It's those other people who have races; we white folks are the default. (Just like men needn't trouble themselves with gender issues much—they're the default. Women, however, can't easily ignore their sex.)

I don't know how much race will figure into the course of Survivor: Cook Islands and frankly, I'm not interested in watching the show. But that comment about "these groups" perfectly encapsulated the concept of white privilege for me.

15 comments:

Hairy Carrot said...

You have to love the guy on the Asian team that did the Mr. Myagi on the dude's headache. I figured the brutha's couldn't put a boat together and that the honkies were just annoying as hell. And to think that the latinos didn't try out for the show, but were just hanging out on a street corner looking for work. Who knew? The winners take on gay eskimos next season.

Orange said...

Wow, that was...inappropriate. "Hanging out on a street corner looking for work"? Yeah, cops do that.

For the record, the Inuit (that's the plural—singular is Inuk) people up in Canada find the term Eskimo offensive.

Psycho Kitty said...

Very astute observations, O.

E. said...

Egad. Just when you thought reality TV couldn't pander any lower. When I first heard about this I was certain it was a joke and that the person I was talking to must've been unaware that someone was doing some sort of satire. I give the television industry way too much credit.

Excellent points about one of the biggest and least remarked on aspects of white privilege.

Orange said...

Actually, giving credit where it's due: A couple thoughtful bloggers have been raising my consciousness about the whole white privilege thing—ding and JP.

Thursday Next said...

I will be watching closely because I am interested in seeing how the dynamics play out.

The comments by the white guys were not necessarily thoughtless. All 20 contestants were told they would be broken into ethnic based tribes so saying "these groups" seems to me to naturally fall into what they have been told by the producers. As far as the "them" and the "cultural similarites," how are they supposed to know that one is Vietnamse, another is Korean, and yet another is Dominican? They are not told anything about their competitors, nor are they allowed to speak to them until they are tossed overboard and must begin to make their way to the designated camp.

Yes, there is a lot of racism in the world and it needs to be addressed. Whether Survivor is hurting or helping remains to be seen.

Orange said...

Ah, but are there no "cultural similarities" that bind the white contestants together?

flea said...

Why do you hate white people?

john patrick said...

because they won´t acknowledge that they have cultural similarities with other white people.

john patrick said...

Flea: now you should say, Aha! you do hate white people! I tricked you into admitting it.

And then I'll say, "nah, baby, I was just kidding!"

And then you say, "oh, boo, I was kidding too.

cue accordian music, screen fades to black,end credits.

flea said...

John Patrick, why do you hate America?

Orange said...

Why do you both hate freedom?

Anonymous said...

Just a complete aside, developmentally, defaults female. So if you're Y chromosome forgets to grow you a p****, you become a girl!

john patrick said...

I only like things that are free.

I hate freedom because freedom ain't free!

Anonymous said...

Some of you seem to be decidedly looking for reasons to fault white people. "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

- Dr. Wayne Dyer

Food for thought guys.....