The continued prominence of racism is explored through the prism of white privilege in the engrossing documentary White Like Me. Based upon a book of the same name by anti-racist advocate Tim Wise, the film explores the many advantages afforded to whites throughout the history of the United States, and the extent to which they have defined a culture of racial discrimination that continues to this day.
The shameful days of blatant segregation thankfully exist in the rear-view mirror of the country’s history. But although great strides have been made in the arena of racial equality, the residue of discrimination still reverberates in nearly every corner of society. The film argues that the promise of a post-racial society has not yet been realized, and that the deeply embedded traditions of white privilege are largely to blame.
“For more than twenty years now, I’ve been trying to better understand for myself and to raise awareness among others how dangerous and damaging it is when white people like me are blind to racial inequality and our own privileges,” says Wise in the film. That search for understanding begins in a study of the laws, policies and institutions that have long informed America’s identity, including the Naturalization Act of 1790, and the initial enactments of programs that ensured social security and veteran benefits.
Whether obvious or insidious in their approach, the documentary contends that each of these instances catered to some level of racial discrimination in their formation, and set a foundation from which individual attitudes and governmental policies continue to operate.
White Like Me goes on to explore avenues like education, housing, the prison system, the government-waged War on Drugs, and additional aspects of American society in which racial discrimination still plays an informing role. Along the way, the film also tackles the notion of reverse racism in the age of affirmative action, and the belief that America has moved beyond matters of race in the wake of electing its first president of color. White Like Me handles these potentially inflammatory subjects with great sensitivity and frankness, and supports its assertions with a wealth of enlightening facts and data.