Hello, Privilege


Jewel Hardwick '20

Many people would agree that Chelsea Handler can stir plenty of controversy in the media. From her distastefully titled New York Times bestselling novel and Netflix special, Uganda Be Kidding Me, to jokes stereotyping Asians, African-Americans and many others, she is no stranger to backlash.

At the beginning of her most recent Netflix documentary, however, Handler is a stranger to her privileges. Her white privilege, to be exact. Handler travels the US to explore the nuances and retributions of white privilege, how it affects our communities and how we can correct it.  

The documentary can be extremely awkward and stilted at many points. Jokes that Handler makes to diffuse tension sometimes miss their mark, such as the joke she makes at Tiffany Haddish’s expense while Haddish explains how difficult it is to get job opportunities as a woman of color. The awkwardness between Handler and her ex-boyfriend from childhood is also palpable, as he explains how strange it was to see Handler grow in fame as he resided in jail. The atmosphere at the USC open mic is potent as well, since many of the students point out how Handler’s privilege has allowed her to make a documentary on a streamable international platform when they have been trying to incite change for a while.

The potent parts of the documentary are when Handler interviews community activists and discusses their contrasting viewpoints. Republican political consultant Kathy Tavoularis argues that white privilege does not exist, but “[she] agrees that black dis-privilege exist.” She furthers by saying, “I don’t think there is any way in this country with our history we could deny that.”

Alternatively, activist and author Tim Wise argues that “dis-privilege” is the definition of white privilege. “Privilege is just the flip side of oppression and discrimination.”

As Handler wades through these perspectives, it does encourage conversation about white privileges and the problem it incites. I recommend watching it to see how these perspectives play out. But as a student from the USC open mic says, “It’s great to talk about it, but when is the action gonna start?”

Image courtesy of Netflix.