I recently watched a video from the What Would You Do? reality show about a black woman harassing a white woman because she is dating a black man. (You can watch the video here) The scenes were filmed in Denny Moe’s barber shop in Harlem. The black woman (Rachael the barber), white woman (Kristen the girlfriend), and black man (Gabriel the boyfriend) are all actors and the premise of the show is to see how unsuspecting people will react to difficult situations.
The first person who speaks out is a black woman (Denise) who says she is “not bothered” by the white girl being in the barber shop and thinks that Rachael is a “hater” who is “insecure.” Denise says, “Black girl to another black girl, you sound stupid. As much criticism as we went through as a people, you gonna go and do it to the next person? What gives you that right?” And then when Rachael asks her why she is defending a white woman, Denise responds with, “I don’t care what she is, she could be purple. I’m defending a woman, period.”
I think the juxtaposition of Rachael’s feelings towards Kristen compared to Denise’s feelings demonstrates how differently people feel and think about race in this country. Rachael is openly angry about how white people have treated black people in the past and mentions how inequalities still exist today. Denise recognizes the injustices that white people forced upon people of color but then says that two wrongs don’t make a right.
(Just a side note: The intersection between race and gender is interesting, too. Rachael’s character seems to put race before gender while Denise seems to be putting gender before race.)
Later in the clip, a black man (Nicholas) responds similarly. When Rachael tells him that “they’re [presumably white people] ruining the black family,” Nicholas responds, “What? Drugs are ruining the black family. Poverty is ruining the black family. That white girl’s not ruining the black family.” It seems that Nicholas is blaming factors other than white privilege (or perhaps he’s just talking about Kristen) for the problems black people face. He goes on to say that “hate doesn’t do anything but beget more hate” – a similar sentiment to Denise’s.
Most of the people defended Kristen, which I think was kind of them because technically she did not do anything to Rachael, although the racial group she is associated with did (and does). They also said that hatred against white people is not the answer and that we must work together to move forward. All of this lovey-dovey supportive stuff is nice, but I can’t imagine it is easy to swallow anger on a daily basis. I know it’s not the same experience, but as a woman, sometimes it is very difficult to not get upset about the patriarchal and traditional masculine beliefs that are so prevalent in America. I wonder if, as the men and women in this video suggest, it really is more productive to let that anger go?