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Why Do 'White People' Need To Talk About Race? An Expert Explains

Filmmaker behind MTV's 'White People' doc explains why you can't have an 'honest conversation about race without unpacking whiteness.'

Sometimes it can feel like conversations about diversity still aren't diverse enough. And, yeah, that's a problem.

How are we, as young people, supposed to get everyone together to address centuries-old tension, confusion, anger and fear if the crucial conversations don't really involve everyone?

That's a huge part of the energy driving "White People," the new documentary by Jose Antonio Vargas and MTV’s multi-year, anti-bias “Look Different” campaign: How can we make it clear that the voices and thoughts of white people still have a major impact on this conversation? How can we, without judgement, figure out and make sense of what it means to be white or privileged in 2015? How can we honestly and empathetically talk to one another about race and create the world we want to live in?

It's a big challenge, so the conversation has just gotta be bigger.

"Whenever we talk about diversity, my experience is [it's] usually people [of] color amongst ourselves talking about diversity and white people aren't included -- we can't have that anymore," Vargas told MTV News. "If we really are to face this issue, we have to have an open conversation devoid of politics."

It's really easy for conversations about race -- particularly how people of all different races exist in our country -- to get derailed. People get upset: They're worried that they're supposed to feel bad about being who they are, confused because they don't feel as if an analysis of the culture applies to their own life story or they immediately dismiss any conversation about race as racist.

MTV/Look Different

But, here's the thing: These conversations are not about making anyone feel bad for being born in their own skin. These are conversations about how privilege and inequality come to exist and why it's so messed up. It’s about finding a way to build a world where everyone gets a voice and an equal chance.

A lot of young people just aren't sure about how their individual racial identity plays into the culture as a whole and, generally, we don't want to make anyone (including ourselves) uncomfortable. But we all deserve the chance to talk about it, to work through these problems among our peers and to move forward toward solutions -- and "White People" may just be the right place to start.

"For me, the question of 'where do white people see themselves as it relates to a question of a multicultural, diverse country?' is so necessary," Vargas said. "We talk to young white people and try to understand where they are coming from without instantly judging it. You cannot have a full and honest conversation about race without unpacking whiteness."

You can watch “White People” when it airs on Wednesday, July 22 at 8/7C on MTV, MTV.com, the MTV App, MTV’s Facebook page or YouTube channel. Or, if you miss that, you can still get it Thursday (July 23) on iTunes, Amazon and MTV’s Video On Demand services.

For More Information On Racial Bias and "White People" Visit LookDifferent.org