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.